Feminism, Labels and Coming Out

Today, while you’re celebrating International Women’s Day by watching Daniel Craig in drag, it seems worthwhile to point out that it’s also Feminist Coming Out Day – the day when we are all encouraged to embrace our secret, shamed opinion that human beings are deserving of equal social treatment and legal rights. I know this is difficult, so let me hold your hand and guide you through this confusing, daunting process.

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like

See, there’s a weird thing that happens when it comes to women and feminism. It turns out there are a lot of women out there who are afraid to label themselves as feminists. I don’t personally care all that much if women don’t want to have anything to do with feminism. I don’t agree, but, hey, whatever. You do what you want. That’s not the battle I’m here to fight. But I keep coming across instances where women say, “I’m not a feminist, but … [insert something so feminist it would make Gloria Steinem applaud]” thing, or try to clarify that they are okay with feminist principles but aren’t “Feminazis or anything like that.” This, my friends, needs to stop.

Now, I understand the word “feminism” has accrued various associations over the years, as well as a extremity of political stances that may or may not accurately reflect the woman in question. But I don’t think that’s any reason to run away scared. What are we scared of? That other people will jump to the wrong conclusions about who we are and what we think and what we’re capable of because we use a certain word to describe ourselves? That we’ll get sucked into a cult of cartoonish hairy-legged anarchists, because those are the only kind of people who are allowed to be feminists?

Fuck, as they say, that. People making wrong assumptions about you because they can’t be bothered with finding out the truth can happen any day, and it probably does happen every day, on a thousand different counts. And you know what? It’s their problem, not yours.

If there’s really a problem here, it’s with women who don’t know the depth, diversity and modern movements associated with feminism today. There’s a lot there, and, with the internet, it’s all at your fingertips. Ignorance is not an excuse. Not to mention it’s all there because of feminists who weren’t willing to accept the status quo – yes, even the status quo on their own side. Feminism in our society is a growing, evolving body of thought, and it needs strong, brave thinkers to keep it fresh and moving forwards.

Feminism means you think it’s bullshit that people have to follow separate and particular sets of rules and limits based on what sexual organs they were born with. That’s it. It means both women and men should feel free to live, work and explore as best suits who they are as individuals and not what other people tell them they should simply because they are women or men. It means understanding that the reality of our society is not, nor has been, this way and that we need to work to make it different and better for everyone.

Take the word back and stand up for it. And let’s not try to smother it with another label (like humanism) that’s more comfortable and less “problematic.” Dismissing individual experiences and identities because it’s easier to deal with that way is not really a step forward. We should be able to be equal without having to made to be all the same. Don’t try to erase the differences that make us proud to be unique individuals. Just help us work to erase the unfair consequences that result from trying to live honestly as those individuals.

So, woman up (yes, even if you’re a man, because all this is the same stuff that prevents you from being recognized as feminists and benefiting from feminism yourselves, and we are by no means excluding transpeople here), own your feminism and don’t let anyone else put you, or anyone else, down for doing so. Because if you can’t do that, then, I guess maybe you’re right – you’re not a feminist.


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. “Take the word back and stand up for it. And let’s not try to smother it with another label (like humanism) that’s more comfortable and less ‘problematic.'”

    What’s wrong with calling myself a humanist rather than a feminist? I support equality among humans and I hope for human progress. I don’t limit myself to women’s rights.

  2. “Feminism means you think it’s bullshit that people have to follow separate and particular sets of rules and limits based on what sexual organs they were born with. That’s it. It means both women and men should feel free to live, work and explore as best suits who they are as individuals and not what other people tell them they should simply because they are women or men. It means understanding that the reality of our society is not, nor has been, this way and that we need to work to make it different and better for everyone.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, Jen.

  3. @Unnamed: Nothing. If you want to focus on humanism because that’s what you want to focus on, great. My point in this article was to address people who are sympathetic with feminism without being comfortable with its label, and, to this point, I caution against avoiding that issue by simply applying a different label.

  4. @Unnamed: There’s a specific reason not to call yourself humanist in place of feminist when discussing society. Humanist has another meaning that does not explicitly address the inequality of women in society as it exists now. If you use feminist when discussing society now, you convey a clear idea of how you evaluate society and women’s place in it. If you use humanist in that situation, it’s an evasion or an obfuscation.

  5. @Unnamed:

    Why can’t you be a feminist and a humanist? If you believe that these things are mutually exclusive, then sadly, you have fallen for the old trope that feminists want women to get ahead by bringing men down, in some sort of harsh zero-sum game.

  6. “Feminism means you think it’s bullshit that people have to follow separate and particular sets of rules and limits based on what sexual organs they were born with.”
    I like this definition. I’ve only ever seen one side of it being practiced, though; I’ve yet to see a feminist fight for a men’s issue rather than a women’s issue. I’m fairly sure I’m missing something…

  7. I used to dislike the word feminist, instead using the word egalitarian. But recently, I realized that these two things are exactly the same, so now I use feminist, and I call myself that.

