Feminism Needs Better PR

by Jamilah Lemieux

You ever been to what could have been an amazing party- drinks flowing, nice little hors d’oeuvres, great DJ, swanky space- but hardly anyone shows up? That’s how I feel about feminism sometimes. The persons responsible for putting the party together are great, but maybe some of the promoters could use a little help in getting the word out…

OK. Enough of my bad analogy for now. You get the picture, right? Great.

Whenever I tell someone I’m a feminist (or when they somehow deduct that fact from something I’ve said), the reaction more often than not involves some remark about how I don’t fit “the stereotype”. I wear makeup, shave pretty much anything that can be shaved and I heart boys. And I say things like “I heart boys.” I do those things because I like doing them and I can and that’s essentially what feminism is all about: empowering women to do what they please in a world that is safe and provides women with the same value and rights as men enjoy. I promise you, that’s it. There’s no secret plot for global female domination, no plans to sequester men off on some island somewhere or to make them our minions. We don’t even feel the need to give them a taste of the same oppression and maltreatment we’ve experienced on the basis of gender.

You’re welcome, fellas.

For all the talk of the “stereotypical man hating feminist,” I’ve come across far more women who have loving, healthy relationships with men as individuals and as a concept, be these women gay, straight, old, young, Black, White, etc. The irrational, spiteful feminist has been allowed to become the dominant image of feminism in the minds of many because that best suits the needs of the patriarchy. Same as terrorists who happen to be Muslim have been used to illustrate Islam, or as Black Nationalists have been depicted as bitter, misinformed haters of all White people. A mission, movement or ideology should not be defined by its most fanatical members, but instead, those who best uphold its tenets.

That said, there are women who identify as feminists who can be somewhat to wholly irrational in the way in which they attempt to spread the gospel of feminine equality and those individuals do us all a disservice. I think it’s less a matter of spite or bitterness than it is poor reasoning at times. There are instances of blatant woman hate that call for vociferous anger (rape, abuse, willful discrimination in the workplace, for example). But there are also times in which sexism occurs due to a lack of understanding, societal condoning and pure ignorance.

It’s unreasonable to be surprised by sexist behavior (on the part of men AND women), when you live in a sexist society that sustains itself on sexism. And while that doesn’t reduce the need for pure outrage in certain situations, we feminists would do better to react in ways that encouraged people to listen and consider adopting some of our ideals. If you were teaching a person who had never taken an algebra class and they failed to comprehend a complicated equation, you wouldn’t say “God, you are just so f*cking stupid! You don’t know anything!” Well, for the average person, the exposure to feminist thought has been slim to none. And if even women who have been told “You have much to gain by embracing this school of thought” reject feminism, imagine the amount of prodding with which a typical man needs to even consider a school of thought that essentially says “Your position of power in this world is unjust and unearned. Are you willing to give that up?” AND then imagine that you’re a Black man and you believe that you occupy one of the lowest positions in society to begin with. Not exactly an easy sell.

If you’ve ever attempted to discuss race with a White person who had yet to have the realization that even those of them who feel they ‘aren’t racist’ are both privileged and subconsciously biased on the basis of race, then you can imagine how challenging the sale of feminist thought can be. And if a non-feminist person has only experienced exposure to the school of thought by someone who was intolerant, unreasonable and angry with their approach, their willingness to buy-in is likely to be non-existent. If you want someone to consider something new, you have to make plain the value it has to their lives and to the world around them.

This wasn’t the easiest lesson in the world for me and, well, I’m still learning. When I present someone with what I feel to be very clear evidence of sexism (or racism or colorism or…) and they refuse to acknowledge it, at times I can’t help but to think “Well, you’re just f*cking stupid and you’re holding us all back.” But by verbalizing that, I’m not really helping anyone. And what may look like ‘stupid’ to me is simply a difference in ideology that maybe I’m not smart enough to break down or challenge myself.

However, while we should ensure that our approach is respectable, reasonable and palatable as possible, that doesn’t mean that we need to bake cookies and twirl our hair in the face of unrepentant sexists. There are folks our here who are beyond reason and being a good spirited feminist does NOT mean befriending woman haters. But if we are mindful of the ways we approach those out there who haven’t taken on our cause célèbre we may find that we have more potential allies than foes after all.

  • http://adamantine2.blogspot.com/ Adamantine

    I never tell people I’m a feminist. When I do talk about feminist issues, however, I get overwhelmingly positive responses.
    Still, I remember one time when I was discussing pornography with a friend and after hearing some of my thoughts on the matter, she asked “Would you call yourself a feminist?” I said that of course I would, and she kind of shut down as if I was hopeless. (I then discovered she was not really a friend, but that’s another story.)

    I think educating the general puclic, and particularly men, about feminism is a huge challenge, but it’s also a very complicated one. I mean, one of the consequences of living in a sexist society is that women don’t have access to the media as much as men do. And when we do, we’d better just be the token woman there and talk exactly like any man.

