Fauxminism is the curious phenomenon where people think that featuring, talking about, or even just being a woman is an inherently feminist act and thus renders the person and/or act(s) in question irreproachably progressive with regards to matters of gender. What makes someone a fauxminist is not any particular action or choice that they make or take, but their dogged insistence that anything they do must be feminist because they are a woman or have involved a woman without taking into account how those actions affect the lives of other women. They tend to say things like “Criticizing another woman? Jeez, that isn’t very feminist of you” and “Support all ladies no matter what they do (even if that’s hindering other ladies)!” in response to feminist critiques of anything even marginally involving a woman.

Notable Categories

  • Girl Power (Rah Rah!)
    Girl Power tones the aggression of the actually-radical Riot Grrrl movement down to palatable “feistiness” (or maybe the equally condescending “sauciness“) and sells messages of empowerment through conventionally-attractive bodies. With Spice Girls-style “I get what I want” swagger, girl power advocates manage to convince most members of society that sexism is dead without quite eliminating sexism and gender biases.
  • Ladder-Kickers
    These women struggle admirably against often very significant sexist barriers for their success. Unfortunately, as soon as they attain success, they do not attempt to make it at all better for the women following in their footsteps. At times, they actively make their female subordinates’ lives worse. Their defense is that if they managed to make it despite sexism, others should be able to follow suit. Simply put, they are pioneers without being trailblazers and leaders without being mentors.
  • Sarah Palin (& Her Imitators)
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    These individuals believe that if a woman has power, then she must be a feminist — even if she uses said power to actively disempower other women. Sarah Palin types are quite distinct from Ann Coulter’s acolytes in that they like to claim that they are following in the socially-conservative tradition of the First Wave of feminism. In other words, while Coulter has gained power by bashing feminism, Palin attempted to increase her power by appealing to it.
  • Respecters of the Womb
    Not all who value childbearing fall into this category, but some do hail from patriarchal monotheistic religions that urge their followers to multiply while others might follow religious traditions that revere the sacred feminine. Gender essentialists at heart, they believe that women should be respected because they are mothers, rather disregarding the need to promote respect for trans*, infertile, child-free, or otherwise nulliparous women.
  • TERFs (aka RadScum)
    TERF is an initialism signifying “trans-exclusive radical feminists.” Like the those who advocate respecting women because of the womb, they believe that respect for women derives from a cis-centric view of anatomy: that women who were assigned female at birth are the only people allowed to be “real” women (I’m going to let Natalie take down their arguments).
  • Anti-Victimhood Brigade
    These women interpret any conversation about patriarchy, sexism, male chauvinism, privilege, misogyny, or even feminism to be an admission of victimhood, and, therefore, powerlessness. They are basically to feminism what Morgan Freeman is to racism in that they believe that the best way to deal with sexism and misogyny is to cease discussing them, as they see said discussions as emphasizing a lack of power instead of empowerment. Dealing with just how the game might be rigged is not as important to them as emphasizing what power women do have and exercise.
  • Secret Submissives
    While enjoying or even lusting after strong, powerful women does not in itself make someone a Secret Submissive, using reasoning along the lines of “femme fatales are hot” as one’s primary justification for supporting gender equality does. Secret Submissives are people who like to see women in certain types of power because they get off on it, not necessarily due to beliefs regarding gender equality. Add a dash of geeky sincerity and scrape off some of the more blatant objectification and you have Joss-Whedonites, who, while often more well-meaning than Secret Submissives, still predicate their beliefs in female empowerment on some stereotype of a Strong Sexy Woman.

Their perspectives can be described as “Choose Your Choice feminism,” i.e. those of people who claim that they are exceptions (Special Snowflakes) rather than part of some sexist pattern in society.

What’s wrong with emphasizing choice, then?

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Let’s pretend you are the female half of a male-female couple. Maybe you claim that you do the cooking because you are the better cook, not because your male partner is a sexist jerk, adding that he is so helpless in the kitchen that cooking is really an empowering act for you. Perhaps you claim instead that you enjoy cooking while he does not, and why not do it if you like it?

