Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Feminist Label

Where is there room for me, a white woman who stands firmly for equality and acknowledges the discrimination within feminism, and is committed to pointing out and relinquishing (white, cis, able, hetero, and class) privilege? I want to identify with a feminism willing to embrace all people and challenge preconceived notions of what and who "is" and "isn't" feminist, one focused on celebrating diversity and learning for everyone's experiences. Where do i fit? Because i'm a bit confused these days.

Please read these two posts by Renee prior to responding...
Womanist Musings: I am not a Feminist
Womanist Musings: Can a White Woman be a Womanist?

I agree with commenter "juju" who said "ultimately, the work that you do is much more important than the label you wear, and you should just call yourself whatever works for you and continue doing the work." I understand and agree with focusing on activism but often identity fuels a social movement and propels it forward with greater force. I would hate our progress and activism to slow because we're too busy focusing on what our identity should be.

I wrote about this a bit in my "I'm not a feminist, but" post: George Washington University’s Dr. Zucker (2004) published a study addressing this. Dr. Zucker’s research explored women disavowing social identities and found that in the 272 women surveyed, self-identifying as feminists was a predictor of feminist activism. Herein lies my concern. On one hand, I don’t care if you identity as a feminist or not, as long as you retain feminist beliefs. On the other hand, if self-identifying as a feminist is going to make you more of an activist, then it matters.


Sarah J said...

You know, there always have been and always will be women self-identifying as feminists with whom I don't want to be identified. (Linda Hirschman, Catherine MacKinnon, etc. etc.) Feminism has never been a monolithic identity.

I think that at some point, these discussions about what you call yourself, what you care to call yourself, whether there's a monolithic feminist movement that has ironclad rules that you must obey to be a feminist.

I see so many posts on a regular basis where people who are fabulous activists are spending their time writing over and over again about how they ARE NOT FEMINISTS. I guess I just don't get it because my feminism has never been predicated upon what other women are doing, or calling themselves, or have called themselves. It's based on a belief that women are people and deserve all the rights that men have.

whatsername said...

I'm not sure if I see where you're going here FeministGal. Renee doesn't identify as a feminist but a womanist. Don't you think whatever activism is spurred by self identifying with the "feminist" label would apply to the "womanist" one as well?

FeministGal said...

I don't know what would apply to what label - i'm just nervous about people denouncing "feminism" and how that will affect the movement and the focus on action.

I think Renee's posts are both really interesting, and important reads to start thinking through all of this. I think she is absolutely right about the discrimination that takes place within feminism and i hope to identify with a [feminist] movement the recognizes that and works harder to be better.

DJ Dual Core said...

I think one needs to balance the truisms "a rose by any other name..." and "to name is to know." What we call a thing, or ourselves, is significant because that name enters the vocabulary of our thoughts, not just our communication.

When it comes to ones self the question is not what others would name you. It is what you choose to name yourself, according to your own definitions.

I consider myself a Christian. This is an important part of my identity. The fact that other people define Christianity in a way that DOES NOT include me (in part due to my feminist views) is on them. I'm quite comfortable with, and meet, my definition of Christianity. I will continue to identify that way until that changes.

The same goes for being a heterosexual, married, white, male feminist. Although I have to consider them when communicating, I am no longer bothered by others' definitions that exclude me. Maybe it is easier for me because I am socially privileged, but I think the basic idea applies to everybody.

Anonymous said...

I always thought of "feminist" as meaning someone who cares about the suffering of women on this planet, who thinks that what happens to women matters, to all of humanity. So I didn't care if other people defined "feminist" as hairy legged man haters, feminazi's or whatever else. But now I have decided to stop calling myself a feminist because to me it has become synonymous with not giving a crap about Jew hatred. So I am thinking of calling myself a "femijew". (zionist is already taken) I guess then the haters can call people like me a femizionazi's.