I’m not a feminist, honest!

I was intrigued by some of the debate that has been going on lately about whether or not Richard Stallman is sexist after he made a joke at some conference. I wasn’t intrigued by the parts where people were arguing about whether or not he is actually sexist (of course he fucking isn’t you stupid fucking cretin), nor the speculation that any of the bickering has something to do with his thoughts on Mono (I’m not even going to try and explain what that’s all about), nor the debate about whether what he actually said was sexist to begin with (I mean, it could have been, but then I wasn’t there, although the guy who brought it all up seems like an utter cunt). I just realised that last sentence was horrible (I used too much parenthesis (sorry)). What did intrigue me, though, were some of the comments made by men and women alike who were quick to qualify their views on the subject at hand with statements such as, “I’m not a feminist, but…”, or on the other hand, “Feminism is getting really politically correct and annoying…” This seems more than a little odd, to me. These are arguments I see put forth whenever the rights of women are debated or talked about in some way. I was under the impression that the goal of feminism was equal rights. Am I missing something here? A quick glance at the Wikipedia article on the subject reveals that whilst there all sorts of tangents and philosophies surrounding it, that’s basically it. If you believe that women should have equal status to men, then you’re a feminist. So why do people seem so scared of admitting that they are feminists? And why do so many other people assume the entire feminist movement is only about ragging on men?

Any thoughts?


25 Responses to “I’m not a feminist, honest!”

  1. 1 AF
    16 July, 2009 at 10:15 am

    “And why do so many other people assume the entire feminist movement is only about ragging on men?” – Sadly (because it does the real feminist movement immeasurable harm), because so much of the loudest noise often comes from a vociferous minority of women who ARE doing just that – presumably in an attempt to lessen some serious feelings of personal inadequacy!

    It’s such a shame, because in my view (and according to your description) I AM a feminist – an ordinary one just like a heck of a lot of other ordinary people.

    • 18 July, 2009 at 4:34 am

      Perhaps that’s what’s it’s all about. People are simply unwilling to attach a label to themselves. And there isn’t anything really wrong with that, I guess. Rather, eschewing labels is behaviour to be commended. But rather than say, “Hey I’m not a feminist but…” perhaps people should just ignore the qualifying statement altogether. Supporting equal rights shouldn’t be commended; it should be expected.

  2. 16 July, 2009 at 10:59 am

    The point of any ‘movement’ like feminism IS surely to promote equal rights as you said; it’s just that there are always people who take it in an annoying direction seemingly just for making an impact – often mis-directing loads of anger at some small thing which isn’t the actual cause of the problem. You know, the type of people who are just looking for evidence they’re being oppressed in every area, and if people don’t like them/their approach, they cry sexism (equivalent of ‘playing the race card’ I guess) rather than realise/accept it’s cause they’re irritating as a person. And as AF said, it’s these who tend to be heard/get more coverage, and give the more reasonable ones a bad name. Similar to how PETA do more to set back people’s attitudes to animal rights than anyone who actually tried to do such a thing. It’s all about attention-seeking more than the ideas behind it, for these types.

    I consider myself a feminist (duh) but why would I want to burn my bra?! I need my bra, damnit! i don’t wear a bra because men are trying to suppress my boobs, I wear one because I need it to support my giant zorbs and not ruin my posture and figure. I do understand that an awful lot of our country’s (world’s?) make-up (such as language) came from patriarchal times, but I don’t really see what changing the spelling of ‘woman’ to ‘womyn’ is going to achieve except make you look illiterate. I’d just make up a completely new word if it were me. A new language, why not?

    Again, like AF said above, a huge amount of ordinary people are feminist, just because that’s the way they are – having respect for women, and men, based on whether or not they deserve respect, not on gender. Like when you and I were discussing Michael Jackson’s death and the people using a bit of humour and then those taking terrible offence as they saw him as a demi-god. I said of course it’s a shame he died and I’m sorry for his family’s lots (heh) but I’m not going to pretend to be devastated and humour is imprtant in dark times anyway – and you said it’s human nature to have sympathy for someone’s death, it should go without saying. ‘Tis the same principle here I think. Something that comes naturally to a lot of folks, who don’t feel the need to bang on about it or defend themselves.