Now imagine that every, or most, female halves of male-female couples claims that she has freely chosen to do the cooking. Add to this particular phenomenon the fact that most girls are socialized to be caretakers while most boys are not, and you have something a little more complex than “because I want to.”

To quote the ever-excellent Kate Harding:

feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are fucked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.

While trying to set up a One True Feminist or Feminism would be problematic (not to mention blatantly fallacious), if feminism really were just about supporting individual women’s choices, then it would simply be called “female individualism.” While choice is an important part of feminism, it is far from the only part, especially in a world where those doing the talking about feminism often have more choices available to them than those they would criticize.

Feminism, then, does not equal blind support for all women and all of their choices, but working towards a world where more and more women have more and more agency in their lives — a world where women who aren’t hot, extraordinarily talented, Republicans, mothers, assigned female at birth, powerful, or able to look sexy while kicking someone’s ass are still able to be people, too.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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47 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Will
    April 2, 2013 at 11:39 am —

    In the words of Kate Bush: “Mmmm, yes.”

    An excellent post. I especially appreciate your discussion of the role of choice in feminist discourses. It’s always important to recognize that choice is always constrained (and enabled) by social structures.

  2. Profile photo of jinxybunny
    April 2, 2013 at 11:46 am —

    I love that Kate Harding quotation

  3. Profile photo of anthroslug
    April 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm —

    I would note that not all “Respecters of the Womb” come from conservative religious traditions. There is a definite trend of this sort of thing on the political left, at least here in the U.S. I have lost track of the number of times, while living on the California coast, that I encountered someone who demanded that, by virtue of being able to gestate and give birth, a woman’s opinion on all subjects was more valid than a man’s – and invariably this line of reasoning came from women who otherwise espoused VERY left-wing positions (they tended to be socialists, anti-corporate, anti-war, etc. and also were anti-vaccine, pro-naturopathy, and so on). The same women who would insist on this also were very down on any women who chose not to have children, seeing them as infantile at best or traitors to the sisterhood at worst, and tended to buy into very strict gender roles (the man works, the woman is the mother and home maker, very much the standard religious right routine, but with a heaping dollop of new-age faux-philosophy), though while religious right equivalent puts the man as the head of the household, these folks tended to claim that it was the woman who had more worth.

    • Profile photo of pascale68
      April 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm —

      I live in San Francisco and I also know women who think this way. This goes along with the idea that you must breastfeed (not via the pump) for several years or else you are an awful person, which does not allow a woman to pursue many activities outside of the home. And when you ask them where they stand politically, they say they are very liberal.

      The one point I don’t completely agree with is that they think women have more worth than men. I would say they think they have more worth than a woman who doesn’t breastfeed, does vaccinate her kids, works outside the home, etc. I see them constantly criticizing other women but rarely criticizing men.

      • Profile photo of anthroslug
        April 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm —

        I have certainly seen them reserve their particularly harsh attitudes for other women, but my experience is that they tend to be dismissive of men who are acting “outside of their proper sphere.”

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      April 2, 2013 at 12:50 pm —

      Hm, those liberals are the ones to whom I meant to allude when I spoke of those who revere the sacred feminine. I guess I could have been more clear.

  4. Profile photo of Anthropologist Underground
    April 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm —

    The Kate Harding quote! So much this!

    Following on anthroslug’s comment, there is a particular sanctimommy cultural paradigm which compels mothers who find themselves even more devoid of power and status* in larger society than when they were were working to out-counter-culture each other and artificially ascribe superior virtue to their own choices, abjectly failing to recognize either the larger societal pressures or the subcultural jockeying that led them to make those choices.

    *My major anthro bias is that power and status are powerful undercurrents to human behavior in our society. This may or may not be true in all situations where I call power/status as underlying motivators.

