False Feminist Issues Versus Genuinely Feminist Issues, Part I

Before I begin, I want to remind everybody that when I speak of feminism, I refer to a system of beliefs and a form of political activism arising from the idea that one’s physiological characteristics need not be invested with meaning. Simply put, feminism is about making sure that the shape of our genitals does not translate into the roles we are assigned in our personal, professional, intellectual, political, etc. endeavors.

One of the main dangers to feminism nowadays is, in my opinion, the frequency with which people label as feminist aspects of existence that have nothing to do with gender roles or gender expectations. Many people seem to think that feminism exists to make their lives better in every possible aspect and when it fails to do so, condemn it as a failed ideological project. It makes as much sense, however, to expect feminism to achieve anything other than what falls under its purview, as it is to expect a Kindle to do your dishes for you.

In this post, I want to provide a list of issues that often receive the label of feminist concerns but that have nothing to do with feminism. Then, I will offer a list of what I consider to be genuine feminist concerns. This is a work in progress, so feel free to add to both lists.

False feminist issues:

- “The impossible standard of beauty.” Beauty is supposed to be quite impossible, otherwise it wouldn’t be beauty. My appearance, which is as common as pickled cucumbers in my country, has been referred as “exotic” in many places I have visited. Beauty is supposed to be hard to achieve, difficult to find, special, rare. It’s frustrating as hell that we can’t all consider ourselves and each other beautiful. But it’s not a gender issue. It’s as hard to look as Brad Pitt as it is as Angelina Jolie. Female and male models in magazines all have the kinds of bodies that cannot be encountered in nature. It can be extremely frustrating to see those impossibly skinny, ripped, flawless bodies on the screen and on billboards. To suggest, however, that it is more frustrating to all women than it is to all men makes absolutely no sense.  (Research shows that I’m right and that body image issues have no gender.)

- “There is a system in place in our society that uniformly oppresses all women (men) and benefits all men (women).” There is a very large group of people who confuse gender wars with feminism or men’s rights activism. In reality, however, their engagement with gender is neither political nor philosophical. It’s always strictly personal. Such people have been hurt by a man (many men) or a woman (many women) and are now analyzing societal issues through the lens of their personal hurt. (See a very vivid example discussed here). I believe that no patriarchal ogre is quite as damaging to the cause of feminism as these gender war champions.

- “We need to promote women’s right to choose any lifestyle they wish.” As we all know, I detest “choice feminism” and see it as profoundly anti-feminist in nature. “Choice feminism” promotes the idea that women are such saintly creatures who exist outside of societies, ideologies, family structures, etc. that every single choice these infallible individuals make should be celebrated. If you question any kind of a choice made by any woman, you are an anti-feminist. This kind of respect for any choice they might make is, of course, not extended to men, which makes “choice feminism” a movement that reinforces gender boundaries.

- “Women are told to be skinny and are fat-shamed!” Once again, as annoying as this phenomenon is, it has nothing to do with gender. The fascination with thinness is very recent historically and very culture-specific. A society values what is scarce. This means that a society that routinely overeats will value thinness for the same reasons that, until very recently, my society (I’m from Ukraine, in case you don’t know) valued plumpness after surviving horrible famines. I don’t think that anybody can reasonably argue that all fat men have things easier than all fat women. Not only is this not a feminist concern, it is also not an issue that anybody can do anything about until the majority of our population becomes thin.

(To be continued. . .)

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13 comments on “False Feminist Issues Versus Genuinely Feminist Issues, Part I

  1. Simply put, feminism is about making sure that the shape of our genitals does not translate into the roles we are assigned in our personal, professional, intellectual, political, etc. endeavors.

    Yep, like we all know, your physiology wont affect your possible outcomes in life, nope, nada, never gonna happen. Geez, are people really this stupid??

    • Physiology will affect our outcomes individually. But it will not affect them uniformly across groups consisting of billions of people. If you have any examples to disprove this statement, please share. If all you have are emotional outbursts, please don’t.

      • @Clarissa

        So are you saying that generally(on average) men do not have more testosterone than women? Are men not generally(on average) more muscular and stronger than women? If the answer is no then why are there not more women competing in sports “equally” with men? Do you not think in a capitalist culture that many owners of these teams would LOVE to have that marketing dream? Tell you what, why dont we grab 100 men and 100 women and have them compete in areas related to physical strength and see if there is any affect in a uniformly way.

      • Has anybody denied the physiological differences between men and women? And, more importantly, why are you fixating on this completely trivial issue of competitive sports where there is a much more crucial physiological difference, namely, that of the reproductive apparatus?

  2. There’s also the misleading idea that feminism is about sensitivity, a variation of “sisterhood”. This seems related to the idea that one achieves a sense of belonging by embracing an identity. I do not attach an identity to my actions, so my actions are not immediately understood. Those who uphold the ideology of identities can easily point out “inconsistencies” in my attitudes, just because being human is an inconsistent act. To “belong” one has to submit to correction by others, who believe they are called upon to make you consistent. Inconsistency is held to be the worse possible condition for anyone, that has to be stopped at all costs. Humanity, spontaneity and pleasure, therefore have to be stopped at all costs. All ideologies command this.

    • I agree completely. This is precisely what accepting any collective identity does. You get a supposedly comforting sense of belonging but, in return, you abdicate significant parts of your individuality and, as you say, spontaneity and pleasure. Many people seem to find this a worthwhile exchange. I never have, though. The sense of belonging that so many people seem to value is all an illusion, anyways. Why pay so dearly for it?

    • The “invisible hand of the market” will surely correct any kind of imbalance of this sort where people will simply use the product’s competitor if it does a better job.

  3. bloggerclarissa :
    Has anybody denied the physiological differences between men and women? And, more importantly, why are you fixating on this completely trivial issue of competitive sports where there is a much more crucial physiological difference, namely, that of the reproductive apparatus?

    My point is that how can we not acknowledge that our difference in apparatus will obviously affect our emotional and intellectual view of the world. Do you not think that a pregnant woman will “think” differently than a man? Do you not believe our hormonal swings affect our judgements or assessments of our everyday lives? I think it is ludicrous to believe that our physiological differences dont(generally) create large differences in the way we feel and act.

    • “My point is that how can we not acknowledge that our difference in apparatus will obviously affect our emotional and intellectual view of the world”

      Stating your premise and arguing your point by saying ‘Hey guys, don’t you think it’s bloody obvious?’ is generally considered to be a poor style of debating.

  4. @Stringer

    I never said I was a “good” debater, nor am I saying Im right. But, like you, I have an opinion. :)

    Do you not think that our(male&female) physiological difference will alter our view of the world?

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