Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A fair question... Why am I a feminist?

(by the way- this is the 101st post on No Cookies For Me! Hooray!)

In my It's a Small World post, reader projektleiterin responded with a great question of her own for me. I think it's a totally fair question:

...most guys I hear talking about equal rights strike me as quite insincere (very professional method for picking up gullible women who love fawning over a sensitive man who takes their issues seriously) or as having issues with themselves (nice guy syndrome). The only question I have is, what motivates you as a man to deal with the issues of women?

I keep thinking I've written about this, but I can't, for the life of me, figure out where. So, why do I care about women's issues? Why am I a feminist? What motivates me, as a man, to get involved?

The short answer: I think it's the right thing to do.

The long answer: Most of my thoughts on women's issues are grounded in my philosophical beliefs. A lot of my beliefs are based on theories of fairness- I'm concerned about and interested in making sure that people are treated fairly. When people are treated unfairly, it creates un-necessary suffering and hardship. When we work to increase fairness, I think that we all benefit, and the world is a better place. I think that all of us have an obligation to try to make the world a better place, and that improving the status of women is one way to do that.

While I spend a great deal of time discussing and addressing the issues that women face, and sexism as I see it, I try to discuss and address issues surrounding race and sexuality, too. I think that the discussions I have here and on other blogs help make me a better person, and (I hope) help other people as well. I'm also a believer in the idea that all of these things are interconnected. I think that women's issues are men's issues, are people's issues. I suppose this is a way of arguing that patriarchy hurts men too, which is sort of cliche, but it's true. Which, I suppose, is a way of saying that my interest isn't exactly altruistic. I do benefit from my feminism. Breaking down tradition gender roles and fighting sexism also helps me, as a man. It helps create a world where I can be judged on who I actually am, not what kind of plumbing I have downstairs.

So, yeah. Why am I interested in women's issues? I think that the answer is that, ultimately, women's issues are human issues, and I firmly believe that the world becomes a better place every time we make progress, if only a little bit. There are women in my life that I care about, and, but for the flip of a genetic coin, I could easily have been born a woman. I think that, as a moral being, I have an obligation to better myself and to care about how I treat other people. All of us are better off when we address these things and care about how people are treated.


Jaclyn said...

OK, but... while I agree that you regularly make connections between systems of oppression, you don't write a primarily anti-racist blog, or an lbgt-rights blog, or a class liberation blog. You write a feminist blog. Why feminism in particular?

Roy said...

Good point, Jaclyn.

First, I think that it pays to stay sort of focused- I think that it's easy to spread yourself thin by trying to tackle everything at once, and I'd like to avoid that.

Second, I've done more reading and research on the issue of sexism than on racism, homophobia, ableism, etc. A large part of that comes from my background: I became aware of and interested in analyzing gender issues before I was really aware of or interested in the others.

I also stumbled upon the feminist blogosphere, which was certainly a big factor in the creation of my own blog, so I'm sure that contributed as well.

And, I'm sure that there's an element of "I've spent more time reading about and discussing these issues, and I still read more feminist blogs than any other type, so I'm a little more comfortable talking about those issues" going on, as well.

projektleiterin said...

Don't take my comment so completely out of context as it might seem as if I was insinuating that you were one of these guys, which after reading your blog I tend to believe is not the case. :p I just had to ask, because when I asked myself if I would be interested in men's issues I would have to say, no, not in particular. I mean, if they are victims of a patriarchal system then I should want to rescue them, too, but honestly, I just do not feel the urge to do so... I can understand the want to help people, but it's always people, not a certain gender (I wonder if it's not due to social conditioning that expects men to be strong and not need help?). But hey, some men choose to gynecology as their specialization, I have no clue about their reasons, but I don't think that all of them are driven by base motives. I can not completely relate to your interest, but I guess, I can accept and benefit from it. ;)

schrödinger's cat said...

I think several more guys would call themselves feminists if they knew what the term actually meant. (Especially true perhaps for guys of the type that doesn't relate to "-ism"s?)

And/or if they ever stopped to think clearly about these issues. I guess you'd get a lot of guys who're disgusted by misogyny, but they'd simply call it "being a jerk" instead of "being sexist", and they wouldn't really think about whether they could do anything to stop it.

Do you think it's easier for men who have female pals, buddies, best mates?

figleaf said...

"Why do I care about women's issues? Why am I a feminist? What motivates me, as a man, to get involved?

The short answer: I think it's the right thing to do."

I've been brewing over this for a year or two now and sat up in the middle of the night last night and decided I'm an idiot. The answer is obvious. And while the answer is yes, it's the right thing to do that's not the answer at all. In fact, it occurred to me, it's the answer that's kept me from seeing the obvious since maybe August of 1974 when I met my first serious, non-Southern "women's libber" feminists.

The real answer for why men should be feminists is that by almost every measure from better health to longer life to better personal economic stability to even better sex in higher-quality relationships, to... to... tooooo.... the benefits are vast. What has to be given up to get it isn't even half-vast.

But as long as I try to go galloping around like a modern Sir Galahad, doing the right thing for "Teh Ladies" I'm just pushing for a streamlined, but no less durable patriarchy.

And therefore it's not even wrong to have non-altruistic motives. *As long as* your goal really is convergent with actual feminism.

New experimental tagline: the blinders go on the horse, Galahad.


Elaine Vigneault said...

It is the right thing to do. There are many right things to do, and this is one.