Saturday, August 18, 2012

Feminist vs. Feminist

Dr. Harriet Hall is a woman of impeccable feminist credentials. She was one of the very first female physicians in the US Air Force, long before the days of gender quotas and gender norming. Throughout her career she has gone toe to toe with men as an equal in brains and knowledge, and beaten the brightest and best of them without having to have the playing field tilted in her favor.

Unfortunately, the kind of feminism and empowerment that Dr. Hall embodies in her life and achievements makes her a "gender traitor" to today's victim feminists. Ophelia Benson, among others, is baffled as to why a women would NOT demand special favors and brownie points just for being a woman. And Surly Amy was so "dehumanized" on seeing a T-shirt that she didn't agree with, she went on a crying jag and left TAM a day early.

In this blog I am careful to distinguish between feminism in general, and the toxic subset known as radical feminism. Let's recall Wikipedia's definition: a movement which holds that male oppression of women is a "transhistorical phenomenon prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form and the model for all others." Oh, poor me! I'm such a victim! I have a monopoly on suffering and persecution, and no-one else has any right to consider themselves oppressed! Doesn't this sound incredibly narcissistic and self-obsessed?

For many decades there has been a schism in feminism, with different writers at various times using different labels to refer to the two opposing camps. There's second-wave feminism (led by the incredibly ugly and hateful Andrea Dworkin) vs. third-wave feminism, gender feminism vs. equity feminism, radical feminism vs. sex-positive feminism. These are all valid ways of capturing some of the aspects of the division, but I think what it all comes down to is victim feminism vs. empowerment feminism.

An empowerment feminist says, "I'm a woman, I'm proud, I'm strong. I'm powerful, I challenge any man to meet me on a level playing field and I'm confident that I'll prove to be at least his equal."

A victim feminist says, "I'm a woman, I'm weak, I'm pathetic, I'm an eternal helpless victim totally lacking in agency, I need Big Brother to step in and not only tilt the playing field in my favor, but fix the final outcome."

I have a great deal of respect for empowerment feminists, and more than a little contempt for victim feminists.

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