    • Profile photo of anthroslug
      April 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm —

      There may be an element of truth to this for many cases, but those with whom I am most familiar (so, of course, there could be sampling bias at work here) tend to be in rather advantaged positions: college educated, affluent, and (usually) white. They generally are from very privileged positions, and have chosen to be stay-at-home mothers, and tend to be blissfully unaware of the fact that not everyone has that option (for example, I know one woman who has often stated that any woman who “chooses to work” after having children is failing as a mother, and she refuses to accept that for many families, having two working parents isn’t a choice).

      I think that there are things at work here other than the power dynamics that you cite, though those may be at work in many cases.

  5. Profile photo of vildechaya
    April 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm —

    There’s another major group that is missing here: the anti-breeding, intentionally child-free fauxminists. They can be seen as the opposite end of the continuum from the Respect the Wombers. They see their fauxminism as being derived from their lack of having children, their use of birth control, their freedom from having to do care work, etc. They may be hyper focused on reproductive rights, but with a narrow focus on abortion and contraception, rather than the full spectrum that includes prenatal care, etc. They tend to view having children as being anti-feminist because of the ways it can contribute to restricting women’s lives, rather than focusing on removing barriers for all women, including mothers.

    • Profile photo of cityzenjane
      April 2, 2013 at 8:53 pm —

      I think that’s a cartoon of women who chose childlessness. I didn’t do it for career reasons. I didn’t do it for vanity reasons. I did it for family history reasons which you and others are ignorant of. I did not want kids…and I am treated like a bizarre person for it. I advocate constantly for better family policy for both men and women – AND I am a full time caretaker for a relative. So please…. don’t assume I am judging people who ARE parents. That’s a game the media likes to play…Stop enabling them.

      I do want the same lee way and policies for me though I don’t have kids which some people enjoy. That’s fair. Your choices should not impact me and I should not have to pick up the slack for days you take to care for your family – because I am not a person without a life here to supplement your choices.

      • Profile photo of vildechaya
        April 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm —

        Of course it’s a cartoon cityzenjane. I’m adding the Anti-Breeders to the reductionist list of “fauxminists” because I believe it to be an important counterpoint to the “Respect the Womb” category. Clearly, you deserve full and equal rights regardless of your status as a parent. However, I find that your ending statement belies your position, and it is perplexing to me given that you are a full time caretaker yourself. Are you also irritated by coworkers who get sick or injured and can’t come to work? The way you talk about someone caring for their family would be more appropriate if they were someone who was getting drunk and hungover and staying home to sleep it off. What about maternity leave? Should postpartum women have to pull their weight and recover and care for a newborn all at once? When you remove childbearing from feminism, it’s much easier and neater to define equality, but it won’t really be equality. And it won’t really be feminism, since ~80% of women give birth.

  6. Profile photo of hellboundalleee
    April 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm —

    I am not your enemy because I am antinatalist, vildechaya, and I am not a fauxminist. I would not say that “having children is anti-feminist,” because I don’t think personal life choices have to do with the concept feminism per se. I have strong views about having children for moral reasons. I see big problems with viewing certain feminists as “the enemy.” I also have a problem when some women call “fun-femmes” The Enemy. I think this isn’t constructive at all.

    Being antinatalist doesn’t make me a fake feminist. I’m also a gender agnostic. Does that make me The Enemy too?

    • Profile photo of Sara McDonald
      April 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm —

      Hellboundalleee– are you talking about the entire post labeling some women “the enemy” in feminism, or just vildechaya’s comment? Because if you’re talking about this entire discussion, then I would agree with you that it’s not very constructive. Essentially, it puts all would-be feminists on guard, wondering, do I have fauxminist beliefs?

      Of course we all have biases and no one has a perfectly inclusive worldview, but I’m sure many here are struggling to be more inclusive. Helping each other along is more valuable than pointing out others based on individual failures to see the larger picture. I find myself drawn to reverence of biological femaleness, while also recognizing that women are not their biology. My thoughts and feelings about gender/sex contradict each other at times. I don’t think it’s because I’m fake. I think it’s because I have complex emotions and shifting priorities. In short, I’m a human before I am a feminist.

