A good Fisking

May 11, 2004 | 24 comments
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I disliked the recent Meridian article by Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse blaming all of the ills of the world on feminism, but I didn’t have time to sit down and explain why. Fortunatey, Kim Siever, over at his spiffy newly-refurbished blog, did have the time for such an exercise. He gives a nice critique of some of the flaws in the article. (Did he miss any potential critiques? I’m certain that if he did, our astute readers will notice and comment).

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24 Responses to A good Fisking

  1. Kim Siever on May 11, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    Cool. My very own entry. ;-)

    Thanks, Kaimi.

  2. Julie in Austin on May 11, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    I think it was irresponsible for Dr. Crouse to neglect to mention the good that feminism has done, good that is consistent with the Gospel.

    For example, the revised CES book on prophets points to President Hinckley’s frequent counsel to the young women to get all of the education that they can, an idea perfectly aligned with feminism. Church leaders frequently decry abuse of women: feminism is responsible for more and better laws against abuse (remember the rule of thumb?). (And, yes, I know the laws aren’t perfect, but they–and cultural attitudes toward spousal abuse–are better than they were in 1950.)

  3. lyle on May 11, 2004 at 8:54 pm

    And I wonder why the first primal urge seems to be to criticize rather than find positive aspects.

  4. Jim F. on May 11, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    I think that Kim’s most important point is that Crouse lumps all forms of feminism into the same lump. That’s usually a bad idea, but in this case it is especially a bad one because the feminisms are so varied. Better to criticize the particular kinds of feminism that are problems or, even better I think, the particular actions that are wrong. But we tend to prefer to lump those with whom we disagree into larger groups, often -isms of some sort, because it is easier to condemn them en masse.

  5. Ivan Wolfe on May 11, 2004 at 11:26 pm

    Has anyone here read Christina Hoff Summers’ book “Who Stole Feminism?”

    Yeah – there are varied feminisms, but the most liberal wing of the movement seems to have stolen the term in all practical aspects. Ms. Summers book is in part a lament that the media (and the culture at large) won’t allow more moderate and conservative feminists use the label “feminist” – but she also reveals basically how attempts to use the label feminist can hurt the more conservative and moderate wings of the movement (since in most people’s mind feminism seems to stand for abortion on demand and lesbianism).

    Not all of that comes from Ms. Summers’ book, but it is a nice (simplified) capsule summary of one aspect of the book. It is a slightly old book, but her arguments are still valid.

    Her more recent book “The War Against Boys” argues that males suffer more at the hand of education than females do and that feminists who whine about how schooling favors boys over girls are dead wrong.

    But for being a feminist, she is almost never called that when discussed in the media. She’s apparently too conservative to be a feminist.

  6. Jeremiah John on May 11, 2004 at 11:58 pm

    I do have a measure of respect for Sommers, and much of the research in her book is sound. It is however more appropriate to speak of radical as opposed to liberal feminists–the former are the ones she talks about and rails against more, whereas liberal feminism (which sees the feminist project as one aspect of the general movement of liberalism, not as a separate, radical and unique project) contains many moderates which are harder to fit into her two-part division between those who stole feminism and those former feminists who were left behind.

    But while I have respect for Sommers, I find it odd to say that feminism was “stolen” by a radical element. ‘Stolen’ implies that the object in question kept its value and meaning but fell into unworthy and dishonest hands. The problem with this metaphor, however, is that few women in America today identify with the label “feminist”. Feminism has lost most of its positive connotation and its core meaning; indeed, feminism is not a good name under which radicals secretly operate, but indeed a term which has come to connote radicalism, even for many women. To paraphrase Shakespeare, if radicals stole the good name of feminism, they have stolen trash.

    Why has ‘feminism’ lost its good name? Certainly not because we as a society have preudiated its core achievements (though I agree that some of these, esp. abortion rights, are *dubious* achievements). But the point is that Americans don’t disagree, in large part, with the fruits of feminism. Quickly, I’ll offer two other, complimentary reasons for the decline in prestige of “feminism”–1) the achievement of most first and second wave feminism’s goals, along with a resulting crisis of purpose; and 2) a steady drumbeat of cultural conservative backlash against feminism as an ideology to be defeated.