    Despite it’s “feminine” sounding name, feminism actually does mean fighting for equality amongst the sexes.

    Honestly, I love men. They are my best friends. I just wish I could get some of them to realize that women just aren’t equal yet. Legally, sure, socially, no.

  8. @Unnamed:

    Well I’m a gamer but I also specifically play D&D. Does that mean I should only use general gamer to describe myself because it encompasses D&D? Would it be too limiting to say that I’m a fan of D&D?

    Also, following that analogy, it is possible to be a gamer and not play D&D, just like it is quite possible to be a humanist and not care much at all for specifically addressing gender inequality.

    And just to beat this analogy to death, if I can be both a gamer and a D&D fan, then you can be both a humanist and a feminist if you choose. Just like I’m a mammal, but I’m also a human, and I’m also a woman, and I’m also vertebrate. Just like I’m a liberal and a feminist and a humanist and a skeptic.

  9. @Demosthenes:

    Really? You’ve never seen a feminist advocate for a man’s right to stay home with his kids and not lose his job? You’ve never seen a feminist advocate for parental leave for both parents? You’ve never seen feminists fight for the right to marry the person of his choosing, even if that person happens to be another man? Don’t you remember the whole issue where a boy dressed as a female character for Halloween and this blog supported him? Have you been sitting in a cave with a blindfold on and your fingers shoved in your ears?

  10. I meant that I don’t see rallies where feminists decry some discrimination against men (I don’t have any particular issues in mind, sorry), but I have seen plenty where they fight discrimination against women. This may be an issue of publicity, or I may be inadvertently blindfolded and stuck in a basement somewhere (I can still listen, though). I’m not declaring that feminists definitely don’t do this, I just have not seen any use it as a rallying point. More to the point, my comment’s intent was less “take that!” and more “a little help?”

  11. @Demosthenes:

    Well if you give us a specific example, then we can discuss that particular issue. If there’s some kind of inequality that I have missed, I will be glad to be informed of it. However, maybe there are fewer rallies to end discrimination against men because women face more types of discrimination in our society? I’m not denying that it’s also a problem for men, and I absolutely refuse to get into the oppression Olympics, but there are more issues that women face. Of course, the things that help women generally help the men in their lives indirectly too.

    But if you can think of a specific example, I would like to discuss it.

  12. @catgirl: “it is quite possible to be a humanist and not care much at all for specifically addressing gender inequality.”

    I disagree. Humanism is concerned with equality for all humans, regardless of gender.
    Feminism is concerned with equality for women.

    One of my peeves with feminism, is that feminists seem to expect women to be victimized to the extent that any male/female interaction that goes negatively for the female is considered sexism (i.e. Any female/female interaction that goes negatively is considered to be a woman internalizing the patriarchy.

  13. @Demosthenes: I think I can think of one. A woman has an absolute right to elect to have an abortion (and she should have that right). In the event that she chooses not to have an abortion (also her right), a man does not have the right to choose not to be a father.
    I’ve seen very few feminists advocate for the father’s right not to be a father.

  14. @Unnamed: Then you should do some more homework. Right now you’re speaking with a single woman who is raising a child without a lick of child support and who allows the father to have exactly as much or as little involvement as he chooses.

    But, beyond that, I don’t think it’s necessary. The responsibilities and risks attached to a woman giving birth and raising a child are not equal to those of a man. Therefore the choices do not have equal weight and can’t be compared.

  15. @Unnamed:

    You’re not the supreme decider of what words mean. The entire point of this post is that feminists get to define what feminists mean, and we’re reclaiming it from the straw man that people like you have set up. You don’t get to define what we are; we get to define ourselves. Feminism is about equality.


    Whenever you have an embryo or fetus growing inside of your body, then you can have that choice. Comparing child support money to literally lending out your organs for nine months is just a little bit disingenuous. Abortion isn’t just about being or not being a parent; it’s about being or not being pregnant.

  16. @catgirl: (My first reply was directed at your list of questions, but I’m a bit slow today)
    I agree that discrimination against women is far more prevalent than discrimination against men. My original comment was not intended to lodge a complaint about a specific issue that feminists missed. I was noting that the definition given in the article implied even-handed defense of the rights of women and men, though I could not recall examples of feminists (as a group) rushing to defend the rights of men in any particular arena. I felt that the definition was somewhat misleading, unless I was missing something. Clearly, I was.

  17. @Jen: And this is why we should speak of human rights rather than just women’s rights. You know that not every woman chooses the same as you. Not every man is allowed to have as little or as much to do with his children as he wants.

    Ok then. Why don’t you call yourself an egalitarian anymore? The root word means “equal”. The root word in feminism means “woman”.

    True that pregnancy and child support are not the exact same thing, but pregnancy ends fairly quickly, child support, not so much. Do you think a man should have the right to renounce his fatherhood/child support for a child he did not want?