    Also one of the things I’ve noticed is that people, and men in particular, feel hugely threatened by “safe spaces” for women online and feminist websites generally. They need to understand that those spaces are not for them, that they are online communities for and about women. But some just can’t bear it. I think we have the right to be angry on our own feminist, safe spaces without being called out on that. Community work is as important as talking to the general public.

    Apologies for the too-long comment and a huge thank you for this post. Despite all the evidence I’ve got about sexist education and stuff, I could never understand why so few people openly embrace feminism.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashleigh-Elle-Aye/507714421 Ashleigh Elle Aye

    Good post. I tend to tread lightly when it comes to telling people I’m a feminist b/c I get the same reactions as Adamantine or people try to pick arguments with me. From what I’ve seen, many people only have the angry bra-burner feminists to go off on b/c they’re the only ones that are shown in the media. No one knows of us prissy, man-loving, reasonable feminists. A couple of days ago, I likened my experiences as a feminist to my experience as a natural. People are reluctant to claim feminist because of they don’t want to be seen as a man-hater. People are reluctant to go natural because they don’t want to be a natural nazi. But like you said, we just need better PR.

  • http://msfaladesadventures.wordpress.com Ms. Falade

    As Joan Morgan, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost author, aptly declared over a decade ago Feminism is the other F-word. It’s sad that it still holds true. Feminism is not a dirty word. I find that people wholeheartedly with feminist ideals like the right to vote and own property or equal pay for equal work. But struggle with identifying themselves as a feminist.

  • http://TheFeministGriote.com TheFeministGriote

    I am a proud feminist & i find myself having to reintroduce & reeducate folk that being a feminist is not synonymous with anti-male. You are 100% right feminism does need better PR!

  • kekes

    I agree that feminism could benefit from better PR. With the exception of BETs “Black Girls Rock” celebration, there hasn’t been a big pro-feminist push in the mainstream. But then again, I’d be happy not so much if feminism was popular but rather I wish it was presented more clearly (especially to young people). Even I didn’t really consider myself a feminist until late into college mainly because my understanding of feminism was distorted (up until that point I only learned about women’s suffrage, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks- a disgrace considering how ‘good’ my education was supposed to have been…). I don’t think enough people are aware of the basic of black feminist theory such that could proliferate within the black community. But I really think that more people would support (black) feminism if they were open to learning what it was really about – as the author defined- “empowering women to do what they please in a world that is safe provides women with the same value and rights as men enjoy.” I wonder if BET will try to keep the message going with Black Girls Rock

  • http://twitter.com/supaflynfuchsia Fuchsia

    I think there are a lot of women who are feminist and just don’t know it. The word Feminist is like the “F” word in society. I think it’s because people see it as a separation instead of something that morally should be embraced by both men and women. I think the PR of feminism would have to start by changing the word altogether, or at least coming up with a new and modern term for what we represent. I’ve asked the most forward thinking woman I know if she would consider herself a feminist and she made a face and said no. When I explained what it was she said “I guess I am” and over the next few days she realized that she indeed was a feminist ..and not just any feminist, she was one that took action in her own life time and time again, against popular belief and the norms of society to make the positive changes she needed to make in order to be her best self

  • MediaistaBKNYC

    I truly enjoyed your article. It’s great to see someone articulating this perspective. I have trouble identifying myself as a feminist because as a Black woman I feel the feminist movement has not historically represented or fought for who I am or the needs of my community. A former professor of mine, Dr. Hudson – Weems wrote Africana Womanism: Reclaiming Ourselves, I found this very enlightening in regards to feminism and how it relates to Black women.

  • African Mami

    Feminism…MY THOUGHTS!

    I am all for the gender equality movement if done in MODERATION. But if you are one of those feminists who try to force down your ideas/ideologies down my throat, there’s going to be problems borne out of irritation and dont-care-ism….THE END!

  • Simon

    Good article Ms. Lemieux. I agree with gender equality and will fight for it. Feminists must do so as well. But it can only occur in context of eviscerating white supremacist capital patriarchy period. Some feminists seek equality with white men only, contrary to feminisms’ goals. Moreover, feminism must clearly delineate itself from misandry and feminist allies of Valerie Solanas.