    Finally, it strikes me as odd that Sommers still claims to be some kind of feminist. This is because her recent work seems to fail the one basic requirement of feminism–that is, being concerned specifically with women’s concerns, experiences, and interests. I don’t deny that one can do the latter from a conservative of moderate perspective, but I do deny that one is doing feminism when one is writing about the oppression of men.

  7. Juliann on May 12, 2004 at 2:22 am

    Disappointing article, on the whole. Feminism, whatever that means, has offered an effective methodology for extracting more meaning from religious texts. I prefer the label “women’s studies” or “gender studies”.

    I have also been disappointed in some areas of feminism, however. I went to a Process/Women’s theology conference a couple of weeks ago and was very disappointed with a very politically oriented rant against mainstream American practices and lifestyles…democracy as greed, that sort of thing. I left after the first lecture. What interested me the most was that at least 90% of the audience was middle aged if not graying.

    I have heard it presented that younger women are simply living feminism and no longer see any value in activism…which I think we have confused with feminism because of the loud behavior of a few. But I also think that with the advent of women in the workforce, something that was pushed so hard in the 70’s, has left “the movement” barren. They devoured their young by putting them into the workplace if they depend on activism.

  8. Jeremiah J. on May 12, 2004 at 2:40 am

    I’m reluctant to call feminism ‘women’s studies’ or ‘gender studies’, because it includes more than just study or academic thought. It is certain set of social practices which includes some academic thought. Sommers may indeed be doing gender studies, but I think that her recent work is not all that feminist, even though I agree with her that feminism has no essential ideological core.

  9. Clark Goble on May 12, 2004 at 6:10 am

    I’ve not read the article, so I can’t speak to its inaccuracies. However I think that in the “popular mind” feminism tends to be tied to organizations like NOW and their conception of feminism. That even within such groups there is diversity seems certain. However that is true of any group. Just look at us here and the diversity of views among all of us. That doesn’t mean that we can’t raise some fair generalities, so long as we don’t think them universal generalities.

  10. Ivan Wolfe on May 12, 2004 at 9:50 am

    Juliann –

    your comment
    “I have heard it presented that younger women are simply living feminism and no longer see any value in activism”

    reminded me of and episode of the Disney cartoon “Pepper Ann” about a Jr. High school girl. In one episode, her mother takes her to an activist camp where she is taught how to make signs, march in protest lines, etc.

    Pepper Ann obviously dislikes the whole enterprise, and at the end of the story, she reveals why: In an impassioned speech to the adult women there, she tells them “I don’t feel oppressed. I know I can become whatever I want. Women don’t need this protest stuff anymore. I already know I have worth as a woman and that I am equal with men. Stop living in the past!” – or words to that effect.

  11. Nate Oman on May 12, 2004 at 11:59 am

    Jeremiah J.: As you point out, the term “feminism” has lost much of its saliency. You argue that this is because it has achieved many of its goals and there has been a conservative backlash against it. You then argue that Sommers’s claim that it has been stolen is odd because it was trash anyway. The problem with this is that you completely discount the possibility that the radical wing of feminism that Sommers criticizes may have been yet another causal factor in the decline of the terms value and saliency. One can admitt the efficacy of the two causes that you posit without having to discount the addition cause offered by Sommers. Furthermore, I think that she is largely correct when she argues that radical elements of feminism have been responsible for a certain poisoning of the well. In short, I don’t find your criticisms all that persuasive.

  12. Nate Oman on May 12, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    Julie: As far as I know the “rule of thumb” is a myth. I have never seen any real evidence that such a law ever existed. Of course, I may be wrong on this, but it is interesting enough that I would like to see som real evidence from actual legal materials….

  13. cooper on May 12, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    I read with interest Kim’s observations. Then I went to the article itself. It is an obvious attempt to get published or noticed by a target audience. Dr. Crouse took a lot of tired information and once again re-hashed it. It is unfortunate that this was her approach in writing about feminism. There are several points she make that could have easily been articles unto themselves. It is, to me, offensive that she felt an article of this nature would be appealing to mormon masses. “Take a hot button issue, give a little pizazz, and they swallow it!” Agggh!