    • Profile photo of Bjornar
      April 2, 2013 at 3:58 pm —

      Reading vildechaya’s comment and yours hellboundalleee I find it surprising you think it applies to you. I suppose it’s because your apparent philosophical standpoint gets a lot of negative response, but it’s obvious to me the first sentence is not sufficient to describe the group vildechaya defines and yet you read it as such and then disagreed with the further description.

      Of course one can be anti-breeding and intentionally child-free for a variety of reason, by vildechaya specifically describes those who “see their fauxminism as being derived from their lack of having children, their use of birth control, their freedom from having to do care work, etc.”

      • Profile photo of cityzenjane
        April 2, 2013 at 8:56 pm —

        I don’t think I have ever met that type of feminist…IRL…. I think this is a media cartoon of feminism worthy of Rush.

        • Profile photo of Laurel Halbany
          April 3, 2013 at 9:53 pm —

          I have. (“If I haven’t met that type of feminist they don’t exist and you’re lying” is not a particularly useful metric, btw.) It’s a variant of the Special Snowflake/Chill Girl type of fauxminism – you know, I’m not one of those breeders who has a kid and hits you up for child support and can’t hang out and be fun because she’s gone all mommy on you. We live in a culture that devalues women and anything associated with women; the flip side of the meme that a woman who doesn’t have kids is unnatural and selfish, is that a woman who does have kids is dumb, childish and unreliable. Childfree folks aren’t immune from that toxic acculturation any more than the rest of us are.

    • Profile photo of vildechaya
      April 2, 2013 at 4:16 pm —

      This is not a conversation about enemies, but a conversation about allies. Can you be an ally to all women if you believe that giving birth is essential to being a woman? Can you be an ally to all women if you believe that all mothers should work? Or shouldn’t work? Can you be an ally to all women if you believe that it is better for women not to have children? I think that is the point of this post about fauxminism; it is the notion that feminism that picks and chooses is not really feminism at all. How do you reconcile your antinatalism with feminism? Do you believe that women’s rights include fertility?

  7. Profile photo of hellboundalleee
    April 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm —

    I want to make sure I am clear here: there is a big difference between people who don’t exist–those babies we want to have, and babies who exist. Against prenatal care? WTF? I am absolutely for the care and nurturing of children. My ideas may not be traditional. I am against the ownership concept of children, and I am against parents imposing religion on children. I believe this society does not have children’s best interests at heart. I love children. Parents annoy me. I think having children causes people’s morals to be compromised. And that’s not best for children.

    • Profile photo of punchdrunk
      April 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm —

      “I think having children causes people’s morals to be compromised. And that’s not best for children.”

      So, no children is best for children? Most people (about 90%) are, or will be, morally compromised?
      Abortion is fine, parenthood is immoral? How is putting women in that position (damned if you do, damned if you don’t) feminist?
      If the pro-lifers don’t getcha, the antinatalists will. I guess you can get together on some great abstinence plans, since about half of American pregnancies are unplanned. Maybe the people who want families are the real villains, the rest of us are just accidentally awful.

      • Profile photo of maxenz
        April 3, 2013 at 2:46 pm —

        It seems that they are seeing it from a more youth rights point-of-view: children are treated as their parents’ property in our society, and that should be seen as immoral. Thus the concept of parenthood is immoral, as it is in our society.
        Ie. : children own views about their needs or even feelings (that they are the better placed to know) are often denied, ownership of their own bodies for example some aesthetic modifications on them are possible without even asking them which wouldn’t be seen as OK if with a mentally disabled or unconscious adult (at least I hope it would be!), physical punishment (just for using shame or hurting them as long as you do it for a “valid reason” like discipline and not just because you’re angry, it also enters denial of ownership of their own bodies, because it’s most often rationalized as “they’re my child, I do what I want” when people ask others not to do that) and they do not have the right to defend themselves physically, what was gifted to them isn’t really their property (you wouldn’t think of retaining/breaking a gift you gave an adult because “it was bought with my money” after having an argument with them), children are often seen as bad or lesser in vocabulary,… if you’re being abused, then both how children’s words and feelings are seen and laws make it hard for you to leave your household as a child or younger teenager or even get someone to know you’re being abused… or even just realize you’re getting abused as there is not much information directed at children or teenagers about abuse concerning them. Things above will maybe be seen as abuse as well for some, but where I live it’s often justified as being parental rights.
        If you’re in a situation of dominance, then it’s really hard not to abuse it and people tend to do it. The question isn’t that some parents don’t do the thing above, but it’s bad that it is possible to do that. Maybe it’s not what they meant, but I understood it like that, so maybe correct me if I’m wrong. If that’s what they meant, then their choice of words was not the best; though I admit maybe mine is not good either as it’s a quick comment and I’m not a native english speaker.