    Undeniably there are areas where women aren’t yet seen as equal, which needs to be rectified, but the very fact we have a ‘feminism’ means there has to be a ‘masculism’ for it to exist – I remember writing this in an essay 5 years ago, about binary opposites defining themselves in terms of each other and therefore reinforcing the other’s position. I also remember writing about the various schools of thought such as ‘Women’s Studies’, ‘Black Studies’, and ‘Black Women’s Studies’ (because black men were sexist and women were racist) ergo everyone’s a hypocrite. Doesn’t seem likely we’ll get near equality any time soon with all these labels, does it?

    I’ll stop ramboling & taking up your whole page now. Sorry for the mini essay! My brain hasn’t worked so much before 11am in ages. Thought provoking post, dood.

    • 18 July, 2009 at 4:30 am

      Something that comes naturally to a lot of folks, who don’t feel the need to bang on about it or defend themselves.

      That’s how I feel about it, as well. But then you already know that because I was banging on about the MJ thing over the phone, wasn’t I. :P There are some things in the world that are just expected. Not treating women like dirt should be one of them. Thought-provoking response, dollface.

      • 18 July, 2009 at 12:07 pm

        Exactamentally. I was going to write a blog entry about the MJ thing but I never bothered in the end. He’s no more or less special than anyone else, equality & balance definitely weren’t in place there (and probably weren’t throughout the poor soul’s entire life). I know this is completely off the topic of feminism now, but surely this shows that everybody dies, no matter how famous or young, and he is a person, not the deity his fans treated him as.

        I’m just not keen on the black-and-white (erk, that wasn’t meant as a terrible segue from the MJ spiel) way some groups of people try to simplify these things, one-against-the-other, as most people are hypocrites and life isn’t usually that easily categorised. There are cool women and cool men, bitches and bastards, nice transexuals and nasty transexuals, I’m sure! No one deserves respect, or disrespect, solely on the basis of their gender.

        I’m still better than you though, cos I have boobs. ;)

  3. 16 July, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    *I* state that I am not a feminist because I don’t like the connotation. I am a ‘selfist’ or ‘humanist’. People should have, or rather earn/TAKE equal rights.

    • 18 July, 2009 at 4:38 am

      I like that idea. The only thing is that humanism makes me think of the philosophy whereby people seek universal morality and truth through human interaction. I never really liked that ideology very much. I agree, though, that people should expect rights, and kick up a fuss when they do not have them. That seems to be the overall impression I’m getting out of these responses. Thanks for your comments. :)

      • 18 July, 2009 at 11:57 am

        Tis true, everything people have said (most more succinctly than me, doh) supports the ‘to be equal there shouldn’t be divisive labels that suggest one is better’ stance. I mean to be ‘racist’ is to racially discriminate, so surely ‘feminist’ would suggest someone discriminating … against men? ‘Positive discrimination’ (like someone hiring a token black Jewish Asian onelegged blind lesbian) is still discrimination.

        I don’t really like the term ‘humanism’ for the same reasons and also because humans think the earth revolves around them enough as it is, and there are other life-forms that deserve rights too.

  4. 17 July, 2009 at 3:29 am

    If you believe in equal rights for all people, you are a humanist. The term “feminism” or “being a feminist” is a very exciting term used to incite debate between the sexes over a-few-or-too-many pints. Straight men often say they are “feminist”, however no straight man I know who supports gay rights and same-sex marriage would ever use the term “homosexualist” to describe himself.

    I suppose there are many theories as to why that might be, but I prefer the simplest (i.e., basest) one: a man declaring himself to be a “homosexualist” comes across as not very manly and might even be light in the loafers himself, whereas a man declaring himself to be a “feminist” is sensitive to the plight of women all over the world regardless of culture, upbringing, and income bracket. With one word he’s saying, “Hey ladies, I’m understanding. I listen.”

    I’ll leave you to your own conclusion as to why he might say such a thing.

    • 18 July, 2009 at 4:46 am

      I like your reasoning, there, kiddo. Homosexualist made me laugh. But you raise a valid point about labelling people. It shouldn’t be necessary at all. And I agree that a lot of men probably like to label themselves as feminist in order to score chicks, or even just to appear more attractive towards women in general. The guy (for it was a guy) who made a big stink out of this Stallman episode in the first place seems to me like some sort of crazy white knight concerned more for his own image than the issue of sexism. But who knows, really?

      I call myself a feminist as I’m beating my girlfriend, by the way. That way she knows I’m caring (for myself), that I listen (to her screams), and sensitive to her plight (that I cause).