    However, her sound-bite bio says it all. Stating she once was a speech writer for Pres Bush. That explains a lot about him (poor speeches) and about her. Fire-hose dosing an issue never gives it fair treatment.

  14. Nate Oman on May 12, 2004 at 12:25 pm

    Ah the glories of free Westlaw access!

    Here is what I found out about the rule of thumb. There is a single lower court case in North Carolina from 1864 in which a man was excused from the charge of beating his wife because the stick used was less than the size of his thumb. The case was overturned on appeal to the State Supreme Court, which went out of its way to note that the rule of thumb analysis was legal nonsense.

    In addition, there was an a very young English judge in the 18th century (reputed to be the youngest man every appointed to sit on Kings Bench), who supposedly made some comment about thumbs and beating from the bench. The comment was though outrageous enough that the judge was repeatedly caricitured in cartoons in the English press. One of those cartoons appeared over a maxim of Lord Coke (a hugely influential 17th century English judge) which supposedly restated the rule. The maxim, however, was invented by the cartoonist, not Lord Coke.

    The idea that this “legal rule” provides an entomyology of the phrase “rule of thumb” was first proposed by a journalist in a 1977 book. The journalist in turn cited a 1917 treatise stating (as near as I can tell correctly) that no such rule existed in the common law.

    BTW, this is not meant as a defense of the domestic law of an earlier time or to deny that the law was remiss in protecting wives from violent husbands. It just seems that there is enough strange nonsense in the real common law that one needn’t go around making up new nonsense for rhetorical effect.

  15. Kaimi on May 12, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Nate,

    Why don’t you use your free OED access to check out the etymology of the term?

  16. Nate Oman on May 12, 2004 at 12:39 pm

    I did (sort of). The OED notes that the earliest use of the term occurs in an fencing manual from the 1690s. Nothing about law or wife beating.

  17. Jeremiah J. on May 12, 2004 at 3:42 pm

    Nate: You misrepresent what I said. I didn’t say that feminism was “trash anyway”–rather my point was that if you can say that radicals stole feminism from anyone, feminism was devalued in the process (it was never as well-respected as Sommers seems to imply, but that’s a different issue). So it is odd to call it stolen, because the remarkable thing is the concept’s change in the meaning and esteem, not the change in those who seem to possess it (if anything, “destroyed” may be a better word). So in this sense it’s simply not true to say that feminism was hijacked or stolen. It’s not true in the way that, say, political Islam has been hijacked by fundamentalists in the last 20 years. It is clear that in Egypt, Pakistan, even the occupied territories, political Islam is generally understood as fundamentalism, as opposed to the orthodox tradition which you can see with significant strength even as recently as the Iranian revolution. Orthodox politics is not dead, and yet it is true that extremists have profited a great deal from the good name that the orthodox tradition earned for political Islam. This is not the case with feminism–those who live under the banner of feminism today are not given credit for feminism’s past achievements, and they are not seen as more mainstream than they really are because of some kind of lag in public consciousness. If the feminist radicals have stolen anything, it is a word, whose currency is greatly devalued through the stealing of it.

    I also did not “completely discount” the effect that radicalism has had on these developments: rather I cited two “other, complimentary” causes. The problem with the stolen or hijacked thesis doing all the work Sommers seems to want it to do (disclosure: I have not read all of _Who Stole_, but some of it, along some of her other works and I’ve heard her speak) is that the causal story is not well-laid out. It is the easiest thing in the world to build up quotes from the extreme or immoderate elements of a movement. [Cable news pundits and talk radio personalities do this all the time] The challenge is then to evaluate what the effect these elements have on the movement as a whole. The “Stolen” thesis requires both that moderate elements of the movement left due to the triumph of radicals within the group, but also that a wider public continued to view feminism as a big tent, and hence inaccurately viewed feminism as a movement that could reasonably be said to represent all or most women. My point here is that some of the abandoning of the banner of feminism should be expected due to the exhausting of its possibilities. This seems very plausible with the case of liberal feminism in the second wave–the basic premise of liberal feminism assumes that feminism is merely a part of the overall liberal movement toward equal individual rights. So it should come as no surprise that as these rights were granted these women would move into the mainstream of liberal politics.

