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what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

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what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

Postby spacefem » Mon Jan 16, 7:40 2012

I have this conversation way too often:

Someone: Why do we need feminism? If you want to make the world better for everyone, why not just equalism, or everyoneism, or everythingism?

Me: Because horrible things are happening to women. Disproportionate rape and domestic violence and blatantly unfair laws in other counties... I could go on.

Someone: Well that's obvious. But those aren't feminist issues, they're human issues.

So it begs the question, when is something a feminist issue, and why do we need this label? I feel like way too often we want to define "feminist issue" as "something only women care about". And that's why we think we don't need feminism... because I can't think of anything only women care about. If men care about us, they have to care about what we care about, right?

I've said many times that feminism is a discipline within the umbrella of "things that make the world a better place".

We need disciplines because they give us focus.

For example: I'm an engineer by day. An electrical engineer, who makes airplanes. Being an electrical engineer doesn't mean I don't care at all about the load factors on the wings. It just means that we realized we couldn't build an airplane by dumping 100 pounds of sheet metal in a room and telling everyone "go at it". We divided up the tasks into disciplines.

Sometimes the airplane has electrical problems. Electrical problems are also airplane problems. Just like oppressing women can stifle an economy, cutting a wire can keep an engine from cranking up.

Everyone cares about electrical problems.

We call something an "electrical problem" because there's a collection of problems caused by the same things: interference, undervoltage, heat dissipation, signal loss etc. I, the electrical engineer, am used to focusing on those issues. By having this specific background, I'm more likely to recognize and correct electrical issues. I spend more of my time focusing on these problems, so I can compare them to each other and get better at fixing electrical issues.

Can you fix an electrical issue if you've never hooked up a voltmeter? Sure. Could I still recognize & fix a mechanical issue? Sure. But all of us who've built airplanes have decided that "electrical" deserves to be a specific discipline, there's enough stuff in that category that we've got specific questions that are helpful to focus on.

So back to feminism. We'd like to lower domestic violence rates, and improve the lives of survivors. Would it help if we had knowledge of stereotypes, media tropes, cultural acceptance of victim blaming, or unbalanced economic power? Do those things affect only the lives of domestic violence survivors, or are they also a detriment to sexual assault survivors, struggling single mothers, girls who avoid science careers?

None of these are issues that only women care about. But feminists say that they're all related, and there's a specific set of questions we should be asking ourselves about them. That's what a discipline is. It's a lens, taking a special interest in what we're learning together, and admit that these causes benefit from some prior related knowledge.

To be a feminist you don't need a special degree or certificate, you just have to be aware of the issues women face in our world and admit that those issues deserve some focus. You can still address men's issues, save the whales, campaign for fair wages, feed hungry children. You definitely don't have to be a woman. You just have to look up and say, "Hey... we can make the whole world a better place if we ask some questions specifically about women."
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Re: what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

Postby Axiomatic » Mon Jan 16, 8:34 2012

Personally, I actually wouldn't mind if it were called egalitarianism or humanism instead of feminism - I just figure it's humanism because of historical context, and we just happen to be focusing on the right's of women because that's one of the biggest, most obvious targets of injustice right now - but I am intensely suspicious of anyone who argues for a name change AWAY from feminism, because I have not, even a single time in my lifetime, ever seen anyone do so in good faith. It's always about taking the focus away from women and pretending that sexism doesn't exist so that the patriarchy can keep quietly chugging along without disturbance.

Another method often used is BUT WHY ARE YOU FEMINISTS WHEN PEOPLE ARE STARVING IN AFRICA??? Because as we all know, it is mandatory that you only give a fuck about a single cause, and if you happen to give your fuck to the cause of sex slave traffic, that will forever deplete your fuck-giving store and you will therefore be saying that people starving in africa is alright with you.
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Re: what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

Postby spacefem » Mon Jan 16, 8:43 2012

Axiomatic wrote:Another method often used is BUT WHY ARE YOU FEMINISTS WHEN PEOPLE ARE STARVING IN AFRICA??? Because as we all know, it is mandatory that you only give a fuck about a single cause, and if you happen to give your fuck to the cause of sex slave traffic, that will forever deplete your fuck-giving store and you will therefore be saying that people starving in africa is alright with you.


