Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Feminism and I

I consider myself a feminist. I am far from being alone in this (Skepchick.org, for instance), but I just had reason to consider this label which I place upon myself might be in need of elucidation.

A friend of mine blogging under the name Lost Reverence recently wrote an entry entitled The Punishment of Women for Men's Own Failings..., and as she doesn't allow comments on her blog, I thought I'd post my feelings on it here.

While I widely agree with her - which has a tendency to happen - I do worry a little at some of the language used, particularly toward the end of the entry. Yes, I suppose that "men cannot control their emotions" - but I'd rather there was a qualifier in front of that, such as "some", or maybe even "most". The problem I have here is that, while promoting the rights and dignity of women (which I fully endorse, as part of being a feminist), it is all-too-easy to fall into the trap of painting all men with the same brush, much as has been - and is - done to women.

I suppose the best way of understanding the kind of feminism I endorse (and which I think has the greatest chance of succeeding) is as being more about gender equality. This is an end which, in the current social climate, can best be achieved by promoting the rights of women, which is why it's usually included under the heading of feminism. What I'm not out to do is deny that there are differences between the sexes - and it's quite possible that emotional stability is one of the things which tends to be found more in one than the other. But the ultimate aim of gender equality, I think, should be to finally be able to appreciate individuals as complex beings in their own right; this would naturally include influences of biology upon them, but would not end there as it so often does today.

On a personal note in response to LR's post, I have had my heart broken* at least once - and despite this fact and the fact of my gender, I also consider myself relatively stable on an emotional level. I certainly don't see any way in which I am punishing my current partner for my past mistakes or failings. But then maybe it's all subconscious and terribly Freudian. I do hope not.

* I too dislike this overly-emotional term. It smacks of rhetoric. Suggestions for alternatives appreciated.


Virginia Harris said...
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Anonymous said...

I tend to have some fairly feminism-oriented views as well, in a similar vein to your own, but I disagree entirely with this notion that men cannot control their emotions. My hypothesis would actually be that men control their emotions too readily - that they are able to act very callously, because they have removed themselves from compession and empathy.

However, moreover I would say that *people* cannot control their emotions, in general. I think that it's fairly reasonable to say that an ability to control one's emotions comes from higher thought processes; that the more intelligent you are, the more rational you can be (which seems a pretty logical statement). Guessing that Lost Reverence is making her assumption from anecdotal evidence (as my original reversed assumption was), and think the reason behind that would likely be that, as an ardent feminist, a large part of her friendship group is probably the same, and despite a certain level of indefensible zealotry, feminists do tend to be of higher mental faculties. Of course, it will help that if she already has this low opinion of men, then she is going to be less likely to see those men that do break her mold, which won't help.

Darkwinter said...


Well said. It makes far more sense to make these general comments about "most people" rather than a specific gender, though there are studies done into the various neuro-chemical differences between the genders. It does seem at least that a sweeping generalisation is certainly not warranted.

It's also an interesting point that you raise about the links between rationality/intelligence and emotional control. Perhaps that is a part of it; I'd have to think about it a little more before subscribing to that view myself though.

In defence of Lost Reverence, I would have to give her the benefit of the doubt - it could be that she wasn't intending to make such a sweeping generalisation, and the wording just needed a little polish. Indeed, my own phrasing could have been clearer - I didn't mean to say that "most men can't control their emotions" as this is not true except in that people in general cannot.

Lost Reverence said...

Hi there. I wasn't aware that my blog didn't allow comments. I've tinkered with the settings and hopefully it allows them now. Let me know if it still doesn't.

My intention was not to tar ALL men with the same brush. I was referring to the men at the party and men in general, but not all of them. The inability of people in general (which includes both men and women) to control their emotions at times is something I'm aware of, but I was attempting to make the point that in the case I was portraying it was ironic that the men were having trouble controlling their emotions because traditionally it is women who are accused of that. I've changed the wording of the final paragraph to make that clearer.

Darkwinter said...

I was pretty certain that was the case. It is an amusing irony that so often reality is in direct contradiction to the perceived "common knowledge".

Also glad to see the comment option lit up invitingly on your blog - no doubt I'll be availing myself of its use before long.

Yours was a good entry - it (quite clearly) got me thinking.