      • 18 July, 2009 at 11:50 am

        Oh, dear. Perhaps I couldn’t call myself a feminist anyway, as I like you mistreating me so. Ha, like that guy in the problem page article! “I consider myself a feminist and I care deeply about my girlfriend. I’m so ashamed!” You are sensitive to my plight. Every nuance of my distress brings you a distinctive shade of pleasure.

        Good point viletimes about ‘homosexualist’ etc. People who need to announce themselves as something (eg feminist) are annoying in the same way ‘scenes’ of any kind are annoying. Labels. Think of people who go round with t-shirts saying ‘sexy’ or whatever. If you need to say it, you’re probably not it, as my friend once remarked.

  5. 18 July, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    One more thing, to flood your page further. The quotation about feminism becoming ‘PC and annoying’ reminded me of that ‘fatshionista’ LJ community I somehow stumbled across a couple of months ago. Most of those ladies on there WERE ‘feminists’, the vociferous ones (with links to homepages where they spelt ‘she’ as ‘zie’ and stuff), and I think I told you at the time, some of those posts were SO full of drama! I think most people on there just wanted to discuss fashion, but there were some just spoiling for a debate and picking on the slightest detail in someone’s writing to criticise them, and others complaining it was political correctness gone mad. You know, people playing the martyr and going on about how tough they have it and acting offended by everyone’s throwaway comments. So I can kind of see where whoever said that is coming from. It IS irritating. That’s the sort of thing I meant when I said people offloading their anger on some tiny irrelevant thing and not doing anything useful with it.

    • 18 July, 2009 at 12:37 pm

      Some people just need to feel like they’ve got a crusade, I guess. About the political correctness, thing, though, I don’t like the way people use it as an excuse to complain about stuff all the time. Even so, I’m particularly fond of PC, either. It goes back to what you were saying about positive discrimination still being discrimination. Political correctness, to me, seems like a copp-out.

      Still I’m no good at explaining myself, so I’ll let someone else do it. One of the commentators from the linked-to blogs had something I found particularly insightful:

      Political correctness sucks, and let me tell you why.

      By attacking RMS for mentioning “female virgins” you’re implicitely saying that it would be OK to say “male virgins”, as if that’s somehow better. And if it were so, I bet no one would even raise an eyebrow.

      It’s the same with jokes about jews, black people, japanese, russians, brits or pretty much everything. By denying people the right to make fun of something, you’re making it different by default.

      For example, if I can tell a joke about a straight white man, why can’t I tell a joke about a black gay man? Are you telling me that a gay black man is somehow different than a straight white man? More important? Less important? Because if I act differently towards him than towards the white man, then I’m discriminating him, isn’t that right? I’m making him stand out, the same way you make a woman stand out by opening the door for her. Is she incapable of opening the door for herself??

      Yes, you read that well: political correctness == discrimination.

      I’m not a sexist, racist or a discriminator. Everyone is equal, and everyone has the equal right to be laughed at. Because I respect women I tend to laugh at them the same way I laugh at men. Everything else is just Americanization (if such a word exists) where everyone is sensitive about everything, everything is an insult and nobody laughs.

      Next thing you know, all the jokes will be banned and we’ll be raising our right hand to hail the Führer.


  6. 18 July, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Just to clarify, most of the blog posts that you linked to don’t claim that Stallman believes in sexism. The issue is that the speech itself (and not necessarily Stallman’s actual beliefs) was offensive.

    • 18 July, 2009 at 7:35 pm

      Aye, you’re right. I should have made that a little more clear in the article. One other thing, though:

      The issue is that some parts of the speech itself (and not necessarily Stallman’s actual beliefs) w[ere] considered offensive by a number of people.


      Edit: Oh and 100 GET.

  7. 19 Lou S. Er
    25 July, 2009 at 1:14 am

    I believe (I may be wrong), when using parentheses within parentheses (otherwise [possibly] known as nested-brackets) you could use square brackets as the child-parenthesis.

    • 31 July, 2009 at 4:00 pm

      That’s how I usually do things when writing formulae to make things a little more legible. Perhaps I shall do the same thing for English prose from now on. In fact I’ll give it a go now (making sure to be smart about it [but not at the expense of absurdity {or sanity, for that matter}]). Hrmm, I like it.

