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Thu Jan 10, 2013, 09:31 AM

The Utility of Restricting the Term Feminism to Women [View all]

Up front, this is a utilitarian analysis of the idea, which I can understand may not be palatable to all.

The benefits of restricting the term feminism to woman are;

* Making a clear distinction between men and woman's roles in the feminist movement. This is a valid concern; men have a tendency to want to take over any movement they join. Male feminists are probably tempted to take over feminist groups they join and redirect them to what they think is important, rather than letting woman take charge in what is supposed to be their movement.

* Reminding Men of their actual situation in relation to women. Society has conditioned men to think that they are naturally in charge; reinforcing that this a sphere that they should not be in charge, that they should accept a subsidiary role in, can be beneficial and help men examine how they exercise control unjustly in other aspects of their lives.

* It may be factually accurate. In a utilitarian analysis this may not be the overriding concern, but I certainly understand the argument that giving up truthfulness for utilitarian concerns is not right.

The drawbacks to restricting the term feminism to woman are;

* It is not the accepted usage of the term. In the poll from yesterday 137 votes were cast and 93% said that it was possible for men to be feminists. And Democratic Underground is, outside of a dedicated Feminist message board, likely to be as receptive to this idea as anywhere in America. Convincing people that men cannot be feminists is likely to be an uphill climb.

* It could discourage men from supporting feminism. This is a tricky one - but I ask you when a man describes himself as a feminist what is he trying to say? Is he trying to say that "As a man, it is my manly responsibility to protect women and work for the rights that they deserve, and thus I must lead feminists to a proper victory." It's certainly possible that some men are looking at things in this chauvinist way. But it may be equally likely that a man describing himself as feminist is simply asserting that he wants to see woman have an equal place in our society; economically, socially, politically and so on. I would assert that the latter is most likely to be the case, but I don't have firm numbers on that. So what is the likely effect on a man describing himself as a feminist if he is told that he is not and cannot be a feminist? If the matter is handled with empathy it can be a moment of introspection and growth for the man; if handled brusquely it could go another way, perhaps.

Just some thoughts on the matter, thank you for your patience.

Bryant

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