    ‘Conservative backlash’ is an explanation that can also be poorly used, and is often backed up merely by pointing to the fact that some conservatives objected to something. But I do think that it is plausible in the case of feminism. This is because public views of feminism tend more toward conservative characterizations of feminism (as a radical, ideological movement) than the liberal view which sees feminism as previously good but now less relevant, or the radical view that it is indispensible. The fact that this conservative interpretation holds sway, even when support for underlying feminist policy preferences remains high, seems to mean that we’re seeing a victory of conservative (and possibly radical) elements in the conceptual conflict, though not in more concrete politics.

    There is nothing necessarily conspiratorial in using ‘conservative backlash’ an explanation (my choice of words could have been better). If I had to elaborate I wouldn’t describe a conspiracy, but connect such a backlash with the rise of a certain kind of conservatism over the last 20-30 years. It is a conservatism which has declared all-out war on the label of feminism but found it more difficult to engage many ‘feminist’ issues besides abortion. It would be a claim about a general increase in conservative resources and a concentration of those resources toward certain goals.

    Your ‘poison in the well’ claim is not that different from the conclusion of my argument, but it is quite different from Sommers’ claim. It would be odd to find a poisoned well and then ask: “Who stole the well?” My point of disagreement is that more than one party seems to have poisoned the well, and besides that, there are other wells.

  18. Nate Oman on May 12, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    Jeremy: I have also not read Sommers book, but like you I have heard her speak on a number of occasions and had a chance to talk to her when she visited HLS. My impression of her claim was simply that she claimed that radical elements of feminism had now come to largely define the term and the movement and that this was unfortunate. I didn’t understand her to be making the more complicated claim that you seem to be imputing to her on the basis of the title of her book. I am freely willing to admit, however, that you are probably far more informed than I am about the precise nature of her claims.

  19. Kristine on May 12, 2004 at 10:35 pm

    I’ve been feeling like I ought to chime in on this thread, despite being completely uninformed about the immediate motivating articles for Kaimi’s post–haven’t read Sommers, won’t let my click be counted in Meridian’s stats–since I’m possibly the only woman posting here who wouldn’t mind being called a feminist. I have to say that the idea that “in most people’s mind feminism seems to stand for abortion on demand and lesbianism” seems just jaw-droppingly bizarre to me. I’m sure it’s partly that I missed the crest of the wave (I was born in 1969, wouldn’t have called myself ‘feminist’ until 1982 or so), but I just don’t recognize ANY of the feminists I’ve known in such a description. Although my women’s studies reading has been almost entirely self-directed, I was roommates with the president of the Radcliffe Union of Students (Harvard’s biggest feminist group) and attended a fair number of talks, etc. sponsored by “feminist” groups on campus. I used to read Ms. pretty regularly, and have always been at least peripherally interested in feminist topics. I’ve just never been able to locate the militant group of baby-hating lesbians crusading to put everyone else’s children in socialist daycare! Among feminists I’ve spent time with, there was concern about abortion rights, but it was always, always couched in terms of wanting to make it possible for women to make informed choices before abortion became their last option. (Such talk can be dismissed as insincere, but I’m not inclined to be quite so cynical). There was lots of talk about motherhood, agonizing about how to be a good mother and pursue a loved career, lots of discussion about improving relationships with men (it’s frankly hilarious that Kim would say “probably” more feminists are heterosexual than lesbian), a lot of the kind of concern for the well-being of children and hope for peacable society that in another context (Julie Beck’s talk, say?) might be called “mothering”.

    I don’t mean to be or play dumb; I’m honestly puzzled by conservative rhetoric that talks about feminism as a monolithic movement with Andrea Dworkin as general–that talk just doesn’t match up to any real world feminism I’m acquainted with, even among people who I’m sure would be considered (or who consider themselves) “radical.”

