This keeps coming up. So a quick word about feminism.
I grew up reading feminist theory. It didn't even occur to me that anyone was uncomfortable with feminism, or would find it strange that I was a feminist, until I went to college.
It can be a tricky place to stand. I'm committed to having to have to do some extra work to establish my credibility as a feminist in feminist circles, but it does get tiresome. (For instance, I'd like to state for the record that announcing yourself as a feminist is entirely counterproductive as a ploy to get women into bed. Think about it, people.) I am very frustrated by women who refuse to accept a male feminist at all.
I'm quite proud of my working definiton of the ever-so-hard-to-define word “feminism”:
A set of ideas and practices predicated on these three assertions:
- We live in a pervasive system of gender which has profound effects on our lives
- This system of gender affects women in unjust ways
- We can and should work to correct those injustices
I think this definition is pretty good at including just about all of the strains of thought and practice that can reasonably claim the name “feminism.” Folks who aren't feminists fall down on one or more of these points, while just about everyone who is a feminist agrees on at least this much. From these basic agreements, you can take your feminist thinking and practice a number of different places.
Many people incorrectly believe that feminism regards women as “victims”. But few actual feminists would agree. I think this misunderstanding reflects limited exposure to feminist thought, typically to some of the dopiest manifestations of the identity politics strain of feminist rhetoric that has become significant in the last few decades. Though I think there are a few key lessons worth taking from identity politics, I'm generally opposed to that whole approach. I favour the rights-driven strand of feminist thinking, which has existed since modern feminism's beginnings in the 19th century.
My own personal strain of feminism adds these corollaries:
- This system of gender also affects men in unjust ways
- Don't kid yourself: the injustices women experience are bigger and more serious
- Still, we can and should work to correct gender injustice against men, too
- In fact, truly correcting injustice against women will ultimately require doing the same for men
But your mileage may vary.