  18. Unapologetic capital F feminist checking in.

    @demosthenes I’ve yet to see a feminist fight for a men’s issue rather than a women’s issue.

    This is bullshit. Wish I had something more intelligent to say but catgirl and rodriguez already said it.

  19. @faith: Sorry to offend. I didn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, just that I literally hadn’t seen it. If you have any more examples I’d like to read all about it.

  20. @Unnamed:

    Pregnancy could end very quickly-in death. It’s not like carrying around a sack of potatoes for 9 months. There are serious health risks, some of them potentially permanent. Have you ever even known a pregnant woman other than the ones you see on sitcoms? It’s really freaking dangerous.


    So you can’t think of feminists defending a men’s issue, but you also can’t even think of a men’s issue that needs defending in the first place. Let’s just call it even then until you think of something specific.

  21. @catgirl: Yes, I have and yes, I know. But you didn’t answer my question. I am not arguing against abortion. I fully support a woman making that choice.

  22. @Unnamed:
    “Do you think a man should have the right to renounce his fatherhood/child support for a child he did not want?”

    Tell ya what. How about you help women fight for equal rights, pay, and access to healthcare and childcare for their kids that won’t bankrupt them, and safety for her and her family, and once we have that, I bet women will need guys who don’t want to be involved a lot less.

    See how that works? A feminist cause positively affecting men’s issues.

  23. @catgirl: I think that the burden of proof lies with whoever is making the claim. In this case, a feminist was claiming that feminists fight for the rights of both genders, so I was asking for some examples. (There’s no need to call it even, though, since I have been trying to concede for the past several comments, ever since you mentioned your examples)

  24. @Skulleigh: You’re missing the point. A woman has the right to choose not to continue a pregnancy. A man does not have the right to discontinue being a father. If you are for equal rights for all, why don’t you support his rights too?

  25. @Unnamed:

    No. Fathers should not have the right to neglect children, the same way that women don’t have that right. There’s a big difference between giving a child up for adoption and deciding to just screw over the other parent. Even abandoning a child under a safe haven law is very different than just deciding to not support a child. Realistically though, if you’re worried about your own personal situation, it’s extremely easy to get away with no paying child support and extremely difficult to make a father pay, so you won’t have to lose any sleep over it.

  26. @catgirl: Catgirl, thank you for your concern, but I don’t have to worry about child support. As a woman, I get to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy. You’re getting a little ad hominem there.

    I think that a father should have an equivalent option to adoption, abortion, or safe haven. I don’t think it is right to make a father support a child he did not want just as I don’t think it’s right to make a woman carry a pregnancy she does not want. If you say that he should have thought of that before having sex, how is that different from telling her the same thing?

  27. @Unnamed: no I am not. I think men should be able to make that choice. And if women truly had equal opportunity in this world, then men would be able to make that choice. Do you disagree?

    Like I said, women’s issues affect men too.

  28. @Unnamed:

    Can you honestly not see the difference between stopping being pregnant and stopping being a father?

    FWIW, women can’t just stop being mothers either. Most states require the father’s consent for adoption or have an extensive process to go through if he can’t found or won’t agree to adoption but also won’t support the kid.

    Where is there a case that a woman can just stop being a mother but a man can’t stop being a father?

  29. @Skulleigh: Perhaps I misunderstood your original statement. You’re saying that, all things being equal, men should be able to make the choice not to be fathers regardless of the choice of the mother?

  30. @catgirl: Oy, I already said they weren’t exactly the same thing. Look at what you are saying. You’re saying that if a woman decides to carry a pregnancy to term, the father is obligated to support that child even if he didn’t want it, didn’t know about it. Do you not think that is unjust?

  31. The Good Men Project magazine is doing a series of posts about the “men’s rights movement” today. They cover everything from why the MRAs get many things wrong to exactly why feminism helps men. I would advise reading through them.

  32. @Unnamed:

    Nope. Once the kid is here, both parents have a responsibility to it. You already said that abortion and getting out of child support are not the same thing, so why are you still insisting that it’s wrong to allow one but not the other? Give me an example of where there is a difference between getting out being a mother and getting out of being a father, and then I’ll happily discuss that inequality. Until then, I think we’ve both agreed that the right to abortion is different than the right to get out of being a father.

  33. @catgirl: So what would you say to a man who accidentally got a woman pregnant and did not want the child? That he should just suck up the child support and that it’s his fault for having sex?

  34. @Unnamed:

    Really? You are going to go there?

    You know your argument is crap when you have to resort to hypothetical rape of a male by a Woman.


  35. @Unnamed:

    In this case, ideally the rapist would go to jail, giving sole custody to the father, so then he would have the complete freedom to give the child up for adoption. Of course, this is where we need feminism to actually do something about the abysmally low rape conviction rates.