    [And, just in case it’s not entirely clear, I’m speaking here of secular feminists, not the Mormon variety, with whom I’ve also spent some time–they deserve their own thread!]

  20. Kaimi on May 12, 2004 at 10:49 pm

    Kristine,

    I think we’ve all been waiting for you to chime in here. I agree with you — characterizing feminists as a bunch of angry Andrea Dworkins is about as accurate as characterizing Christians as a bunch of angry Bo Gritz’s.

    I also agree that Mormon feminism needs its own thread. I wonder if anyone would be willing to author such a thread . . .

  21. Julie in Austin on May 12, 2004 at 11:18 pm

    Kristine wrote, “since I’m possibly the only woman posting here who wouldn’t mind being called a feminist.”

    Hey! I’m not a potted plant! (That means we need to arm wrestle–or have a bake off?–over who gets to do the Mormon feminism thread.)

  22. Nate Oman on May 12, 2004 at 11:24 pm

    Kristine: I have heard Jim Faulconer on numerous occasions identify himself as a feminist in public addresses on BYU campus. I believe that Russell has self-described as a feminist on a number of occasions on his other blog.

    Of course I still think that you ought to write something about it, and I promise that I will still think of you as a lonely and isolated voice if that will make you feel better ;->

  23. Juliann on May 12, 2004 at 11:37 pm

    Kristine says: I have to say that the idea that “in most people’s mind feminism seems to stand for abortion on demand and lesbianism” seems just jaw-droppingly bizarre to me. I’m sure it’s partly that I missed the crest of the wave (I was born in 1969, wouldn’t have called myself ‘feminist’ until 1982 or so), but I just don’t recognize ANY of the feminists I’ve known in such a description.

    ———

    As I noted earlier, these kind of feminists are speaking to middle aged to grey haired audiences. And they do exist. I came of age with feminism and it was a major force in my worldview. They are also aware that the younger generation is not connecting with them. I heard the same thing from the Mormon feminists at a Sunstone West conference last month. It was very apparent to me what the disconnect was, however. They were (unintentionally, I’m sure) insulting to the non-activist believing Mormon woman. They were the noble good guys making the hard choices and paying high prices while the believing woman stayed “silent” because they just had this need to belong.

    I am concerned that you would think yourself the only feminist here. What, in your mind, makes you unique? From my limited exposure to women’s studies, I think that it has much to offer LDS women. I think that we need to define ourselves before someone else does.

  24. Restoring Lost Comments on November 25, 2004 at 10:16 pm

    [Restoring Comments Inadvertently Lost in the WP transfer] :

    Julie, et al.–it wasn’t that I am thinking of myself as a lone voice in the wilderness. I just couldn’t recall anybody claiming the label and didn’t want to apply it for you. I thought you might be in that large group of Mormon women who start sentences with “I’m not a feminist, but…”
    Juliann, I wasn’t at the Sunstone West symposium, but I know a lot of the women who spoke there, and I think one would have to be reading in a fair amount to put them in the angry radicals camp. (or maybe they collectively had a really bad day–I’ll have to get the tapes).
    The Mormon feminism post will have to wait for a rainy day–it’s finally really spring here and my kids want to be outside all day every day. But hey, it’s Boston, so it will rain soon (there’s a reason it was here that people got cranky enough to start a revolution!).
    Comment by: Kristine at May 13, 2004 08:41 AM