  8. Profile photo of Dale Husband
    April 2, 2013 at 5:01 pm —

    Thank you for mentioning the Spice Girls! I have written about them:
    http://dalehusband.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/the-spice-girls-were-frauds-from-the-beginning/
    WTF was wrong with us back then?!

    • Profile photo of Elizabeth
      April 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm —

      DaleHusband – I’m not sure why it’s “shallow” to enjoy an entertainment group that sings and dances, without playing instruments. It’s not a requirement of all forms of entertainment to follow an outline you deem appropriate for the medium. It’s not required that all creators also perform. Your points about the “all male” production team might be worth pursuing, but it’s hard to focus on that at all with all the whining about music stars you consider more valuable. Likability and entertainment value are something not everyone has, no matter how proficient they are at songwriting, strumming a guitar, or wearing insane outfits. Ask any producer.

      It takes all kinds. Maybe try not calling things shallow because you don’t like it.

    • Profile photo of Will
      April 2, 2013 at 6:08 pm —

      Your blog post is fucking absurd. To imply that people who enjoy pop culture entertainment or camp (Spice World is an awesome and hilarious movie if you view it as a piece of camp and not take it so seriously) are somehow irrational and unskeptical is extremely myopic. Singing and dancing are not easy feats, and it does take talent to do them well. Playing instruments is not the be-all-end-all of a music career; what a narrow view!

      Also, your post comes across as sexist (you do realize that the women who make up the Spice Girls and Britney Spears are people, not just objects with which to make points and teach children lessons, right? You do also realize that women who want to prettify their bodies and sing and dance are not inherently less valuable because they do that, right?). Frankly, it reads like a jealous tween wrote it to put down the Spice Girls for not being cool enough. It’s not a skeptical or intellectual post–it’s whiny drivel about women not acting how you think they should.

      • Profile photo of Dale Husband
        April 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm —

        So criticizing sexism and even phony expressions of feminism in pop music is somehow itself sexist? Good to know.
        “Singing and dancing are not easy feats, and it does take talent to do them well.” My point was that the Spice Girls did NOT do them well enough to justify their massive popularity and wealth.
        “Playing instruments is not the be-all-end-all of a music career.” True, but without that, we would have almost no modern music at all. I’m not saying all vocal groups are worthless, but how can “Girl Power” be properly expressed when the group in question never shows instrumental ability of any kind and is incompetent at singing and dancing to boot?

        • Profile photo of Will
          April 2, 2013 at 7:03 pm —

          So criticizing sexism and even phony expressions of feminism in pop music is somehow itself sexist? Good to know.

          You weren’t criticizing sexism. You were ranking girl groups and women pop & rock musicians based on your arbitrary–READ: NOT SKEPTICAL OR SCIENTIFIC–ideas of what it means to be a talented woman. Your post had nothing to do with phony expressions of feminism or sexism as far as I can tell and everything to do with minimizing certain women’s accomplishments. Heina’s discussion above is not about their talent or their accomplishments, but about how the “Girl Power” message can do the opposite of what it is intended to do. Do you seriously not see the distinction?

          Talk about fauxminism!

          My point was that the Spice Girls did NOT do them well enough to justify their massive popularity and wealth.

          Based on your arbitrary opinion, not on some skeptical scientific consensus as you try to put forth in your blog post.

          True, but without that, we would have almost no modern music at all. I’m not saying all vocal groups are worthless, but how can “Girl Power” be properly expressed when the group in question never shows instrumental ability of any kind and is incompetent at singing and dancing to boot?