THIS.

Also, I once talked to a guy who accused me of being self-centered because I was a feminist (like they do) and then months later when I was volunteering a zillion hours on a gay rights campaign, he asked me why the hell I cared about gays if I wasn't gay. hel-lo? bottom line is that he didn't care about anything and didn't see why anyone should.

In my experience feminists are much better at caring about everyone than people who pretend they're "equalists".

(And final note, I left the "humanist" term out of this because that one's totally taken, people forget that the secular humanists are a pretty big movement and the term just isn't up for grabs, hate to say it).
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Re: what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

Postby Tookie » Mon Jan 16, 10:52 2012

Axiomatic wrote:Another method often used is BUT WHY ARE YOU FEMINISTS WHEN PEOPLE ARE STARVING IN AFRICA??? Because as we all know, it is mandatory that you only give a fuck about a single cause, and if you happen to give your fuck to the cause of sex slave traffic, that will forever deplete your fuck-giving store and you will therefore be saying that people starving in africa is alright with you.


And ALSO, a disproportionate number of "people starving in Africa" are women and children. This is also true of the millions of people living below the poverty line in the first world.
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Re: what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

Postby monk » Mon Jan 16, 15:29 2012

and it's been well documented that when you specifically give aid & empowerment to women in areas where they are poor or disenfranchised the women use more of that aid in ways that help the entire community vs. just their own families.
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Re: what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

Postby Daktoria » Mon Jan 16, 17:37 2012

Axiomatic wrote:I am intensely suspicious of anyone who argues for a name change AWAY from feminism, because I have not, even a single time in my lifetime, ever seen anyone do so in good faith. It's always about taking the focus away from women and pretending that sexism doesn't exist so that the patriarchy can keep quietly chugging along without disturbance.


I'm not really sure if universalism is the real issue here. The real issue seems to be pragmatism where people assume social roles based on physical characteristics.

I'll give you a similar example. Many people believe weaklings are submissive masochists because by definition, weaklings can be practically submitted, and if weaklings want to enjoy their lives when being submitted, then pain should be conditioned into pleasure (similarly to the stupid belief that homosexuals can be conditioned into heterosexuality).

If you want, take pragmatism as a hint as to whether a universalist is for real or not. If a universalist is pragmatic, then he shouldn't be trusted. If a universalist is idealistic, then he can be trusted. Pragmatists conflate what you are with who you are. Idealists don't.
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Re: what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

Postby kelsa » Tue Jan 17, 4:40 2012

Axiomatic wrote:Another method often used is BUT WHY ARE YOU FEMINISTS WHEN PEOPLE ARE STARVING IN AFRICA??? Because as we all know, it is mandatory that you only give a fuck about a single cause, and if you happen to give your fuck to the cause of sex slave traffic, that will forever deplete your fuck-giving store and you will therefore be saying that people starving in africa is alright with you.


I just finished a book "Desert Flower" by Waris Dirie, a Somalian nomad who underwent female genital mutilation at age five, ran away from marriage at age 12, and ended up in England being an international supermodel as a teenager/young adult. Amazing example of how feminism can intersect at so many areas in just one person's life- from her undergoing genital mutilation, to receiving no education, to rape and sexual assault, to domestic abuse, to racism and immigration issues, etc. I'm never able to understand why so many people attempt to discredit feminism as being too narrowly focused.
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Re: what makes a human rights issue a "feminist issue"?

Postby Sonic# » Tue Jan 17, 8:00 2012

I like the analogy with electrical engineering, because I often think of feminism as a concentration, or a particular field that helps address many specific injustices while giving me insights on how gender works elsewhere in my life and this world. As a concentration, it does not replace an overall concern for human rights, for ethical integrity, for the nobility of the spirit, but augments it.
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