    *****

    Here are some quotes I have found. Most of these I found online, and they may be taken out of context or even wrong, but they do show WHY, in most people’s minds (thanks to the media’s love of extremes), feminism means a radical movement.
    Those who are actually involved in feminism likely have a different picture. But then, the same goes for Mormonism: those actually involved in it see it differently than those who only get their info on it from the media.
    These quotes likely represent only the most radical wing of the feminist movement, yet these quotes are the kind most likely to get airtime and influence the wider public’s perception of what Feminism is:
    “The most merciful thing a large family can do to one of its infant members is to kill it”
    – Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, in Women and the New Rage, p.67
    “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”
    – Interview with Simone de Beauvoir,
    “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma”
    Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p.18
    [W]omen, like men, should not have to bear children…. The destruction of the biological family, never envisioned by Freud, will allow the emergence of new women and men, different from any people who have previously existed.
    – Alison Jagger,
    Political Philosophies of Women’s Liberation:
    Feminism and Philosophy (Totowa, NJ: Littlefield, Adams & Co. 1977)
    “My feelings about men are the result of my experience. I have little sympathy for them. Like a Jew just released from Dachau, I watch the handsome young Nazi soldier fall writhing to the ground with a bullet in his stomach and I look briefly and walk on. I don’t even need to shrug. I simply don’t care. What he was, as a person, I mean, what his shames and yearnings were, simply don’t matter.”
    – Marilyn French, in The Women’s Room
    “Women’s Liberation … in the short run it’s going to cost men a lot of privilege… Sexism is NOT the fault of women — kill your fathers, not your mothers”.
    “All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.”
    – Catherine MacKinnon
    “[Rape] is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which ALL MEN KEEP ALL WOMEN IN A STATE OF FEAR” [emphasis added]
    – Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will; p. 6
    Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women’s bodies.”
    – Andrea Dworkin
    “[The nuclear family is ] a cornerstone of woman’s oppression: it enforces women’s dependence on men, it enforces heterosexuality and it imposes the prevailing masculine and feminine character structures on the next generation.”

    – Alison Jagger, Feminist Politics and Human Nature
    “The simple fact is that every woman must be willing to be identified as a lesbian to be fully feminist.”

    – National NOW Times, Jan.1988
    “Heterosexuality is a die-hard custom through which male-supremacist institutions insure their own perpetuity and control over us. Women are kept, maintained and contained through terror, violence, and the spray of semen…[Lesbianism is] an ideological, political and philosophical means of liberation of all women from heterosexual tyranny… ”
    – Cheryl Clarke, Lesbianism, An Act of Resistance,
    in This Bridge Called Me Back: Writing by Radical Women of Color,
    ed. Cherrie Moraga (Women of Color Press,1983), pp.128-137.

    Again – I am not saying these reflect feminism as a whole. But they do show what Ms. Sommers was complaining about in her book Who Stole Feminism?
    Comment by: Ivan Wolfe at May 13, 2004 09:57 AM

    *****

    Ivan, I’m well aware of the existence of those one-liners. What I’m saying is that I don’t think they’re relevant to feminism as a movement anymore, if, in fact, they ever were relevant. As you know, it’s pretty easy to find a smattering of quotes to prove that, for instance, Republicans (or Democrats, take your pick) are racists, Mormons are polygamists, homeschoolers are child abusers… Lots of people say wacky things, and if you string together the wackiest things adherents of any particular group have ever said, you are going to end up with a really strange picture of what that group is about. (I learned how to do it in high school debate club).
    Comment by: Kristine at May 13, 2004 11:26 AM

    *****

    Here’s some context for your quote from Margaret Sanger, which is the one I recognized as a favorite one for people to use out of context to mean exactly the opposite of what she said. I would be inclined to suspect that many of the other quotations in your list are similarly wrenched from a context in which they make more sense.
    “”The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
    This statement is taken out of context from Margaret Sanger’s Woman and the New Race (1920). Sanger was making an ironic comment — not a prescriptive one — about the horrifying rate of infant mortality among large families of early 20th-century urban America. The statement, as grim as the conditions that prompted Sanger to make it, accompanied this chart, illustrating the infant death rate in 1920:
    Deaths During First Year
    1st born children 23%
    2nd born children 20%
    3rd born children 21%
    4th born children 23%
    5th born children 26%
    6th born children 29% 7th born children 31%
    8th born children 33%
    9th born children 35%
    10th born children 41%
    11th born children 51%
    12th born children 60% ” (from Planned Parenthood’s website)
    Comment by: Kristine at May 13, 2004 11:30 AM