          Once again, it’s your opinion that they are incompetent singers and dancers. Many other people beg to differ. Again, music is not always all about instruments or lyrics or singing–it’s also often about putting on a show. If it was always only about the music, then everyone would only be doing band shows with no props or stage settings or anything.

          See, the thing is, people have different aesthetics. What seems to you as stupid, pointless, incompetent, talentless trash is to another person a great source of enjoyment. I shouldn’t have to point out to an adult (I’m assuming?) that people have different tastes and styles and that those are all subjective. There is no aesthetic that is objectively better than others. To assert that there is and that you are the arbiter of it is not only unskeptical, it’s straight-up arrogant.

          We can certainly critique the problematics of the Spice Girls’ message without questioning their talent, work ethic, or demanding justification for their existence. The fact that you do the latter but think you’re doing the former is something you need to consider more deeply.

        • Profile photo of punchdrunk
          April 2, 2013 at 7:20 pm —

          The problem isn’t that they’re ‘talentless hacks’, the problem is the cynical corporate use of female empowerment to move product.
          I can hold the performers personally responsible for participating in perpetrating a fraud, but that’s different from critiquing their ability as entertainers, or dumping on their fans.
          And to write of an entire performance genre is ridiculous.

          • Profile photo of punchdrunk
            April 2, 2013 at 7:20 pm

            *off – ‘write off’

    • Profile photo of marilove
      April 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm —

      The Spice Girls are fun. I don’t get that hate. There was and is worse than the Spice Girls. I mean they aren’t the definition of feminist or anything but they were fun.

      Anyway, I enjoy a lot of music, and some of it includes silly pop. THAT IS OKAY.

      Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to dance around to some silly feel-good pop while I do the dishes.

  9. Profile photo of jln.francisco
    April 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm —

    “Feminism, then, does not equal blind support for all women and all of their choices, but working towards a world where more and more women have more and more agency in their lives -Heina”

    Could you be more specific here? Speaking for people (which could be read into that) is always dangerous and often counter productive. Fauxminism in particular, has been used to dismiss women who’s interest and needs lie outside the general mainstream or who’s voice runs counter to the accepted wisdom of the majority (which, as you yourself have noted, tends to be white, middle class, cis and able bodied). I’m sure you don’t mean to support that kind of behavior which is why I’m asking for the clarification.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      April 2, 2013 at 6:00 pm —

      I don’t endorse speaking for people. Part of what I’m advocating is more inclusion and more agency for groups such as the ones you describe.

      • Profile photo of jln.francisco
        April 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm —

        From past works I know you want more inclusion but I don’t see that theme in this piece. The categories listed sound less like problematic feminist behavior and a lot more like women you just generally disapprove of. Like when you talk about (what I think is a really big problem, especially with certain books like Lean In) “ladder kickers.” The entry reads as vindictive instead of highlighting a problem.

        I don’t think we disagree on much (if any thing) substantial but this post is… I mean, you list these women as fauxminist. No doubt to emphasize how they work against the goals of feminism but it’s also denying that these women are, in fact, feminist and, often times, committed to feminism (whatever version of it the practice.) Fauxminist also seems to dismiss what they have accomplished and are doing. For example, encouraging their companies to adopt a better maternal/paternal leave policy or representing women in an area where they’ve been historically pushed out (in the case of Whedonists).

        • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
          April 2, 2013 at 6:34 pm —

          I’m sorry it wasn’t clear, but I mostly take issue with their justifications for their anti-feminist actions rather than what they do. They can choose to do whatever, even call themselves feminist, but to call oppressive actions “feminist?” Questionable.

          The type of person I’m addressing wouldn’t encourage a better family leave policy; they’d discourage it because, dammit, they made it without the help. As for Whedonists, they help conventionally-attractive women get representation, and I see no dearth of those women in film and other media.