  • Julian

    I am for womens rights, I believe that women should be treated equally, fairly, receive equal pay and all the shebang that goes with it. I love Black women and I can certainly understand if anyone is feeling bitter because of a bad relationship, or even for the fact that men are always in charge, I’m not close minded. However, despite the fact that the Feminist movement did some good, promoting rights for women and bringing to light the injustices done to American females, I believe it did more harm than good. Just so you can understand where I’m coming from I read the Bible, and I believe what the Bible says. Now I know it never called out for the mistreatment, discrimination and total domination of women, and I don’t believe in that. But, the Bible itself describes Adam’s place in family life, and his job was to go out and work to provide for the family. I understand that times have changed and I have no problem with women working that’s great for them, but the feminist movement took things way out of context. I’ll be honest, I see the feminist as these men-hating, pro-abortion, lesbian, females that have acerbic personalities and every chance they get at throwing diatribe like criticisms towards men they do that. I know what I just said isn’t going to sit well for a lot of you women out there,but I’m just saying what my perception is, if things really aren’t like that then feel free to say otherwise. That same dissonant language, and bitter rhetoric I think has helped destroy Black relationships. Now yes I am man enough to say that these knuckle headed brothers priorities aren’t always in the right place, but I’m one of those guys who’s priorities are and what I see is frankly quite ugly. Black women as cool and full of swag as they are, have got a lot of sass, sometimes too much. I believe it steams partially from that feminist attitude, that “I don’t need a man”, and the whole hands on my hips, snapping the fingers, and neck rolling act. There’s been a loss of respect on both sides, men need to respect women and treat them equally, but women need to be respectful to, and I don’t think feminist have that element down. It would seem that if you did anything that reminded them of the slightest form of “male-dominance” or traditional roles of women in society, take holding the door open for a woman or the “ladies first” rule, they’d go off. There’s a lot of ugly perceptions of feminist out there, and if you think mine is bad, just look on You tube, you’ll find stuff much worse.

  • kekes

    I definitely hear you Julian and I agree that feminists (and all women) need to show the respect that that want to be shown but I think everyone needs to be careful about labeling what feminism is. Having a strong-spoken and/or dramatic personality and being a female doesn’t mean a person is a feminist or is representing anything having to do with feminism at all. Black feminism- I’m not referring to mainstream white feminism, which does indeed fundamentally differ- call for the respect of all persons including men, those who are pro-abortion, lesbians, christians, buddhists, whatever…feminism just calls for the respect even of people who are different from you and not discriminating or showing disrespect for any reason especially on the basis of someone being a black female.

    The truth is, some feminists do indeed possess the unappealing qualities that you described above. However, as is the problem with generalizations, some negative examples of behavior that have been labeled feminist (but isn’t at all) should not be your definition of feminism. I recommend at least checking out Black Feminism at wikipedia.

  • Isis

    That’s one of my main issues with it. If you don’t agree with their ideologies you will be called all kinds of weak, etc, etc. Major turnoff. I got a taste of their ‘strength’ on Jamilah’s blog. A hot mess. I agree that feminism does need better PR, and you could probably get it if some of them weren’t so nasty to women that aren’t feminist. I don’t equate being mean and nasty with being strong. Very annoying. Oh well. I enjoy good writing that’s why I continue to visit Jamilah’s blog.

  • Laila Apples

    What was the point of this post?
    Are’nt facts,indeed facts?If we just stick to the facts of negative things that women endure all over the world daily because of their gender and being in weaker positions,financially politically and many time physically,wouldn’t that be the best PR that feminists can ever have?

    I think anyone with common sense can tell when a person hates another person just because they are a man from when a person is understandably concerned about their ability to survive and thrive in this patriarchal society.

    I just don’t feel that feminists need to prove they don’t hate men to be about the saving of women with many of the cases that are going on with forcible rapes etc.
    Most cases of sexism are very clear cut to me.

  • Lulu

    Listen, feminism has been given a so-called “bad name” because patriarchal societies rarely stand for it. Simple.

  • Dorsey

    “There’s no secret plot for global female domination, ”

    GREAT. Now when are men in general and black men in particular gonna actually get some fair and equal rights to their kids again or are you feminist gonna continue to flourish the black community in single mother households where none of the actual fathers have any rights to their own kids and create another generation of fatherless households?

    Far as I’m concerned, feminist are the garbage of the community who goal wasn’t equality but supremcy as seen in the custody rates Black Men vs. Black women and their continued abuse of affirmative action EVEN when they are doing marketly better than men and boys. is their a version of this greet feminism that doesn’t rely on former exes money to show independence? Is their a version that prevents the other versions of feminism from their incessant man-hating?

    I am glad to finally be in this day and time when black feminist and their destructive man-hatred and “hands-out” goverment “Independence is finally seen clearly as an enlightenment for all men.

    Feminism. the worst thing to happen to the nuclear family in generations. I’m just glad that a larger (and smarter) group of women is becoming more aware of the hypocrisy. I mean after seeing what they did to the Black Family by admonishing while at the same time promoting gay marriage tells contemporary almost everything they need to know about relations are so strained today and women are less desired than ever.

    Then you gotta consider the 52 million ABORTIONS.
    You got a Bad rep cause you deserve it. The Black community doesn’t need you any longer.
    And ain’t no PR gonna help shit.