    *****

    I just wanted to take a moment to qualify the statements I made in my blog. Ivan’s post reminded me of this.
    The idea of fringe concepts affecting a mainstream idea is something to which I was specifically exposed in my History and Development of Theatre class this past semester. There are a number of theatre movements that emerged in the 20th century that were very unorthodox and often offensive, yet profoundly affected the way theatre is performed today.
    I agree with having fringe concepts introduced as a way to expand one’s concept of a mainstream idea (feminism, fashion, theatre, visual art, whatever), but I’m not so sure everyone need to attach to each of the fringe concepts.
    For example, no one buys the fashions that are displayed on Paris runways, but the same fashions do end up being introduced into contemporary fashion. Just at a smaller level.
    I think it is similar with feminism. While we may not agree that sexual intercourse, as one example, is absolutely oppressive and violent toward women, that concept could have a profound effect on how a husband approaches sexuality. Potentially, it could make men more sensitive and less dominating.
    Therefore, I may not agree with the fringe concepts themselves that are introduced by prominent feminist thinkers, but those concepts do affect how we view women and femininity.
    Comment by: Kim Siever at May 13, 2004 11:51 AM

    *****

    Kristine, I did not mean to imply that the Sunstone presenters were radicals. The process theology group I mentioned previously are the radicals. I mentioned Sunstone as a confirmation of the first group’s acknowledgement that the younger generation had opting out of activism. I also mentioned that a couple of them were unintentionally insulting by announcing that women had only three options in the church “speaking out, leaving or silence”. Speaking out and leaving were equated with the noble end of things and staying, i.e., silence was equated with bowing to an overriding need to “belong”. In other words, I see them reliving the glory days but offering nothing enticing to the LDS woman who “stays”. But even they were at a loss to define feminism. I asked and the answers given were “women who are self-defining” and “women who care about being equal and respected”.
    There are two quotes from Ivan’s list that vibrate when I see them. They were that familiar. These were so familiar that they even became bumper stickers, “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” There was a definable movement in those days and it *was* a movement. The process theology group speakers thought it was just awful that one symbol…burning our bra…became the symbol for the movement when she declared that never really happened. They may not have burned them but the symbolism was pervasive. To this day I can visualize the marches with women holding up bras. It also became a very stylish dress style. These things did happen and they are very meaningful to those of us who came of age in the 70s. There is, at least on my part, a great disappointment with those who had such a promising beginning and who completely dropped the ball.
    I do not see any movement today. It seems to be nothing but politics as usual done in a skirt. I think the death knell was that leaders who were still visible sat back in the Clinton scandals and let women twist in the wind to support a political position.
    In other words, you do have to cut through generations when you speak of feminism because one age group will hear one thing while another may hear something completely different.
    I am still unclear on what you think defines you as a feminist that would make you unique.
    Comment by: Juliann at May 13, 2004 12:04 PM

    *****

    Kristine,
    I am drawn like a fly to the flame by the sight of data drawn from a human population. The Planned Parenthood numbers look interesting, but problematic. I don’t know how large or waht kind of a sample they used, but the U.S. infant mortality rate at the turn of the century was only slightly above 10%. No number on the PP table is less than 20%. So the sample is clearly far from representative. And if it is a sample, how many 12th births do they have in the sample anyway? They report a 60% death rate, which could actually mean they only had 5 in the sample and three died!
    Obviously, Planned Parenthood’s data problems are not your fault, but I think we can treat them as little more than hearsay until there is more concrete evidence of their quality.
    Comment by: Frank McIntyre at May 13, 2004 01:04 PM

    *****

    Frank, those weren’t Planned Parenthood’s statistics; they were statistics published in the 1920 magazine article which contained Sanger’s quote which was taken out of context. I’m sure they’re entirely inaccurate, and were undoubtedly intended to make a polemical point.
    Juliann, I don’t think there’s anything about me as a feminist that makes me unique. I only said that because I hadn’t seen anybody else claim the label here on Times and Seasons. I may, however, be the only person here who has ever started a sacrament meeting talk with the bumper sticker phrase “a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” (I was 9 or 10–had been reading _Mormon Sisters_ and my dad, also the bishop, asked me to give a talk about a few of the women I admired in that book. Naturally, he regretted not having had me practice my talk at home!)
    Comment by: Kristine at May 13, 2004 01:44 PM

