Ann Bartow

What a wonderful, thoughtful post. Thanks!


>>> I recognize that a person may have thought through all the issues, examined all of her assumptions, and simply reached different conclusions than I have … Even though I think the women with whom I disagree are wrong, I am capable of recognizing that they may have considered the issue.

First, the attitude you express in the first sentence above is remarkably tolerant for a feminist, as far as what I have observed.

But the second sentence, which I’m not certain isn’t really stated by you tongue-in-cheek, appears to have you subscribing to the idea that Truth exists in cultural matters, and that once you personally have consciously considered a cultural idea, practice, or attitude, the conclusion you reach is Truth. Anyone who reaches a different conclusion is “wrong”. If it wasn’t a tongue-in-cheek pronouncement, don’t you find the notion that someone believes they possess cultural Truth, and that others who don’t hold the belief are wrong, disturbing?

(By the way, far be it for me to stick up for Ann Coulter, but she has never stated that a woman’s place is in the home. She has said that (a) children benefit from having a full-time parent, and (b) women who choose to be full-time parents should not be looked down upon for making that choice.)

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The Happy Feminist

I think there is such a thing as Truth. Where I become kind of like a relativist is that I believe the truth can be difficult to ascertain. I am fallible so I could be wrong, just as much as everyone else. But using the tools of reason, I can strive to come an understanding of the truth about any given topic. I think human beings, misguided as we often are about a lot of things, have done a glorious job at reaching towards truth and thus making progress in fields like science and politics and moral and ethical reasoning etc. etc. When I reach my personal conclusions about a given matter, I believe I am right and I then may seek to influence others to agree with me. At the same time, I am capable of recognizing the possibility that I could be wrong about a given matter. Thus, I can hold two semi-conflicting ideas in my head at a given moment: (A) that those who disagree with me are wrong and (B) that they have considered the issue thoroughly and believe I am wrong (and that there is always a smidgen of a possibility that they are in fact right and I am wrong).

The Ann Coulter reference was to that she uses terms like "girl soldier.”

First, the attitude you express in the first sentence above is remarkably tolerant for a feminist, as far as what I have observed.

A person can't win for trying around here.

Lingual X

Great post! For me, I don't think using terms like "false consciousness" in everyday life is really helpful in helping people to think about feminism. Where I do think terminology and theory are helpful are in posts and conversations like this, where you think through some of the implications of the theory and how it "looks" in everyday life. I think this is the real heart of theory, when you can make it "make sense" to explain the world around you. I particularly liked your exploration of unquestioned assumptions & internalized attitudes. Thanks!

Susie Bright

I wouldn't refrain from using "false consciousness" as an apt description of a state of mind, anymore than I would be scared of using a four letter word that did the trick.

It's a quick-two-word approach to a precise philosophical description, and it's been around in political, artistic, and psychological water coolers for almost a century,

Go for it-- call a spade a spade, let your FC flag fly when you see it plain as day!

The Happy Feminist

Ohmigosh Susie Bright! I'm starstruck!

(And thank you for the advice!)


Like you said, I don't think that most feminists would use terms like "false conciousness". Before the feministe thing, I didn't even know what the phrase meant, just that it is was bad and something about Marx. (Thank godless for wikipedia).

Sometimes, I think one of the major difficulties with feminism is that the language is so remmoved from the day to day venacular. "Patriarchy" is a self-sustaining, self-reinforcing status quo, not some vague manevolant force or conspiracy. "False consciousness" is not that somebody brainwashed you actively, more like you have engaged in perphiral thinking to get to some of your beliefs (unquestioned assumptions are a part of false consciousness, as far as I can tell). "Consent" and "choice" only have real meaning in an equal society, that doesn't mean that all sex is rape or all choices are good ones or can be divorced from context.

And the biggest one: sexist is a critism, not a general insult meaning "bad".


I can accept your analysis of Truth, and "hold[ing] two semi-conflicting ideas in my head at a given moment." Excellent explanation, Happy. I think a lot of people today don’t know whether it’s “okay” to think they are right about something, and that someone else is wrong. This is especially true, I find, of a silent majority of younger people who are more often now taught that it’s not only wrong to say they believe they’re right, but that it’s even wrong to think it. And of course there’s a fine line to walk between believing you’re right, and being closed to the fact you might be wrong. How we reach that balance is a facinating discussion to me.


I reached your site through Feministing and I just wanted to say how much I liked this post. I agree with your idea of "truth", that you can think you are right while still accepting the possibility that you might be wrong. I think this is an important thought process and as Richard's comment says the thought that one can be "right" is lacking in many young people. Being in my 20's I tend to see this a lot among my peers, I wonder if it's worse in those even younger.

It's good to have the internet to come to and read some real discussion of topics like this, thank you :)


That was a frickin awesome post, happy. Gonna post that on my blog, if you don't mind!

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