  • temis

    Can someone explain how or why any women would reject feminism as defined above?
    Do you prefer to be second class citizens or do you just object to the theory and statistics behind the concept altogether?
    No shade intended, honestly. Just genuine curiosity.

  • JerseyBred323

    So feminism forced Black women out of the home and into the workforce? Haven’t African American women been working since the first African woman set foot on American soil? Working parents and/or sole-parenting Black women (slave mothers) have always been the norm for Black families.

    I can see if a WHITE man were to make that argument regarding the dynamics of WHITE families being disrupted by feminism but for Black men to make this argument??? That would suggest that Black men were ignorant of the history of African American families. African American women have ALWAYS worked and reared their children.

    And why is there this obsession with associating feminism with man hating? Just because a woman wants to advance herself and live an optimal life without limitation doesn’t mean that she’s doing so at the expense of men. What do men have to do with anything? Any woman that’s competing to be equal with men doesn’t want much.

    Anyway, great article, Toldja. You made plenty of reasonable suggestions in your article. You were even CRITICAL of the women who do a disservice to feminism. I guess some people prefer to create straw man arguments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jamilah-Asali-Lemieux/8901352 Jamilah-Asali Lemieux

    What about the majority of the planet’s population that doesn’t subscribe to the Bible?

  • binks

    I don’t like self proclaim labels in general and feminism happens to be one of them. Now, don’t get me wrong because I am all for and on women’s rights, causes and equality issues but to me the ideology of feminism is sort of board because each individual have their own twist and take to it and add and omit things they like or don’t like about the ideology so it is hard to label something if it is so big and subjective. Secondly, the ideology of feminism and black women is sort of a tight rope walk because as some comments hinted on black women wasn’t necessary apart of the women’s movement nor was it serve to benefit us like we can apply it now so on that front YES feminism needs a better PR. As well as a face lift of were we talked about men and how they fit in the ideology! So, year feminist needs a boost and a face lift and we need to start employing this concept to fit the times and new generation of women by trying to narrow the scope of it a bit

  • julian

    Black feminism I beleive has destroyed the black home, that volatile and hard attitude isn’t very becoming of a nice, kind woman. Feminist have a bad reputation because they bring it on themselves, sure you have a right to fight back if a man does you wrong, you have a right to be angry, but when you take it out on all men it becomes wrong. I know black women would have a fit if I generalized them and put them down, but often times all black women have to say is “these no good black men” and “they’re all lazy, good for notg…hin”. The whole feminist movement for the most part is this negative, Women Power (which there’s nothing wrong with, but they take it to the extreme), man bashing movement that has destroyed what the meaning of family is. I’m sure some of you femeinists reading this are thinking, who does he think he is, he has no right to say this because he doesn’t know what we go through. That’s because you guys think we are all the same, as much racism as I receive from white people I know all of them aren’t that way, and if I were to go about in a rant many would be offended. It’s no different here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Donna-Robinson/1432805064 SoulWhisper

    Great article. I agree that feminism needs a new face. Especially in this newer culture of homophobia. Most women (and men) try to create as much distance between themselves and anything that will marginalize them- especially being gay or lesbian. The adage is true- people fear what they do not know. I myself am a Black Nationalist Feminist so you can just imagine the difficulties that I encounter when trying to explain where my line of reasoning is born. I feel alienated from non-blacks because they look at me like I’m just an angry black woman. I feel alienated from black men (even my boyfriend sometimes) very much I’m sure for the reasons you voiced in the article. And oh boy the responses I get from other black women. One of my professors recommended a book for me to read. I’ve not completed it yet but so far it’s a great read. Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Donna-Robinson/1432805064 SoulWhisper

    Sweetie I respect your opinion but I feel it my duty to inform you that Black Feminism is not the culprit that has destroyed the black home. There are many elements which have played a role in that; none of which are feminism. You describe an encounter with an angry women who happens to be black. You describe an encounter with a women who is everything OPPOSITE of what we as feminist believe. Your comments reads as if its from a place of deep-seeded hate. I encourage you to look within to heal that pain and not blame feminism or any other school of thought for that matter. For you to make a statement regarding all women think one way about men and to go further and blame that ill-informed thought on feminism illustrates a level of ignorance on your behalf.

  • Laila Apples

    As someone who is not a black nationalist I feel no need to pander to Julian.

    Julian, you are either 1.uneducated 2.miseducated 3.a blatant liar and a misogynist

    I find it funny that through feminism WHICH WAS STARTED BY AND FOR WHITE WOMEN white and other men are still taking care of their families

    I think you should go back and read Jerseybred323′s comment.

  • hehe

    ugh reading some of these comments I can tell some of these commentators know nothing abt black feminism. Have they read Patricia Hill Collins? bell hooks? When ppl talk about feminism the first thing that come to their head is bra burning white women and how they ruin the black family. But there is a whole branch of feminism that specifically tackles issues related to black women.It’s ironic that the ppl with most opposition to feminism are the ones who believe in the black family or the ones who claim to be oh so pro black. In every group there will be radicals. Maybe before ppl judge what feminism is they should learn more abt it.