    If a woman accidentally gets pregnant and can’t or doesn’t have an abortion for whatever reason, she must still support the child, and a man must do the same. I’m still waiting for the inequality here. Like I said before, being forced to give money is vastly different than being forced to give your body. But it’s not just the parents who have a responsibility for that child; our entire society needs to take responsibility for any children that are born. I am forced (through taxes) to pay money to feed other people’s kids that I had no say in. And I’m glad for it. And I think we should all be paying far more to support the people in our society, especially the children.

  36. Show me one case where a Woman raped a man and he was then forced to pay to raise the child?

  37. @catgirl: I see your point, though I disagree with you. I am going to try to explain my point of view again.
    A man should have the right to decide when/if he wants to be a parent, in much the same way that women do.The fact of the matter is that women have way more control over this then men do.
    Essentially you’re forcing a man to sacrifice just because she made a decision.

  38. Here’s the thing. dudes have just as much of a right to not be pregnant as ladies. If the guy gets pregnant, he can choose to have it or not have it.

    Then, once the child is born, we have a human being who has no way to fend for himself. The people responsible for bringing him into the world are equally responsible.

    The question of abortion is about whether or not I want something living in my body.

    The question of child care is about whether or not a human being has a right to have parents.

    And a man has just as much right to “force” a woman into parenthood as a woman has to “force” a man. If a woman and a man agree to an adoption plan, after the baby is born, the man can change his mind. Leaving BOTH birth parents responsible for raising that child.

    And, BTW, it IS possible to relinquish parental rights.

    Can we move on about how it’s so unfair that 2 year olds are hurting men by existing and needing food?

    Can we also talk about how it’s so unfair that men have back strain from having to carry larger paychecks? All that ink is so burdensome for men without direct deposit.

  39. Short sighted doofuses can’t tell that fighting against confining gender roles helps people of BOTH genders who don’t fit into those roles. Geez, are you guys first-time readers or something?

    As for men and parenthood: they don’t have to carry the baby, so they don’t get to make that decision. The responsibility of the man is to cultivate a trusting, respectful relationship with a woman so that if they need to make that decision he knows that his input has some value. That’s it. I know quite a few deadbeat dads who have gotten out of child support (or the mothers didn’t seek it; in these cases I could see some sort of legal agreement where they both agree to let him opt out), so it’s clearly not impossible, and definitely not a widespread problem worthy of thread-jacking.

    Fucking MRAs.

  40. @Elyse: This is about the legal rights of males to decline parenthood. It has nothing to do with the survivability of a child or about the income a man makes.

    Relinquishment of parental rights are only valid if both parents agree to it and a judge signs off on it.

    The woman decides if she will abort or carry to term. If she chooses not to place the child in to adoption she then forces care of the child upon the man.
    No where between that does the man have the /legal/ right to such a decision.

  41. “This is about the legal rights of males to decline parenthood. ”

    They don’t have that right. The right of a child to be taken care of trumps it.

    What part of that is so hard to understand?

  42. @Unnamed:
    Yes. Like I said above, if the women had true equality, we would all have the opportunities necessary to support a child alone without relying on assistance from unwilling men.

    Also, with true gender equality, I would hope the shaming of sex enjoyment would disappear and better birth control would be created, so that really really unwilling men would not need to rely on cooperation from the woman for effectiveness.

  43. @spurge: No, the child is being taken care of by the mother, who decided to keep it. That’s part of her choice.

    It comes down to this, when a woman forces child support upon a man you’ve taken away his right to decide. How is this fair? Assuming that this pregnancy was unexpected and that the man has made prior declarations which made his parenting decisions clear, why should a man be stripped of any right? Especially one so important and life impacting.

  44. This argument from ignorance is starting to really bug me. The feminist movement is responsible for the field of Women’s Studies, which in turn branched off into Queer Studies and Men’s Studies. The only reason that men are studied as gendered individuals and their issues are taken seriously is that feminists argued for the importance of gender in structuring our lives. Feminists are about gender equality for everyone, and a brief perusal of feminist literature (of which there is A LOT) would clear this point up quickly.

  45. No, it comes down to this.

    The right of the kid trumps the right of the man and the woman.

    Get that through your thick skull.

    If there is a baby they both have to take care of it. End of story.

    Your whinging about unfairness to men is just sad.

  46. @Unnamed: So your idea of equality includes men who have impregnated women having no responsibility or consequences unless they want them?

  47. @Unnamed:

    And if a man decides not to place the baby with an adoptive family, both parents are responsible. The woman doesn’t get to opt out because she didn’t want to keep the baby.

    Again… abortion or not abortion is NOT about parenthood. Parenting or not parenting is NOT about abortion. Abortion is about whether the woman wants to carry a pregnancy. Period. Nothing else. Does she want to be pregnant? Does she want to have a medical intervention? Those are her decisions that no one else should be allowed to make. Much like if a woman doesn’t want to risk a pregnancy, she cannot demand that her partner get a vasectomy on her behalf.

