Monday, July 20, 2009

More Strawfeminism

You can always count on "news" source WorldNetDaily to keep the fun in fundamentalist. You know, practically every day I learn more and more about what feminism is and what it means to be a feminist from those experts on feminism, People Opposed to Feminism. Such folks have this bizarre habit of telling we feminists what it is that we believe without asking us what it is that we believe.

Writing their theses against feminism, such folks rarely present actual feminist quotations or analyses. When they do present supporting evidence for their indictments against feminism, they usually take out-of-context quotations or the most radical feminist statements ever made and present them as being representative of what every single feminist in the entire world believes. Ignorantly, they present weakened scarecrow-like variations of feminists arguments and blow them down as though they have obliterated real arguments and, indeed, the entirety of feminism altogether.

Of particular fun are women opposed to Feminazism. As with other traitors to causes that generally benefit those who share their identity within an oppressed group, one inevitably wonders whether their loud and proud stances are the product of genuine convictions, a desire for pats on the head from those within the dominant identity group, and/or a simple desire for the attention that identity betrayal brings. WorldNetDaily writer and blogger Patrice Lewis has "a problem with feminists" and in her article "Selective Feminism" she succeeds mostly in winning her very own game of anti-feminist bingo.

Before delving into the specifics of her article, let's examine the name of her column: "Real America." When people use the phrase "Real America," I always wonder what that means and which parts of America, specifically, constitutes "real" America. The phrase itself implies that there are parts of America that are not real America and I wonder which parts these are. It's very strange. Some people would be very surprised to learn that they reside in fake America.

Anyway, I will use Patrice's article to demonstrate the anti-feminist errors of treating feminism as a monolith and of erecting straw arguments. Of feminists, she claims:

"They hate femininity (which they see as weakness) and loath women who choose traditional roles."

One of my rules for critical thinking is that one should immediately be wary about sweeping statements about "them" and "they." If such hugely general statements are not properly qualified, they are rarely indicative of reality-based thought. Patrice's piece contains no qualifiers such as "some feminists," "many feminists," or even "most feminists." Nope, her entire article is about "feminists," thereby implying all of them.

Yet, I am a feminist and I neither "hate femininity" nor do I "loathe women who choose traditional roles." There, I just debunked Patrice's entire argument. Game over.

Her argument is both a straw argument and an overgeneralization. It is a claim that many anti-feminists make about feminists, and it is a misperception that leads to many people's resentment of feminism. Many feminists do not, actually, "hate" the concept of "femininity." Rather, many feminists think that what is called "femininity" is not actually inherent in women; instead, it is something that women learn through conditioning and society that begins as soon as baby girls are swaddled in pink blankets and told how soft, little, and dainty they are. Along these lines, it is mostly advocates of "gender complementarity" who present femininity as weakness, because they view it as the opposing counterpart to man's "inherent" strength.

Furthermore, I, and many feminists, do not "loathe" women who choose to stay at home. I have always said that raising children and choosing to stay home is admirable. Yet, like many feminists, I think that women should have more than that one option in life. It's all about having choices rather than restricting women to one life ambition and demanding them to be satisfied with it because it is their "natural" station in life.

See how different my feminist argument is than the argument that Patrice presents as the Feminist Argument?

Perhaps more grating than people who misrepresent feminism are those who tell me what I, a feminist, believe. Nonetheless, Patrice continues that, while she supposedly used to be a feminist, she learned that feminists don't really advocate for all women:

"At the time I didn't know that, contrary to their claim to speak for all women, feminists sure as heck didn't speak for the strong, self-confident women of Flyover Country."

I wonder if, in Patrice's world, Flyover Country is in Real America? In any event, I don't think "Flyover Country" means what Patrice thinks it means. Generally, when people use the term they are speaking of anything that is not LA or New York. Many a feminist who does not reside in these two cities, myself included, might be surprised to learn that feminism doesn't speak for them. In fact, I think many people, feminist and non-feminist alike, would be surprised to learn that feminism has geographic boundaries at all.

Really, almost her entire article is a big play on the down-home folksy Real America schtick that makes people like Sarah Palin so popular. Patrice accuses feminists of being out-of-touch coastal elites who snobbily think of middle America as "Flyover Country," yet it is she who denigrates and excludes some parts of America as being not-real parts of the country. In November 2008, the majority of Americans made a decision to end the polarizing politics that have divided our country for 8 long years. And so, at the end of her article, when Patrice provokes feminists to "bring [the "snark"] on," I can only issue a calm no thanks.

Instead, I will issue a plea for her to write with more precision and more nuance in the future. I will ask her to stop implying that law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who happen to hold different political views than her are not part of real America. While it may invoke a sense of certainty to believe that the world is black and white, accuracy lives in shades of gray.

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