Why is Feminism So Taboo?

In a recent post by the Feminist Breeder, the reluctance of modern women and men to identify as feminists was brought up. Her post is cleverly titled, well-written, optimistic and refreshing. She discusses being surprised at the fact that nobody wanted to raise their hand when asked in a gender class if they were feminists. In fact, for self-identifying feminists in America, it probably reads like a breath of fresh air, especially because her definition of feminism is so inclusive.  Her criteria for feminists includes 3 points:

  1. Believing that women are human beings
  2. That men and women are fully human
  3. And political, economic, and social equality between the genders

Sadly, not many American people have such an expansive view of feminism. Even at my undergraduate university, albeit a fairly traditional Catholic and Jesuit one, students who were asked by a group putting together a feminist edition of a magazine to have their picture put in a collage titled “this is what a feminist looks like,” were either reluctant to identify as feminist, or reacted with surprising anger towards feminists. The students falling into the latter camp generally seemed under the impression that all feminists hated men and caused political unrest.

These Feminist Blogs Create Thought Bubbles

While I don’t think the first part, the man-hating part, of that statement is true about feminism as a movement or a belief system, even if there are feminists alive who claim to hate men, I do believe that the second part remains true, the political part, and that is what makes feminism so taboo. At its core, feminism’s tenants question the dominant ideological structure. If that political aspect of feminism still gives feminists a bad reputation, then I might be hard pressed to accept a better one.

Twisty from the blog I Blame the Patriarchy fairly recently brought up the ever-so-fine distinction between subjection of women and subjection of all “other” people that the ideological structure imposes itself upon. She argues that, “because sexism has been so comprehensively assimilated across the board, the elimination of racism, classism, ableism, homophobia et al cannot obtain without the simultaneous liberation of women from patriarchal tyranny.”

I don’t want to feel threatened when I identify as a feminist. Further, I do think it is pretty sad and also confusing that people get so up in arms about feminists, although that is also a move of patriarchy and an attempt to subjugate women’s voices, or if you consider the quoted section above, truly patriarchy as a system attempts to destroy any opposing forces. According to the Feminist Breeder’s definition feminists can be anyone interested in the equal rights of all people. Unfortunately, although I do want to be optimistic as well, I don’t feel like the general public cares about equal rights, which is one of the reasons that patriarchy still thrives. The people on top want to stay on top, and the people at the bottom just want to replace the people at the top.

Do I wish that feminism was less taboo? Sure I do. However, I fully understand the political choice I am making when I self identify as a feminist, the choice to counteract a dominant patriarchal ideology which subjugates all non-subscribers, and quite frankly, if it makes other people a wee bit uncomfortable, I am OK with that.

Miss E

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2 comments on “Why is Feminism So Taboo?

  1. When the same question was asked in Theory and Criticism only one person just bolted their hand up into the air. One of the issues that I think you’ve pointed out is that everyone has a slightly differing notion of what it is to be a feminist. I call myself a feminist under the criteria you listed, but I didn’t raise my hand that class period because I didn’t know what criteria it was Professor Aleman was judging the feminists in the room. Naturally, he wasn’t. He was pointing out the exact same difficulty that everyone experiences to one degree or another in navigating a complex and important social movement that has been around in one way or another for 150 years. It is by no means contiguous, nor is there a single ideology that has driven the whole of what may be called feminism. In short, sometimes it is hard to know just how loaded a term like feminist is, and we the timid should do what the Breeder is doing and define ourselves on our own terms.

    • Cole, I think you make a really good point here! It is hard to identify with a whole movement, especially when the definition can vary depending on the person you are with. Thank you for sharing, and welcome.

      Miss E

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