    Are you really saying that it’s unfair that men don’t get a say in what women do with their bodies? That men can’t force a woman into abortion? That men can’t force women into child birth? Because that’s pretty fucking backward. There’s nothing fair about giving another person the option to control your body. That’s not about feminism. That’s about all people.

    And yes, this IS about a child deserving to be taken care of. A child deserves parents. The child doesn’t get a choice in this either.

    Maybe you need to step back and stop thinking about this as “poor guy got stuck with a fucking brat” and start thinking about each person involved in each step of the process.

    Pregnancy involves one person. She gets to make the decision.
    Post pregnancy involves 3 (or more) people. Decisions have to be made on behalf of the babies.

    So while the dad gets shafted into paying for things like food and diapers and clothes and shit, you have children who need parents to provide for them. And they don’t get a say in whether they get that or not. Someone has to do that. That someone is PARENTS.

    If that doesn’t make sense, then fine, I concede, feminists are not doing enough to give men the option to not be dads. Because to do that requires sacrificing very basic rights of other people.

  48. @Unnamed: This I disagree. Humanism is concerned with equality for all humans, regardless of gender. may be your idea of humanism, but that’s not what humanism means. If you use the word this way, then you project one of two things: 1) You don’t know exactly what the word means or 2) You do know but don’t want to acknowledge that men have privileges women don’t have.

    If you think feminism is too limiting then you are in good company. Trouble is, feminism doesn’t scale up to humanism like you think or want it to, because the meaning of humanism is already occupied.

    Feminism scales up to concern for all oppression, such as racism, classism and heterosexism, just to name a few.

  49. @Demosthenes: My idea of equality is that men and women have equal rights to decide if they want to be parents. I recognize that this is not a feminist ideal.

  50. Fuck me, I cannot understand why some men fail to realize their involvement and capacity to make a decision about the procreation and birth process is strictly limited to initiation and subsequent responsibility for any child born as a result. Biology dictates that the decision making role is indeed unequal in this respect and that’s the way it is, and that pretty much precludes men from being able to decide not to be a parent in the presence of a child who shares half their DNA. We men may have an opinion in these matters, but we don’t get to make any decisions post impregnation. And that does not mean we were not an equal decision maker at the point where the process was initiated, it’s just that our ability to make any further decisions has pretty much ended. And as Elyse said, the concern for the child is not about a man not wanting or not wanting to be a parent; it’s about a child who has a right to have a parent who is responsible for their care.

  51. Stop ignoring the rights of the CHILD unnamed.

    You have failed to grasp this simple fact.

    The child has a right to be taken care of.

  52. And as usual, it only took about a dozen comments for Jen’s nice article on Feminism to turn into a ‘but what about men?’ threadjack.

    Happy International Women’s Day & Feminist Coming Out Day Everyone!!!

  53. @spurge: Exactly. By whichever parent wants the child – be it the father or the mother. But, just a woman should not be forced to carry a pregnancy against her will, a man should not be forced to be chained to this pregnancy against his will.

  54. After the kid is born they do have exactly the same rights.

    Hell Men get away with abandoning their children all the time.

    Whining about the poor Men from you is really starting to piss me off.

  55. No, the man should be forced to take care of the kid.

    I could care less that you think it is unfair.

  56. To continue (damn patrons, expecting me to actually pay attention to them and shit):


    I’m afraid that, aside from keeping it in one’s trousers, that’s not really gonna happen. Ironically, my response to this was interrupted by a girl looking for information on Roe v. Wade, where I stumbled across the amusingly titled book, “The Means of Reproduction.” Allow me my moment of hyperbole and pseudo-communist rhetoric.

    So long as the oligarchs and reproductive upper class control the means of reproduction (i.e. the uterus) then the proletariat (i.e. the ones not possessing uteruses) are more or less at their mercy, with no real choice but to not participate (i.e. not sex up all those lovely uteruses). This has two possible solutions. The first is to seize control of the means of reproduction (i.e. control the uteruses). This is the traditional method, but it bears within itself poisoned fruit, mainly because those who bear uteruses object to being regarded as nothing but uteruses, especially since it tends to devalue their other contributions (like making us pick shit up forfuckssake, or bathe). The second method, one which has not yet been achieved, is to develop an alternate means of reproduction. As many of the reproductive upper class have made clear, they’ll be happy to turn over the reproductive duties to anyone who can do it… they’re not even picky about better, they just want someone else to do it.

    Alternate version: Once you load your cargo into that particular cargo bay, you’re responsible for what comes out. Don’t want to, make sure you close the pod bay doors on empty bay.

    Really short version: Strange. game. the. only. winning. move. is. not. to. play.

  57. @Unnamed: Ok then. Why don’t you call yourself an egalitarian anymore? The root word means “equal”. The root word in feminism means “woman”.

    Actually, that was me. Like catgirl said, you’re still not the decider of what words mean. But to explain, I don’t use egalitarian anymore because I found out that egalitarian = feminism.