  • hehe

    Thank you! Ugh some ppl are oh so ignorant. I mean you can argue with someone with different viewpoints and opinions than you but I refuse to argue with ppl who have no concept of what they are against. Some of these ppl need to read a book.

  • hehe

    “Secondly, the ideology of feminism and black women is sort of a tight rope walk because as some comments hinted on black women wasn’t necessary apart of the women movement nor was it serve to benefit us…”

    Yeah but there is whole branch of feminism that dealt with black women issues. Black feminism was created because of the neglect of the Black power movement and not being able to identify with the women movement of white women. Such issues such as reproductive right, the commodification of the black women body, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Tres-Omi/1033743926 Dan Tres Omi

    I can hear the music stop when folks learn that I am pro feminist. And it is 100 times as tough for a woman when she admits it as well, whether black or white.

    Dope post btw.

    I normally use racism as an analogy when attempting to discuss feminism, but like everyone has noted, using that word is like throwing a bomb in the room. Everyone immediately swoops in with their patriarchy and yes even the women do.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Tres-Omi/1033743926 Dan Tres Omi

    Thanks for pointing that out…

  • Julian

    @ Jamilah,
    I was just saying where I come, from I know there’s a whole bunch of people who don’t follow the Bible, but you can look in the Quran or just look at the many different cultures around the world, and you’ll see similar if not exact forms of family life. It doesn’t mean that the respect for one another cannot be there, I think most of American society including women, would consider feminism a negative movement. Again I’m all for women bettering themselves, I think a lot of these feminist on here think that men who go against feminism are trying to keep women from getting equal rights and succeeding. But at least with me that’s not the case, I still don’t view the movement in a positive light though.

  • Julian

    @ Donna,
    When I made the statement about “all black women have to say is”, I wasn’t speaking of all Black women, I was saying that all they have to say is something negative about how “no good” some brother is,etc. I know all Black women don’t do that, my statement doesn’t come from any bitterness or hatred, its just observation. All feminist don’t talk the way I described, nor do they stand for all of that, but at the same time I’m without doubt that a more than decent number of them do. Yes I’m quite familiar with the fact that the destruction of the black home isn’t completely based on feminism, but you can believe it had a role. Even though as you being a feminist you might say that feminism never had a place in the depletion of family life in general, I guarantee you if you look deeper there are shards of evidence that will prove contrary.

    @ Laila
    Just to enlighten you a little hunny, there’s nothing to pander to. I’m not a Black Nationalist or whatever that comment meant. I’m not uneducated,undereducated (perhaps on the subject of feminism but not otherwise), I’m definitely not a blatant liar, which by the way is a fallacy, and in no way am I a misogynist (another fallacy). I love women and if you read my comment above the one I wrote I think you’d see that clearly, I believe that often times the Black woman is disrespected, scorned, and desecrated in American society by both whites and even Black men. You broached the “fact” that White men still take care of their families despite feminism, well hun have you checked the divorce rates lately? All the White folks aren’t separating solely because he or she was unfaithful, I know that some men have married feminist women, and I”m without doubt that feminism has been the root to some break ups. Remember also, just because a man is in the house physically and bringing in money, doesn’t mean he’s there emotionally and psychologically. Lets not forget that true, while feminism was created and esoteric for White women Black women did participate, they just didn’t get the results they wanted the same consequence is seen in the Woman’s Rights Movement. While yes JerseyBred323′s comment was excellent, all Black men aren’t shirking their fatherly duties. She fails to forget that it wasn’t always the Black woman as the child rearing ruler of the family, neither was it as she states, “Working parents and/or sole-parenting Black women (slave mothers) have always been the norm for Black families.” Black men were there too and she doesn’t mention that, but due to discrimination, hopelessness, and the attitude of giving up, the Black man for the most part has deserted his wife and children. I don’t care what anyone says, feminism wasn’t neutral in the atrophy of Black homes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Donna-Robinson/1432805064 Soul Whisper

    Sisters of the Yam is like one of my favorite reads. A homegirl turned me on to it. Definitely a book I read over and over; lots of nuggets in that one.