  10. Profile photo of pascale68
    April 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm —

    I take a bit of an issue with your example of the woman who does the cooking. I would agree that a woman who does all of the household chores is probably doing so because of social conditioning. But to pick one particular chore and say doing it can only be because of social conditioning doesn’t make sense to me. If a couple is to share chores, then a woman will have to do some stereotypically “women’s chores”. For example, in our house I do most of the cooking, but my husband does most of the cleaning, including giving our son his daily bath. Some couples claim to split every chore (the wife cooks 50% of the time as does the husband) but this seems extremely inefficient to me.

    I know you probably didn’t mean it that way, but I have had to defend my love of cooking (“you can’t possibly be a real feminist if you cook”) as often as my love of repairing anything mechanical (“gasp – shouldn’t your husband be doing that!”)

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      April 3, 2013 at 12:48 am —

      I picked it because it fit it easily with the silly title. Also, cooking is one of those chores which, like you stated in your comments, you could legitimately defend as doing as a woman and yet fit in pretty handily in a social pattern. Your response, in other words, is exactly why I chose it.

    • Profile photo of Giliell
      April 3, 2013 at 4:27 am —

      Oh, I’m the cook around here, too. And I quite enjoy it. And yes, given that I’m a “part-time single mum” (my husband works out of town) there isn’t that much choice anyway from Monday to Friday. But even at the weekend, if I want a cooked meal I have to either visit my in laws, a restaurant or do it myself.
      Hy husband is clumsy and has no clue about cooking and is unable to prepare any meal that involves more than frozen pizza.
      Thing is, I don’t pretend that this is just due to our likes and dislikes and talents and stuff. After all I was raised by women who cooked and baked and who happily included me from early age on in these activities because yes, people assumend that one day I would need those skills, because one day, if I wanted a cooked meal I would have to make it myself. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great and useful skills and everybody should have them.
      And my husband was raised by women who had husbands who sat down to dinner at a laid table, and he was raised by people who expected him to sit down at the table, who assumed that there would always just be somebody who cooks for him.
      So, yes, sexism has a lot to do with how the two of us ended up as adults.
      To say now that I cook because I like it and am just better at it than he is is true in a sense, but it’s also so little of the truth that it’s actually a lie.

      • Profile photo of onamission5
        April 3, 2013 at 11:58 am —

        Ding! This.

        I am the household cook, too, and it has a lot less to do with either my spouse or I being actively sexist than it does to do with having been raised in a gender essentialist society, and having been groomed for compliance to those norms. So, I have cooking (and laundry, et al) skills he does not, because he wasn’t brought up to have them like I was. He’s got mechanical skills I don’t, because I wasn’t groomed from birth to fix things. This doesn’t stop each of us from trying to expand our repertoire of skills, but it certainly does provide an impediment.

        • Profile photo of Giliell
          April 3, 2013 at 6:27 pm —

          Hehe, over the years my husband learned how to do the laundry. We started small with me washing-him hanging it up, me sorting everything into neat piles and him stuffing it into the machine to him sorting with me being the final judge until now he’s obsessed with whether there might be another load to do (there always is).
          Where this patriarchal education shows off most is when there’s some new task and somehow he automatically assumes that I’m more qualified to do it because…
          Our daughter had an eye infection, and needed eye-drops. Now, I did it the whole time with him being away but then there was the night when he was at home and I had to work and was only due to come home after the children are in bed already. So I reminded him that the child needs the drops before going to bed. And he threw up his hands saying “but I don’t know how to do that” and I asked him whether he thought I had some magical knowledge about these things or whether somebody had given me a class.
          I have no special knowledge of these things either. I just don’t have the luxery of declaring myself incompetent and have somebody else do it…

    • Profile photo of Laurel Halbany
      April 3, 2013 at 9:58 pm —

      Heina did not say “it can only because of social conditioning”. She was talking about the dismissal of why it is that women, as a group, overwhelmingly take on the task of cooking, and that it’s not a neutral choice.

