As someone who was a teenage Daria lover this was the first thing that came to mind when I heard the lovely Ms Watson’s speech. Many thanks to @ouroborosidiots for making the clip for me; my technological ability reflects the fact that I’m an oppressed victim of the patriarchy.
Most of Emma Watson’s speech was irritating. Not that that’s a problem; if people want to ‘galvanise’ males by inviting them to sign up for phenomenally stupid initiatives which won’t do anything but make pop feminists feel a bit better about themselves then who am I to stand in their way. However, what really really annoyed me was the passive aggressive digs at those who choose not to identify as feminists. While she states ‘it is not the word that is important. It’s the idea and the ambition behind it’, she still makes a point of defining those who believe in ‘equality’ as ‘inadvertent feminists’. In her examples of such people she included those who don’t love their children less if they happen to be girls, and those who don’t assume women will go ‘less far’ because they might have a child. So what she’s really saying is ‘you might not think you’re a feminist, but if you’re a decent human being you are one anyway.’ No nod whatsoever to the fact that there may be different interpretations of what ‘equality’ means or the extent to which these interpretations should be enforced. No acknowledgement that there’s a difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.
And why do they need an ‘ism’ for what they do if all it means is someone who does not discriminate against women? I often say this to people who call me stupid or ignorant for not being a feminist:
Look up what an ‘ism’ is. If you think we need one of these to think of women as people, then you’re the one with the problem.
Do we need ‘isms’ to denote treating any other group of people well? How about: Personism, childism, peopleofcolourism? When it comes to prejudice an ‘ism’ usually refers to the bad thing; we have terms that we apply to those who are doing something we all know is wrong: ageism, sexism, racism so we can describe those things when we see them. We don’t have or need a set of ideological labels to which we must all subscribe before it’s possible to be viewed as a good person.
Many people do not identify as feminist because while they agree with the ‘dictionary definition’ they feel ‘the battle has been won’, at least in the West. However, for me it’s the dictionary definition that’s the most problematic thing about it. To declare that an ‘ism’ (an ideology) which focuses on only one gender should be synonymous with thinking that men and women should be treated as equally valid human beings is, to me, totally offensive because it implies that ordinary people need to opt into a movement or set of beliefs to view women as people. The idea that women can only be ‘equal’ if people opt into an ideology is also, in my opinion, a philosophically self defeating argument.
If you interview the general public in most western countries, most people agree that they support equal rights and standing for both genders, but a much smaller number identify as feminists. I believe people sense that the movement is based on ideology that interprets history and society in a particular way and choose to reject the label. The great irony here? If feminists really cared about the dictionary definition and nothing else, this wouldn’t bother them in the slightest. They wouldn’t care about the label if people accepted the basic principle. But they do care – and it’s because the ideology matters more to them than women ever will. For the term ‘feminist’ to mean what they want it to mean, one has to accept the theory that the balance of power has historically been shifted so far against women’s interests that an ideology is necessary to redress the balance – I believe that definitions ought to include this nuance; it is a perfectly arguable position and if people want to believe it I will defend their right to do so. But it is theory, not fact. Every branch of feminism is based in some way on the theory of patriarchal oppression – and feminists need to be honest about that.
Feminists seem to just want everyone to accept their label because it’s about ‘equality’. But then you hear a lot of those same people seemingly contradicting themselves by saying things like ‘well it isn’t feminism if it doesn’t include blah blah blah’, or ‘if they said blah blah blah they’re doing feminism wrong’, ‘my feminism this, my feminism that’. My reply to these people is that nobody put them in charge of deciding what feminism is, or who is and is not a ‘real’ feminist. Well, if every feminist gets to define the ideology and movement for herself/himself then I get to do the same – and reject it.
So, Emma, I’ll be the one to decide whether I’m a feminist, thank you very much. You do think women should have the right to define themselves, don’t you?