  • binks

    Of course there is a branch that deals with black women and feminism but it isn’t well known or the branch usually discussed as the face of feminism or one in the spotlight sorry but it isn’t. Secondly, not everyone is in agreement with the representation of black women and the feminism movement hence the problem with “feminism” in and of itself their is to many layers and branches to the ideology and personal views that makes it confusing and hard to pinpoint and label yourself. Which brings me back to my original point of why is it so important to label yourself as a self proclaim whatever, you can stand by your views and have a personal ideology regarding women’s rights and issues without labeling oneself….shrugs

  • Lauren

    While I certainly agree that feminism needs better PR (and as a feminist, I generally do the best I can to educate my friends and family members), the idea of making feminism more “friendly” to sexists and other bigots makes me very squeamish. It’s no one person’s fault that the US is a sexist, racist, homophobic, heterosexist, ableist, oppressive society and that they have internalized the lessons of that society. It is, however, their fault that they haven’t bothered to educate themselves about why that society is the way it is and how it affects oppressed persons every day. I educate because I want to, but it’s the responsibility of others to become aware of kyriarchy as much as they can. Furthermore, feminism has a bad rap not because of feminists, but because it is in the best interest of the kyriarchy to frame feminism as negatively as possible (as per Lulu’s comment above). People will always believe what it is in their best interest to believe, and until feminism becomes framed in the mainstream as a movement that is for everybody (to borrow from bell hooks), I am pessimistic that it will catch on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashleigh-Elle-Aye/507714421 Ashleigh Elle Aye

    “I’m independent! and Niggas aint shit” =/= Feminism.

    Hell, most of the women that display that type of behavior don’t know what feminism is. Most Black people are unaware of or ambivalent about feminism. You’re entitled to your opinion but I suggest you read up before you write the whole ideology off. And to blame the deterioration of the Black family is insulting. Look into lack of comprehensive sex ed, lack of access to birth control, underfunded schools, media images, bad parenting and a host of other things before you blame the deterioration of the Black family on feminism.

  • Julian

    @ Asleigh
    It’s called radical feminism, yes women that behave in ways such as that do know what feminism is all about! Now I will agree with you, my comment about the deterioration of the Black Family isn’t solely on feminism, and if it was insulting sorry hun. No, I’m not ignorant of the fact that a copious list of factors have led to the state our homes are in today, bad parenting, “lack of comprehensive sex ed, lack of access to birth control, underfunded schools, media images,” yeah that’s right all these things have. But feminism has definitely had a place, and not just a minuscule place either. Feminism claims that a woman can do anything a man can do, wrong that’s not true. The movement perpetuated that image, along with women being stronger in the home, or less subservient to their husband. I’m not married, just a young guy about to hit college, and I don’t believe in a woman being dictated in the home, but I do know that as a man its his responsibility to take care of his family. Feminism put that “S is for submit…I ain’t doin that” attitude in the home. So now there are these women who talk about their man because he can’t find a job, non-stop complaining, this rough on the edges woman, etc. Black women (not all) say that “I don’t need a man”, which no you don’t but then when they want to get married and have children, they’re so “strong” sometimes that they can’t find a mate. If you think Feminism hasn’t had a role in changing Black families, and creating the stereotypical finger popping, neck rolling, hands on the hips Black woman of today that’s fine. Just get something straight, I know all Black women aren’t like I described, so you can save a fiery rant for later.

  • Elley

    “And what may look like ‘stupid’ to me is simply a difference in ideology that maybe I’m not smart enough to break down or challenge myself,” well stated, Jamilah. We all need to be more open [to], respectful and tolerant of each others beliefs and viewpoints. Great article!

  • what-what

    So true!!!
    Interesting article…
    Some people talk about feminism without even knowing the basic definition. They have seen a scene on TV of some white women burning bras in the 60s and believe that is all feminism is about, man – hating and the choice not to shave. Its a shame. I believe that you don’t have to worship at the altar of feminism but at least acknowledge the advantages and progress that feminism has provided for women.

  • Alexandra

    Oh boy, the other “F” word. I’m not gonna go in detail how I feel about feminism, but I agree it needs better PR. Your opening paragraph is awesome, cause it’s true.

  • whykendra

    “what feminism is all about: empowering women to do what they please in a world that is safe and provides women with the same value and rights as men enjoy. I promise you, that’s it. There’s no secret plot for global female domination, no plans to sequester men off on some island somewhere or to make them our minions. We don’t even feel the need to give them a taste of the same oppression and maltreatment we’ve experienced on the basis of gender.

    You’re welcome, fellas.”

    love you!

  • Bee Gomez

    “Well, for the average person, the exposure to feminist thought has been slim to none. ”

    The average 6 year old maybe. There are people alive today who remember when women couldn’t have their own bank accounts. While you make some good points, there’s a whole lot of generalization going on.

    “the US is a sexist, racist, homophobic, heterosexist, ableist, oppressive society and that they have internalized the lessons of that society.”

    You’d be amazed at how many people, both men and women, are able to ignore the less attractive aspects of the allegedly dominant culture. This means you don’t have to believe everything you hear in class, read on the internets or see on TV.

  • ThirdGradeFeminist

    Awesome post. I think one of the most difficult problems for any non-dominant group is the inclusion of a more dominant group that doesn’t understand its struggles. I’ve heard a lot of complaints from women, people in the queer community, POCs, etc. about having to educate people outside their group. It’s truly a burden and a lot of times, the outside party doesn’t get it. That’s why the language of alliances is so important. Feminism needs more male champions; it shouldn’t be “just a Women’s issue.”

