A follow-up question for “feminists” from an “anti-feminist” (UPDATED)
I was happy to hear from Barry, Trish, and Lauren on the questions I raised yesterday—though I admit that I wasn’t always satisfied with the answers they gave (as I’m sure they weren’t satisfied with mine). Allow me to highlight a few remaining points of disputation, and to push for the next step in establishing workable grounds for debate.
Trish, it seems to me, best sums up the position of those I’ve previously referred to (after Hoff-Sommers) as “gender feminists”—a label this group rejects as a slur—here:
Jeff, dear, you take yourself too seriously. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t start a debate on false ground, which is what Ã¢â‚¬Å“discussingÃ¢â‚¬Â equity and gender feminist would be. There ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t no such thing.
I saw no reason to give any credibililty to Hoff SommersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“distinctionsÃ¢â‚¬Â because they are straw feminists. Hoff Sommers labeled feminists with liberal views she doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like as Ã¢â‚¬Å“gender feministsÃ¢â‚¬Â. She preferred to liken herself to an Ã¢â‚¬Å“equality of opportunityÃ¢â‚¬Â feminist. Both are stereotypes designed to denigrate feminists whose views she doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like. Neither label is valid.
Well, the purpose of my post was NOT to re-raise Hoff-Sommers’ terminology, but to get beyond it. In fact, I invited Trish and her camp to define the terms they preferred using to discuss a particular divide within the feminist movement so that we could get beyond this very stumbling block.
But if I’m reading her right, Trish is refusing to offer new terms not because she’s being obstinate, but rather because she claims that the very distinction the terms draw—whatever designation we give them—are an invention of those wishing to do damage to feminism. My response:
You dismissed as “anti-feminists” people who self-identify as feminists—and you did so for their having made distinctions you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think are real. But if there are no distinctions to be made among those who self-identify as feminists, presumably you wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be able to dismiss those with whom YOU disagree as Ã¢â‚¬Å“anti-feminists.Ã¢â‚¬Â That is, it would be equally valid, given your thinking, for that group of self-identified feminists to dismiss YOUR idea of feminism as “anti-feminist.”
In fact, the only difference I can see between what you have done and Hoff-Sommers et al have done is that Hoff Sommers didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t suggest what she called “gender feminists” werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feminists Ã¢â‚¬â€ just that their particular brand of feminism is anathema to what she takes to be the original goal of the feminist movement (which, pace Barry, she would believe goes beyond simple legal equality; the difference being, she recognizes that legal equality is the means through which to strive for social and economic equality. Establishment feminists, on the other hand, wish to achieve those ends through other, more active means.
(Which brings up an interesting rhetorical move I’m noticing within this debate—specifically, an active attempt on the part of establishment feminists to reduce the Hoff-Sommers / Young view to Ã¢â‚¬Å“legalÃ¢â‚¬Â equality only. This is of course a false reduction, and one that frees up the establishment feminists to seize a high ground of striving for more than the “anti-feminist feminists” are striving for. They arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. They just disagree on the means and, in some cases, the necessity of the individual battles).
But then, these are all issues we can take up in a subsequent debate once we agree on common terminology. For now, I’m interested to know if these new terms I’ve put on offer— Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Ëœanti-feministÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ feministsÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“post-establishment feministsÃ¢â‚¬Â (for the conservative / libertarian feminists); and for the coalition of those whom Trish, Barry, Lauren, et al would allow are Ã¢â‚¬Å“realÃ¢â‚¬Â feministsÃ¢â‚¬â€those they HAVE NOT BEEN dismissed as Ã¢â‚¬Å“anti-feministÃ¢â‚¬Â (Barry, Lauren) or as not really feminists (Trish)Ã¢â‚¬â€ Ã¢â‚¬Å“establishment feminists,Ã¢â‚¬Â corraling into that group all of the subgroups Lauren highlighted (w/ the exception of the iFems, who should probably be included in the former category).
Trish, Barry, Lauren? How about it?
update: More here. Apologies for mislinking this post initially.
update 2: Trish asks:
Jeff, what is Ã¢â‚¬Å“post-establishmentÃ¢â‚¬Â about a so-called post-establishment feminist? What Ã¢â‚¬Å“establishmentÃ¢â‚¬Â are you talking about?
Simple: if you are decreeing that these self-styled feminists (what Hoff Sommers calls “equity feminists”) are Ã¢â‚¬Å“anti-feministÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â€you are pronouncing on their very fitness to declare themselves feminists. Which suggests to me that there is an Ã¢â‚¬Å“establishedÃ¢â‚¬Â idea of feminism upon which you are basing such a pronouncement. And so, Ã¢â‚¬Å“establishment feminists.Ã¢â‚¬Â¹
Similarly, those who donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fit the establishment idea of feminism, which I take it you believe is the original goal of feminism, would be Ã¢â‚¬Å“post-establishment feministsÃ¢â‚¬Â. Or Ã¢â‚¬Å“anti-feminist feministsÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Again, to dismiss these groups as not being feminists at all begs the question. You simply cannot say that those who self identify as feminists are not in fact feminists because you have defined feminism in such a way that you exclude them—particularly when the debate is over just what feminism is.
So we have to choose a designation that works for both camps. And I ask again: are these designations workable?
¹Here, Barry offers this parsing: “An established idea doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t imply that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an Ã¢â‚¬Å“establishment.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Established,Ã¢â‚¬Â the adjective, means Ã¢â‚¬Å“having a recognized position, or being generally known about.Ã¢â‚¬Â But that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily mean that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an Ã¢â‚¬Å“establishment,Ã¢â‚¬Â noun, meaning Ã¢â‚¬Å“the persons (or committees or departments etc.) who make up a body for the purpose of administering something.Ã¢â‚¬Â Feminism does, arguably, have some established ideas, but it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have an establishment.”
But Barry’s refusal to turn “establish” into a noun is tied to his reluctance to admit that there is indeed a center to feminist thought, namely, academic and theoretical feminismÃ¢â‚¬â€which not only provides the theoretical underpinning for “activist” feminism, but likewise provides both the evidence (by way of its studies, etc) and the rationale that justifies the kinds of social remedies Barry’s brand of feminism advocates for.
In short, establishment feminism is the feminist orthodoxy—the very “feminism” that allows Barry and Trish and Lauren and Amanda to plausibly exclude from the discipline of feminism the feminism of Young, Hoff-Sommers, et al.