    The roots of these words don’t matter. Word meanings often change from their roots. Like hysterical. Science no longer believes that a woman is being affected by her uterus.

  58. @spurge: Ok, and I could not care less that my opinion pisses you off.

    You are making the man legally and financially responsible for the decisions of the woman. That is unjust. If the woman decides to keep the child, then she should do so knowing that SHE will be the one obligated to care and pay for it.

  59. @Unnamedsaid:

    Sorry. It just seems like the last thing a feminist wants to think about is the rights of men.

    I don’t even know what to make of this comment. And I’m not even sure I want a clarification.

  60. Gah.. Brian is right. Sorry Jen.

    I think I am going to go to one of the Join Us on the Bridge event tonight.

    And if you go to Google and click on the header image there today, it goes to an International Women’s Day page. There are organizations there you can donate to. I chose Equality Now because I am familiar with them through Serenity Now events. Good group.

  61. @Unnamed

    Okay, I’m going to try to make this as simple as I can, because you missed Elyse’s wonderful explanation of what the difference is at comment # 54.

    Biological realities of sexual intercourse and pregnancy necessitate that there is not a direct 1 to 1 correlation between legal rights for bodily autonomy. Abortion and not abortion is only about PREGNANCY.

    The closest (but imperfect) correlation a man may consider when reaching a decision on whether or not to reproduce (while sexually active) is a vasectomy. It is a medical procedure designed to prevent pregnancy in another.

    As a woman has a right to make medical decisions about her body’s reproductive status (pregnancy), a man may do likewise if he wishes to ensure that he does not create any unwanted children. He weighs the risks of that medical procedure as a woman weighs the risks of continued pregnancy versus termination all because it affects only that individual’s body.

    Again, Elyse explained it perfectly when she told you the pregnancy is not parenting.

  62. Yippee! I get to use my new word again: “privwhinge”!

    1) Use this enough times, and it’ll show up on google.
    2) ????
    3) Profit.

  63. @slignot: Again, Elyse explained it perfectly when she told you the pregnancy is not parenting.

    I agree. Once again Elyse is kept from COTW by her contributor status.

    The way I look at this is laws don’t give power to the mother. A penis gives power to the mother. Any man who thinks the result is unfair has several easy strategies to avoid the situation.

  64. I used to think like Unnamed, then I realized that I was MASSIVELY uninformed, and most of the information I had was annecdotal and baised, so, I wasn’t able to make an informed decision. So, while I might like the idea of paying child support for a single accident, sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crubles. There are so many examples all around us of a small accident having HUGE and lasting consequences for all parties involved. Why should having a child be any different?

  65. Feminism is necessary apart from humanism. Any time a group has historically had its rights suppressed it is necessary for that group to develop its own movement to work for equal rights. For this reason, Feminism should not, & does not need to work for men’s rights. The whole point of the movement is to obtain & protect women’s rights & those who complain that feminists don’t work for men’s rights miss the point. That would be likely asking an animal rights movement why they aren’t working for men’s rights, where of course that simply isn’t the point of the movement. You never hear someone ask something like this of an animal rights group because the demand is patently absurd in that situation, but for some reason men see the need to complain that feminism does not work for men’s rights.

    The one problem that I, as a man, generally have with feminism is a personal, unfound bias against the movement, largely due to my own anecdotal experiences with feminists. I have encountered many feminists & I often find that along with being feminist they are also sexist towards men, and thus I have conflated the two ideas feminism & sexism in my head, which of course is inappropriate since they are unrelated. That is exactly why movements like this are needed where women stand out and show their support for feminism in order to break associations between feminism and sexism toward men.

    Finally, I have to comment on the abortion issue.
    Point 1: it is unfair that men must pay child support when they did not want to have a child.
    Point 2: A woman’s right to choose whether or not to have a child vastly outweighs the man’s right to choose because she is the one pregnant.
    Point 3: Every child born has a right to support, and in our society whether right or wrong we generally place the support obligation on parents, & this right also outweighs a man’s right to not support his child.

    Overall, the child’s rights and Woman’s rights greatly outweigh the man’s right to financial independence. However, we need to recognize that the system is not fair & it is unjust to make a man pay for a woman’s decision. But at the same time, the man must pay because there simply isn’t a fair way around the problem. It could be argued that men simply shouldn’t be required to pay to support their child, but then this would essentially be punishing a child for the choice of the mother to have the child without the father’s support.

  66. @BlackCat: Ahh. I see. My apologies for bring up a men’s issue on a feminist blog. From now on, I shall keep my comments away from topics where men are getting screwed over. I see that this is not the place for a discussion about human issues; only women’s issues here.

  67. @lansellion:

    I found your first two paragraphs interesting. However, you said:

    Point 1: it is unfair that men must pay child support when they did not want to have a child.

    Surely that’s too simplistic and black and white?

