Is it possible to be a male feminist and still refer to women as "chicks" and "broads"? If so, maybe I'll sign up.

The Happy Feminist

Hmmm . . . that could violate the dignity clause I have added to my definition of feminism. Of course, I just used the word "chick" the other day in my post on "brassy chicks," but I consider that "re-appropriation" of an offending term!


The fundamental problem is that there is no defintion of what it means to be a feminist. The days of advocating for equal opportunity and women's reproductive rights are long gone. These days feminism is bigger and badder and has embraced all sorts of superfluous agendas.

Can one be a feminist and be against gay rights? Not likely. Can one be a feminist and be against the EEOC? Not likely. Can one be a feminist and believe in the biblical model of male & female family dynamics. Not bloodly likely. And the list goes on, where the two fundamental principles of equal opportunity and reproductive freedom are supported but being a naysayer on fringe issues casts people out of the tent of feminism.

Besides, due to the mission creep of feminism it's seen by many to be the equivalent of crystal worshipping and people don't want to be tagged with that association. Shift feminism back to core principles and rehabilitate the image and message of feminism and you might get more public proclamations of support.

The Happy Feminist

I think I have provided a good definition of feminism in my post entitled "Feminism 101." It's linked in the above post with the words "basic position."

As for your specific questions:

Can you be a feminist and be against gay rights? Yes. Personally, I believe that acceptance and full rights for gay people go hand-in-hand with feminism, because much antipathy towards gay people is rooted in an insistence in tiresomely restrictive gender norms that hurt women. But yes, in theory, you can believe that equal rights for women are a crucial priority while still opposing gay rights. Of course, I would call any feminist who took that position a fool but he or should would still meet the definition of "feminist."

Can you be a feminist and be against the EEOC? Yes. You can support equal opportunities for women in the workplace but disagree on whether the EEOC is the right mechanism for getting there.

Can one be a feminist and believe in the biblical model of male & female family dynamics? Uh, no, assuming you mean the traditionalist model in which wife always submits to husband. This model goes against the very essence of feminism. Any rule -- whether religious or legal --that automatically places women in an unequal position based on sex is likely to be anti-feminist.

The Happy Feminist

Shift feminism back to core principles and rehabilitate the image and message of feminism and you might get more public proclamations of support.

I don't think feminism is necessarily all that lacking in support in the U.S. -- thank goodness. Sure, people may not like the WORD "feminism" (and frankly, I think any other word we adopted would eventually be stigmatized) but most people support feminist goals. In the blogosphere, we tend to focus on areas in our culture that need work, but on the whole I think feminism has been incredibly successful.

I'll cling to the word "feminist" until the day I die because I can't escape the fact that my life would be far more limited and constrained if it weren't for previous generations of feminists. Also, I would be terribly embarrassed to ever say I wasn't a feminist. A woman saying "I'm not a feminist," sounds to me like she is saying, "My rights aren't very important to me."


Both a rejection of gay rights and believing exclusively in the "biblical model" (so there's only one?) are essentialist and therefore anti-feminist. Feminism is more than just formal equality (equal rights), it also has to do with not stereotyping women and men as always behaving in one way or another or being deficient or "wrong" if they digress. So if you say I'm dumber because I'm a woman, but am still entitled to equal rights, not enough to be a feminist.

The EEOC is just one way of dealing with the inequality between the sexes recognized by feminism. Of course you can be anti-EEOC and be a feminist.

Feminism ain't monolithic. I'm not responsible for everything else that every feminist, democrat, woman, blah, blah, blah says. And Happy is dealing with this issue in her post, by discussing the bounds of feminism and how inclusive she thinks it should be.

Also, what makes you think that feminism used to be so simple and so single-issue? Heard of Amelia Bloomer? The oh-so-scandalous Victoria Woodhull? The Lowell Mill 'girls'? The movement to provide women-run refuges so that former prostitutes could learn to support themselves in other ways? Elizabeth Cady Stanton et. al. wrote their "Declaration of Sentiments" and it wasn't just about the vote and basic equality. (Heck, contraception and abortion were big non-issues until the anti-immigrant pro-eugenics movement them issues, mostly in the early 20th century.)

Some of the unrealized, diverse statements and goals in this declaration include:
-A statement that men's laws are invalid as applied to women as women had no part in their creation
-A statement that women are entitled to equality among the clergy
-A statement that the moral double standard should be abolished
-Society's creation of woman's dependence on man (John Stuart Mill wrote extensively on this)
See http://www.fordham.edu/HALSALL/MOD/Senecafalls.html

And what is equality anyways? Since men don't get pregnant and almost never lactate, are rights pertaining to pregnancy and lactation a matter of equality? I would say so, but I don't know what you, or even other feminists would say. What is equal opportunity? If it is true (and it is) that standarized tests including the SAT, GRE, and LSAT underpredict women's performance in higher education (or, if you would like, overpredict men's performance) is it equal opportunity to consider only test scores? Or do you adjust? Or do you fix the test so it becomes a better measure of ability in everyone?


"I'm not a feminist" = "I'm not a man hating lesbian"

I've run across many MANY women who will swear vehemently that they are most defnintely NOT feminists. And these are college educated, working, seemingly progressive people on the surface at least.

Of course I sprang forth from my mother's uterus worshipping at the alter of Betty Friedan, so such anti-feminist views strike me as sacrilidge as well. To me saying you're not a feminist is like saying you think we'd be better off if black people were still slaves.


So far this comment thread has been very informative. I posed a question about whether one can be anti-gay rights and still be a feminist. Happy says that we're unlikely to see such a combination of beliefs but that they're not fundamenally at odds, and then Isomone declares that to be a feminist one must all be for gay rights. This simply reinforces my point that when the public hears the term feminist they really have no clue what it means any longer, for here we have two feminists who are disagreeing on fundamental issues.

I concur with Sydney's observation that feminist means "man hating lesbian" to many people, many of whom are direct beneficiaries of earlier feminist struggles for equal rights and reproductive freedom. To these people feminism is a movement that has embarked on a range of fringe issues that have less to do with "equality" and more to do with socialist fantasies of re-engineering society (ie. battle against the Patriarchy and dreams of tearing down the Patriarchy to clear the way for a new social order.)

I'm sure that many of you who are commited to the feminist brand will disagree with the interpretation that Sydney reports among her peers, but I happen to think that their assessment is pretty accurate for feminism has a severe image problem and the public face of much of feminism is indeed the man-hating lesbian, though of course we don't see that on Happy's blog.

As to men being feminists, well, if they subscribe to the humanist beliefs that there should be equality of opportunity and that the State shouldn't compell reproductive choices upon women, then some may consider those positions to be in support of feminism and the men to be feminists, but we all know that there really no longer exists a definition of feminism that all can agree to.

The Happy Feminist

I don't see much disagreement between my comments and Ismone's -- more a matter of emphasis. And I don't see ANYWHERE where we disagreed on the definition of feminism!

I said technically someone could be a feminist and still be anti-gay but it would be rather a foolish/nonsensical position to take. Ismone simply said that feminism and an anti-gay stance are inconsistent. We're basically on the same page, but I allowed for the possibility of an anti-gay feminist. (In fact, I seem to recall that Friedan was none to friendly to lesbians.)

Yes, as I described in my feminism 101 post, feminists can come to diametrically opposite conclusions on certain issues (like porn for example) but they still have in common that they are reasoning from the premise that women's rights and dignity are a crucial priority. This separates us from, say, the James Dobsons of the world, who might come to anti-porn conclusion for unfeminist reasons.


Since men don't get pregnant and almost never lactate

You might enjoy my post on male lactation (#3 on Google.)

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