  8. 29 July, 2009 at 12:45 am

    …Everyone is equal, and everyone has the equal right to be laughed at….

    I’m coming into this a little late, but there’s a point that hasn’t yet been made here, I think (and this comment was made to the entry in my blog, so…)

    I think we need to recognize that this was a situation where the 30-or-40 women out of 1000 attendees at the conferences were the ones enjoying their “equal right to be laughed at”, and laughed at in a pretty sketchy way: if they were “EMACS virgins”, Mr. Stallman and any other self-professed members of the “Church of EMACS” had the “holy duty” to “relieve them of their virginity”. The person leading the “equal laughter” was a “leader of the Free Software Movement” giving a keynote.

    This, at a time when representation of women in FLOSS development is a tenth of what it is in proprietary software development. Regardless of what Mr. Stallman may say about equal treatment, this wasn’t it, and it doesn’t encourage it, either.

    Celeste Lyn Paul of the KDE board was not amused when she tweeted during the keynote. Chani Armitage was, likewise, not amused when she felt what she described in a comment on her blog:

    talking about relieving women of their virginity casts women in a submissive role, with men in a dominant role, and brings up thoughts of oppression and (indirectly) rape. (yes, thinking about a roomful of guys thinking about taking womens’ virginity does eventually lead me to wondering how many of them would take it by force.) it becomes less about the non-sexual meaning of “virgin” and more about all the crazy ideas societies have had about virgin women. and thinking about that stuff would make any woman uncomfortable.

    • 31 July, 2009 at 4:17 pm

      The seriousness of this response prompted me to see if I could find out what was actually said at that conference. If the quote at the Geek Feminism wiki, taken from Matthew Garret’s blog, is correct, here is what was said, in context:

      “Then if you become a hacker you can celebrate that by having a foobar mitzvah, a ceremony in which the new hacker stands in front of the assembled congregation of hackers and chants through the lines of the system source code. And we also have the cult of the virgin of emacs. The virgin of emacs is any female who has not yet learned how to use emacs. And in the church of emacs we believe that taking her emacs virginity away is a blessed act.”

      I can see how women might find it offensive. I think religious types should be the ones kicking up a fuss, though. It looks to me as if he’s mocking Christianity, Judaism and cults all at once. Cults where there is a self-appointed leader and deity who takes the virginity of his followers do exist, after all. The reaction to this lame joke seems rather out of proportion to me, and the rape comment appears to have absolutely nothing to do with reality. It seems like a completely absurd comparison to make. No, sod that, it’s a completely retarded comparison.

      • 1 August, 2009 at 5:22 pm

        In fact, the specific wording that I recall (and that others have substantiated) was more like “An EMACS virgin is any woman who has not yet learned to use EMACS. In the Church of EMACS it is a holy duty to relieve her of her virginity.” (Emphasis mine.) Unfortunately, there’s no videotape available, as far as I know, of Stallman’s Saint IGNUcius “performance” at GCDS.

        For better or worse, you don’t get to choose who kicks up a fuss about the offensiveness of the “joke”, only the folks who were there and were offended get to do that. And you can’t really write off someone’s feelings as “retarded”, not and maintain any pretense of engaging seriously with things here.

        Mr. Stallman, in our email exchange, chose to focus exclusively on his freedom to parodize religion, to the extent that the word “women” appears not one single time in either of his replies. In any case, he doesn’t seem to believe that anyone was actually offended, he asserts that he’s the victim, and refuses to consider apologizing for anything.

        As is his right, I guess, but it’s not the sort of “leadership” behavior that I think encourages more participation in FLOSS development by women…

      • 1 August, 2009 at 5:37 pm

        The transcription done by Matthew Garrett is from Mr. Stallman’s performing the same “routine” at an appearance in Italy, not GCDS, which accounts for the somewhat different wording. Mr. Stallman has been telling this joke for about ten years or so, from all reports; this seems to be the first time–in part since after recent incidents at FlashBelt and GoGaRuCo, a lot of people have simply had enough–that anyone has complained about it in a concerted way or (apparently) attempted to point it out to Stallman himself…

  9. 30 July, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    “…Everyone is equal, and everyone has the equal right to be laughed at….”
    Whoa, I didn’t notice that until Lefty commented but I couldn’t disagree more.

    Sure, Stallman has the legal right to do so, but that’s only relevant in court. By no means is actually doing so at a public conference acceptable.

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