    If the man took careful precautions and clearly informed his partner that he had no wish or intention of fathering a child and would not want to pay support if an accidental pregnancy occurred, all of which the woman agreed to, then maybe that statement holds water.

    Otherwise, I am not so sure. There are so many degrees of responsibility, but the guy and the gal are pretty much equal on the factory floor — meaning their shared role in creation.

  68. @Unnamed:
    What do you propose is a legitimate solution? How will you insure that men do not simply claim at a latter date that they did not want the child to be born thereby absolving themselves of all responsibility for its care? As women already bear the brunt of child-rearing are you really arguing that men get the short end of the stick? At what point do you consider financial autonomy trumping bodily autonomy? Is this the only issue that you can think of where you find feminists do not support equal rights for both genders?

  69. I wasn’t going to wade in on this one. This is not directed at anyone in particular, so please, I ask that no one get personally offended by this.

    Whenever a person says that “the problem” has anything to do with feminism, this is usually a red-flag.

    Usually, when a person wants to blame “feminism”, what they’re really blaming is women.

    So the take home message is, and I’ve been saying this all through my university career (at a liberal arts university! Gasp!), and after:

    Stop saying “feminism” when you mean “women”. Be honest about your sexism, because blaming an intellectual body of work that couples as a civil rights movement betrays not only your ignorance of the literature, but also of your unwillingness to engage in topics beyond that which you are already familiar (and perhaps comfortable) with.

  70. @John Greg
    I agree, whether or not it is unfair of course depends on the exact facts leading up to the conception of the child. A man who stated that he wanted to have a child prior to sex ought to be required to pay for child support. & as you said a man who clearly stated he did not want to have a child and took steps (such as wearing a condom) to prevent one would have stronger standing to say his rights were invaded by being forced to pay. The middle ground where either the issue was not discussed, the man didn’t take steps to prevent it or a mix of the two is of course blurry ground and would depend on the facts.

  71. As I see it, if you are a heterosexual person who does not want to have a child, you need to (a) use adequate birth control and (b) only have sex with someone who is also using adequate birth control, because if a child is born, you are both going to be responsible for it. Doesn’t that make sense?

    As a special case, if you are male and your partner is not using the method of birth control called abortion, and you’re not willing to accept the potential consequences of that, then you should not be having sex with her.

  72. Unnamed,

    Do you want men to be able to force women to have abortions, or do you want children to go hungry? Those are the only possible outcomes of allowing men to have a “paper abortion”, so which would you prefer.

    I think I have realized where we disagree. I believe that we should have right to autonomy over our bodies. I don’t think that we should be guaranteed as much right over our money. You seem to think that control over your money is as sacrosanct as control over your body, and I have to disagree with you there. I don’t know if you’re some kind of libertarian, or if you’re just so privileged that you’ve never had to consider the difference between your physical body and your money, but I think this is ultimately where we diverge.

    Abortion is about not being pregnant. Men don’t get pregnant.

    Women do not have any special rights that men don’t have. A woman can’t legally decide that she no longer wants to support her 5 year-old child or her 5 month-old child, or her 5 hour-old child, and men can’t do that either. Mothers and fathers have the same right to adoption in most (or all) states. Women can’t just get rid of the kid without the father’s consent, just as men can’t give up the kid without the mother’s consent.

    You whinge on and on about equal rights for men and women, yet you have failed to provide any case where a woman has a right that a man doesn’t. So show me a case where a woman can neglect her child where a man can’t, and then we’ll have something worth discussing. Until then, you are just arguing for men to have rights that women don’t even have, which is certainly not equal.

  73. I just wanted to de-lurk and say thank you to Jen, catgirl, Elyse, and the rest. Your comments here have helped clarify and correct my poor thinking regarding pregnancy and the obligations of men.

  74. @eigenperson: Amazing, isn’t it? Women get told all the time to just keep our legs shut if we don’t want to get pregnant but the instant you tell a man to keep it in his pants if he doesn’t want to pay child support, a riot starts.

    Boo-fucking-hoo, as my mother would say.

  75. @Mark Hall:

    Theoretically a father could drop off a baby under a safe haven law, because those laws generally mean that they won’t go looking for the person or people who left the kid there. In this case, the father could do exactly the same thing that a mother could do, and the mother would then have to fight to get the kid back. Most or all of the safe haven laws don’t suddenly stop working magically because it’s a man who dropped the kid off. In most cases nobody even knows who dropped the kid off.

  76. This is officially going to be my first ever comment, since I’ve been lurking for a while now, and I figured what better place to jump in than a “What about the MENZ?!?!?” argument.

    I want to say thank you to this post, for making me think about why on earth I have not been willing to label myself a Feminist before now. Because I am. I agree exactly with Jen’s definition.