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    To clarify – I don’t think any of those one-liners are representative of feminism.
    But I do (msotly because I read and found persuasive Ms. Summers’ book) think they have everything to do with how feminism is percieved by the general populace.
    Comment by: Ivan Wolfe at May 13, 2004 01:48 PM

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    Oh, I re-read your post and see what you mean. So we can agree that the numbers are garbage, but we needn’t blame PP for it directly. That’s fine.

    As for who considers themself a feminist and who doesn’t, can this possibly have any meaning without associated definitions? And if each person considers themselves a feminist by their own definition but not by most other people’s, is that useful?
    If I declare myself a GRUBNOCK and ask if you are a GRUBNOCK, it would be reasonable to nail down what the heck a GRUBNOCK is. If we both agree that of course we are GRUBNOCKS, but you think GRUBNOCK means tree-hugger and I think it means a large mango, what have we established?
    I would wager that everyone on this thread (nay, the world!) can be construed both a feminist and not a feminist on the basis of publically available definitions of feminism.
    I would also wager that we are all GRUBNOCKS, and that we are, to be absolutely clear, FRUMSHOREAOUS GRUBNOCKS with delusions of BLEGTOGGERY.
    Comment by: Frank McIntyre at May 13, 2004 02:03 PM

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    I always get a weird feeling of disconnect when I hear a man call himself a feminist, e.g. Eugene England. I think my understanding of the word is just too deeply rooted in the conservative cultural environment I was raised in.
    Comment by: Kingsley at May 13, 2004 02:24 PM

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    Kristine: i’ve claimed, both here & at BCC, to be a feminist. :)
    where my definition of being a:
    GRUBNOCK
    is that i think & act like all individuals should be treated as such (classical liberal);
    that all individuals should have equal opportunity & be treated with the same respect;
    and as one who is willing:
    1. (because I don’t think it makes any difference) to write “her” papers all in the “her” rather than “him” default form;
    2. would be more than happy to be a stay at home father, or non-traditional whatever type of family, if that was what the Lord wanted (& spouse of course);
    3. would change “her” last name to “her’s”; or hyphenate & use both; and
    4. etc.
    All systemic change starts with the individual :)
    Comment by: lyle at May 13, 2004 02:41 PM

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    Kingsley: I understand why some men call themselves feminists, but I also find it a bit strange, since I view feminism not as a set of ideas about gender but moreso a kind of social practice or social movement characterized by particular concerns, i.e. concerns about women’s experiences, needs, and particular interests. Men may be open to a politics which includes feminism, and indeed be in favor of gender equality or other principles typically associated with feminist practice. But because men are not typically engaged in specifically woman-focused political and social activities, I hesitate to call them feminists. But this hangs on my understanding of the term, which may be disputed.
    I applaud many of the achievements of feminists and feminism, and I am a liberal (broadly speaking) and a Christian, both of which seem to be open to having differing kinds of special concern for women. But since I don’t find myself engaged in political and social practices specifically concerned with women, I don’t consider myself a feminist. Of course, there must be some men who are feminists under this definition. Obstetricians may be curious example, since they are concerned with with understanding and facilitating physiological processes which women and only women go through.
    Comment by: Jeremiah J. at May 13, 2004 02:46 PM

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    Sorry, lyle, didn’t mean to slight you.
    Comment by: Kristine at May 13, 2004 03:12 PM

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    Kingsley confesses: I always get a weird feeling of disconnect when I hear a man call himself a feminist, e.g. Eugene England.
    —-
    Given the turmoil brought up by the very term, it seems like a decidely risky though noble undertaking. At best, a self-declared *male* feminist is by definition going to have to assume second seat or do a lot of explaining. At worst, you get this: http://www.winternet.com/~mikelr/flame6.html
    Comment by: Juliann at May 13, 2004 08:06 PM