    On the other hand, striking a balance between inclusion and providing a support community/safe space is tricky. I went to a women’s college and work in tech and it was an incredible experience to have my introduction to what is a male-dominated field be in an all-female environment. It highlights for me the gender-constructive impediments to women in my profession. Explaining to outsiders – even other women – why it’s such a unique and worthwhile experience to have spent time in an environment where you are the majority, where your opinion matters, where issues that are endemic to your community are the main topic of conversation and are respected, is a burden, yes, but it opens a dialogue. We can’t expect men to automatically understand what it’s like to feel like you’re constantly underestimated on account of your ostensible membership in a non-dominant community.

    This is even more important for an issue like race (specifically, being Black), where the notion of what defines a given community is fragmented. My college had a group for Black students and it was always a point of contention because membership required being superficially connected to the Black experience. On the one hand, this meant that there was a safe space and a structured community for Black women to have support from peers who had similar experiences. On the other hand, White students complained every year that they weren’t allowed to join and some Black students got flack for not joining. It’s a tough balance between providing community support without having to explain to outsiders what the issue is or put up with assumptions and looking exclusive or intolerant.

    To the outside world, a Feminist looks like a privileged White woman. This isn’t to bash the experience of privileged White women – it is also difficult to live in a cage of perceived privilege and have complaints of discrimination viewed as shrill whines. I’ve found that White women do an abysmal job of supporting each other and anecdotally believe that support for other women is marginally better in minority groups because it’s easier (and culturally encouraged) to recognize similarities. White women tend to discount their shared experiences and believe that there is no such thing as White culture because it’s imbued in their every day experiences. They can’t see it because there’s little in their every day lives with which to contrast it. Add to that class issues and you have a whole mess of conflicted feelings and alliances.

    Obviously there are other identities I’m not discussing that have different dynamics. I’m new to this site and look forward to reading more about these issues.

  • ThirdGradeFeminist

    Also, I read this and posted before checking out the website (followed a link to another article from feministing.com), so sorry if the post sounds very Jezebel-y.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kyra-Morris/520890694 Kyra Morris

    I know we agree, but as you touched off on some truth that makes a good jumping off point for some ignorance above your comment ^, I’mon go off now.

    Finger-popping, neck rolling, and n*****- hating is a GHETTO stereotype and has nothing to do with feminism. That anyone is confusing the two is evidence that there is some straight up ignorance. Actually being a feminist is closely correlated to *education* (and usually class). One has to know and understand negative structures to actively be opposed to them in a way that they can self-identify as one of a group with the same ideology. Being ghetto tends to prevent that. And educated black women have to fight that stereotype and indistinction ERRYday, from the “mainstream” culture already. I don’t appreciate either the stereotype or the lack of distinction being perpetuated from within the community as well.

    Now onto what men *think* a woman *has to be* to be in a relationship with a man. If that’s just what you prefer for whatever reason, then that is on you. If you BOTH decide that she’s taking care of the kids and deferring to you, then that’s Y’ALL. The validity of those reasons, no matter what they’re based on, is rendered entirely moot by that fact alone. And I’m not going to act like a flaming troll and guess out loud what those reasons are, but I am gonna play armchair therapist and suggest you take a look at them and hope you realize that what you believe is necessary for a good relationship is a *preference* and needs not be thought of as a universal standard. If you suddenly see that those preferences are not working for you the way you thought they would, knowing that they are just preferences allows freedom for change (and will help the *rest of us* by not being subjected to invalidation every time we hear you talk about the subject. RAHEM).

    I prefer to think there’s a reason the other person is there, regardless of gender. I want to love the whole *person*, not just how they “make” *me* feel when I’m around. I’m not going to like a man more for “making me feel like a woman” or “a princess” by “acting like a man.” I am ALWAYS a woman, no matter how anyone treats me, m’okay? And if I feel like a princess, it’s prolly cause you bought me something I wanted that I couldn’t get for myself and that is called a *gift*. So yes, I’mon feel good and like you like me and be grateful. DUH. But the way most people use “princess implies *entitlement* and privilege due to gender and the trappings thereof. I do NOT like entitlement in ANYBODY. And I don’t like the implication that I should identify with that entitlement. Yes, I have a problem with men who do feel entitled to a certain kind of treatment based on their gender and no, they will not get that treatment from me. In fact, they immediately lose the baseline respect I try to give to *everyone,* regardless of their gender. Their lack of empathy and respect for others, which is what that entitled attitude implies, btw, is an immediate turnoff.