    This comment thread has made me realize the reason I had not been willing, until now, because there are still a lot of people who deem it appropriate to equate Feminism with Misandry – enough that this was the first definition of it really ever heard, and it’s still the one that sticks in some people’s minds, even in some of the minds of people I generally like – and I just wasn’t ready to get into that argument with people all the goddamn time. But if i don’t, and if others don’t then that’s not going to change, and I’m going to be stuck seeing people that are normally kind and thoughtful start wearing their asses as a hat, and be stuck listening to impassioned, independent women spout statements exactly in line with modern feminist sentiment, only to preface them with ” I’m not a feminist but…”

    So thanks, for making me realize that I needed to ovary up and admit it.

    I care about how sexism affects women. I care about how sexism affects men. I care about how sexism affects the rights accorded by gender- and that makes me a Feminist.

    Cheers and good day.

  77. @catgirl: I noted what I was specifically addressing, CG… that a mother doesn’t have the option to stop being a mother. Nothing else in that post.

    While, in some places, a father can drop off the baby, there’s also a couple states where they legally cannot… the state requires that it be the mother, and won’t allow a designated representative do it.

  78. This has been an incredibly interesting debate.

    Although I see @Unknown’s point about men not having the right to choose, I also see the faults within his argument. Everyone else has already made my points more eloquently than I could have, but I wanted to say a few things.

    Yes, it is unfair that women can choose whether to give birth to a child (and become a parent) and men can not. There are no two ways about it – a woman has a final opportunity to escape the consequences of unprotected sex that a man just does not have.

    However, isn’t it equally unfair that it’s only the female body that is required to make the health and wellness sacrifice needed to create life? Pregnancy puts a significant strain on the human body – causing effects that last well past the birthing stage. There are nutrient issues that often never quite get resolved, not to mention plumbing and joint problems. Things that men do not understand or experience, nor should they, really. However, with this in mind, isn’t it fair to say that a woman should be given a little more choice in the matter?

    Personally, if I could, I’d gladly give up the “joy” of pregnancy to the “stronger” sex, and rule this whole conversation moot.

  79. “Feminism means you think it’s bullshit that people have to follow separate and particular sets of rules and limits based on what sexual organs they were born with”

    Thus, with this definition Sarah Palin is a feminist. Although she is an evangelical pro-life nutbag, she did not follow the rules based on the sexual organs she was born with. She was indeed the former govenor of Alaska and a vice presidential candidate.

    It is an inconvenient truth that there are many women and men who indeed are excluded from the feminist tent because of ideological barriers.

    I completely disagree with Sarah Palin’s views but nontheless, she is an ideological variant of feminism.

    I consider myself a feminist believes in the notion that the path to social justice is to enhance individual civil liberties. And yet, I would stand shoulder to shoulder with my counterpart (eg. an antiporn feminist). And I would include Sarah Palin into the tent.

  80. Also de-lurking for this. As a guy and a strident feminist, I’m happy to see movement back toward embracing the term. And had to comment to demosthenes: there are a tiny handful of issues in which culture is biased toward women: as discussed, the right to abortion, and custody cases as well. But these are not unfair biases, as the initial situational factors (due to biology) require some adjustment to become closer to fair.

    In addition, there are sooo very many issues that favor men, it is at least detached and naive — at worst, pathetic and malicious — to decry these issues until more equality is achieved in general. Asking feminists to speak up for “men’s issues” is like asking MLK to spend more time making sure upper-class whites get the business loans their credit score deserves. Letttt’s… I’m just spit-balling here…. Let’s see if we can reduced the incidence of rape, domestic violence, pay inequality, etc. before we start worrying about dudes.

    a middle class white male who is well aware he hasn’t earned half of what he has.
    girl power!

  81. @catgirl

    In an effort to answer my own questions, rather than just demand answers, I decided to try and follow up on the examples of feminists supporting men’s issues that you mentioned.

    I found this article from the International Labor Organization’s World of Work magazine: “Modern daddy: Norway’s progressive policy on paternity leave” (2005) It discusses paternal leave (paid time off for work for fathers) and has some mentions of its history. It doesn’t explicitly discuss he history of the advocacy around it, or mention feminists. I’ll see if I can find some other sources.

  82. @catgirl Continuing my effort to find details on the examples you mentioned, here’s a good one: A article by NOW (National Organization for Women) titled: “Same-Sex Marriage is a Feminist Issue” (2004). It comes out forthrightly in favor of same-sex marriages, although the support is justified only for its benefits to women.

    The article foregrounds NOW’s work for lesbian rights, and never explicitly mentions support for gay male unions, although this is clearly implied by the support for same-sex marriage. So again, it’s close but not a definitive example of your point. I’ll keep looking.

  83. I’m not sure how relevant this is (and please do tell me to stop if I’m dragging things off topic or otherwise behaving badly), but it’s too fascinating not to link. Gifts for a Gay Marriage from Feminist Mormon Housewives (yes, it was the title that got me). It’s not exactly an example of feminists supporting male issues, but it is an example of a self-described feminist addressing a non-women’s-only issue, specifically, how to respond as a Mormon to an invitation to a same-sex marriage ceremony.

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