      I mean, look, I love cooking too and I do a lot of it. But I also grew up in a culture where it was considered normal and appropriate to teach girls how to cook well and cook for a family, and to teach boys to cook a little bit so they could make it through their bachelor period, and where everything from marketing to the workplace is structured around the idea that it’s my job, not my husband’s, to plan and prepare most (if not all) of the cooking. That doesn’t mean its wrong for me to cook, or that I only think I like cooking. But can’t we talk about that forced-choice culture without taking it as a personal judgment on whether I like to cook or not? Because it isn’t.

  11. Profile photo of Otoki
    April 3, 2013 at 12:03 am —

    K, I’m still SUPER confused about how Firefly was Fauxminist. I never watched Buffy so I’ll take your word on that (because seriously, BLAH) but as a die-hard Firefly fan, I’m curious to have someone shed a different light on the show. The only complaint I’ve really heard was about Inara, and that was more of a “Boo hiss I don’t like showing prostitutes as whole people” sentiment.

    • Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
      April 3, 2013 at 12:50 am —

      I didn’t specifically take down Firefly, and personally love and enjoy it quite a bit. The issue with Joss Whedon is with his body of work as a whole, where women, while definitely depicted as empowered, are also somewhat fetishized for it. I do appreciate the female representation and the three-dimensional nature of his female characters. At the same time, there is clearly a “this is hot” angle to the way in which they are depicted, if that makes sense.

      • Profile photo of Otoki
        April 3, 2013 at 1:04 am —

        Oh ok, I can understand that for Buffy and Dollhouse for sure.

  12. Profile photo of Buzz Parsec
    April 3, 2013 at 1:09 am —

    Maybe as a guy I shouldn’t be butting in here, but I *think* Heina’s point about all these groups is not that they are fauxminists because of the choices they make for themselves (usually?) but because they deny the legitimacy of women who make other choices, often because they don’t realize or acknowledge that many people don’t have a “choice”, or that their particular choice is not the only valid choice.

  13. Profile photo of OccupyforEarth
    April 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm —

    I’m logged in as my Twitter name again. It should be “Lunascottage”. Sorry for the confusion, but the log in screen appears to be different, it wants me to log in with stuff I don’t use. WP is the only one that I use (don’t want to use that) but there was a more “neutral” login screen before. Maybe because I deleted my gmail account?

  14. Profile photo of OccupyforEarth
    April 3, 2013 at 2:42 pm —

    Anyway……superb post! I have a funny anecdote regarding the Choose your Choice feminism, assuming that was for the cooking example. We were raised by a single teacher mom, very poor. And she usually just bought instant meals, so I never learned to cook. I met my boyfriend, who at 15 years old worked at a restaurant and became a very decent sous chef.

    Although I have a higher degree than him, for housework I took the more “unskilled labor” like dishwashing and laundry, while he did the “skilled” cooking part. I did many menial tasks mostly because I was home A LOT more than he was in the early years of grad school and my seasonal job. Also he’s a stunning cook. Anyway, while some people would have seen cooking as (inserting stereotype) a girly job, we never saw it that way. Perhaps the proliferation of reality cooking shows like Top Chef and Ramsey, that drove home that professional restaurants were (inserting another stereotype) a “man’s world” and there appears to be sexism in that trade, at least from what I’ve seen.

    Over time I was very fortunate my boyfriend took the time to help me learn to cook (a dream I’ve had since I was a teen) and now we both cook; but I’ve always seen it as in both realms.

  15. Profile photo of ragdish
    April 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm —

    Heina,

    What are your thoughts about the slut-walk protests. On the one hand women should have individual freedom to wear whatever they want and should never have their rights violated regardless of whatever garment (or lack of). But if those protesters collectively wear Victoria secret lingerie aren’t they submitting to patriarchal standards of sexual attire and perpetuating women’s oppression? Similarly with Jen McCreight’s Boobquake, doesn’t flashing your cleavage to protest the Mullah’s religious edicts also feed into that same patriarchal superstructure? So what is to be done if an individual choice (even if the motives are noble) can ultimately contribute to collective oppression of the group?

  16. Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
    April 3, 2013 at 9:52 pm —

    This post is the best post.

    I’m recovering from a stomach bug, so I lack anything more eloquent than this.

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