    I personally don’t want someone in my home who has nothing to offer, no voice, no opinion, no agency. Why keep them around? That’s not a partner, that’s a child or a servant. Being partners means taking care of *each other* in whatever way the two of you see fit and working toward common goals (or none at all, whatever you decide), and that it’s okay to even have *separate* goals when they don’t conflict (*Competition* is not necessarily the same as having conflicting goals and it can be FUN. If it isn’t, again, that’s an *individual* problem that *that couple* needs to work on or let die.) THAT is what a relationship between feminists looks like. It’s not that one of you *should* wear high heels, bake cookies, take care of the kids and never argue,but *won’t*, but that BOTH of you get to *decide TOGETHER* where this ship is going. Disagreements are going to come up if both of you are real and in love with *each other*, and the relationship is not based on some performance that you put on and call “masculine” and “feminine.” But that’s part of being truly intimate with another person.

    That anyone finds a woman having an opinion and not just blindly doing what a man says (or acting like she will) or doesn’t walk around trying to “let him be the man” is a threat to having a good relationship is sick to me. I don’t do things to “feel like a woman” or a to prove I’m that I “don’t need a man.” I do them because they need to be done or because I’m good at them or I like doing them. I do things for someone else because I like, love, or respect them or even just empathize with them. PERIOD, not because it makes me feel like “more of a woman” to take care of them. I expect the converse out of a man. He should want to care for me because he CARES and he can, not because “taking care of” a *woman* somehow validates his gender to himself and everyone else around him, or because my gender makes me a “cripple” while his makes him a “hero.”

    To some of the self-identified “feminine” commentors, I’d invite you to look at other this and other kinds of blogs and see how many times a male commentor *apologizes* for having or expressing an opinion. I’m not saying you can’t identify as feminine and feminist. (I know a lot of M2F trans who do!) I’m just saying look at what you *call* “feminine” social behavior, examine its origin and purpose and see where it’s getting you on more levels than one and whether you like it as much as you think you do. I’d be curious, once you get past the justifications, what you really believe the pros and cons of performing “femininity” are.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kyra-Morris/520890694 Kyra Morris

    Hon, the custody rates are not the result of feminism, but of SEXISM. It’s not *women* who decided that their greatest function and therefore “natural” ability to raise children was greater than a father’s. It was MEN who decided that. Nobody else had access to research, publishing, and the court system when it all started!!

    Look at Scandinavia. There are more stay at home dads there than anywhere else. Do you really think that’s due to a patriarchal order or a SUPPRESSION of feminism??

  • Dorsey

    “Hon, the custody rates are not the result of feminism, but of SEXISM. It’s not *women* who decided that their greatest function and therefore “natural” ability to raise children was greater than a father’s. It was MEN who decided that. Nobody else had access to research, publishing, and the court system when it all started!!”

    So show me the group of feminist protesting this act of sole mother custody if the ones enacting this policy are men? Why would women who fight men on everything under the sun of the last forty years show themselves to be relatively hipocrites in their silence and lack of outrage. I mean their SEXISTS and their MEN. What’s the problem feminism? Matriarchy got your goat? What have you done since this EARLY RESEARCH by earnest men? Haven’t said a WORD, that’s what. That was a dumb try Kyra…

    “Look at Scandinavia. There are more stay at home dads there than anywhere else. Do you really think that’s due to a patriarchal order or a SUPPRESSION of feminism??”

    It’s due to Feminism silly or perhaps, oh wise one, you can point to the feminist protesting this stay-at-home dad phenomenon? It’s exactly what feminist wanted idiot. Silly, silly, silly argument. STOP STEALING BLACK MENS KIDS AND HIDING BEHIND FEMINISM you monsters!!!

  • Weber

    Excellent article! Thank you for tackling the male’s perspective as well. We know both parties are responsible for judgement based on extremists. (“All men are potential rapists”, “Feminists want to oppress men”), so it’s important to tackle them as a separate entity.

    It’s also my personal opinion that most of the issues feminists tackle may be runoff from core male issues.

    For instance, from a social perspective, many guys are belittled, beaten, and humiliated for not “meeting the level” of other guys. The abusers do the same thing to women, where it is then called sexist. However, these men are attacking within our gender as well, if not more so.

    For every girl I know who has been beaten up, I know about 5 guys who have dealt with the same. Rape, on the other hand reverses this, I know far more raped women than men. I believe homophobia may be (to some degree) responsible for this bias.

    There’s a lot of stigma about what a male should or shouldn’t be. When it goes too far against our own nature, it creates a ton of tension, like a rubber band about to snap. To me, the fact that men dominate the crime scene shouldn’t be treated as evidence that “men are the problem”, as some would say. I think it shows more that the biggest issues may be targeting the male gender. I guess it’s like this: “If the owner kicks the dog, the dog will bite the visitors.” I’m writing so much about this because I feel the importance of men’s issues is critical to the safety of all, so gender equality will need more than a “women are the only victims” perspective.

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