Modern Feminism; A Question of Who?

In today’s society feminism is a phrase that is applied liberally without any deliberation. Many women feel detached from the phrase and some would admit their disillusionment with the movement. In this article, an extracted spoken dialogue between the writers is presented, where the exploration of the definition of feminism is undertaken. Through this, a deeper insight into contemporary feminism and what defines a feminist will hopefully be understood. Ultimately, this article hopes to present the reader with a further appreciation of feminism and its nuances. The dialogue begins with the dictionary definition of feminism;

belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

First things first, I see two parts to this definition, one of them is what feminism as a belief represents and the other is how this belief is expressed. So when we consider the first one, the women that we will be talking about later (to name a few: Margaret Thatcher, Marine Le Pen…) might be considered feminists to an extent, but when we talk about the second one, the organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests, I doubt they will be.

There is a problem in itself, while I was researching I realized that Margaret Thatcher by most feminists is regarded as someone who progressed feminist women’s rights but she never considered herself to be a feminist, so the question is can or should we? In my opinion, we can’t really call her a feminist but she definitely benefited the feminist movement.

So why does Margaret Thatcher say she’s not a feminist?

Because she thought what she did was a man’s job: she put on a deeper accent; she never had any other women in her cabinet because she thought they were too ditzy. Women are too emotional to be in governance is what she told the Queen whilst both of them were in power. That’s why she never considered herself a feminist but the great caveat about this is that she was a woman and she was emotionless and powerful, and so I think what she’s not taking into consideration is herself as a woman.

So can we claim that she’s endorsing a certain weak, emotional, and incapable stereotype of women?

She’s stereotyping but that’s why she never considered herself a feminist. In all other respects, she came from a lower-class background, so she had two fronts to battle whilst going into politics right? From a class background and also from a sex background and I think it made it easier for other men to get on board with her if she was talking about how silly women are. Making the men around her feel as if Thatcher is one of them made said men feel more comfortable with her being in power, but eventually, after five or ten years of being in power, I think it solidified in most of the British public that a woman can be in power and be competent. So that’s why I think she should be respected by the feminist movement but I don’t think she could be considered a feminist just on her own accounts. If she said that she was a feminist, it would be very easy to say she was a feminist but I’m not going to if she doesn’t consider herself to be so.

Thatcher was not even trying to hide that she was not a feminist nor she’s not claiming that one of her priorities, as a woman in great power, was working for the benefit of women, or the equality of sexes. Even more so, she’s also humiliating women with her words, she’s pulling herself out of the stereotype and trying to prove that she’s ‘different’ and the fact that she has risen to power doesn’t mean a thing because the rest of the women are not capable of doing what she is doing for whatever reason. Thatcher doesn’t think of herself as the precedent of what a woman can achieve but as a woman that thinks and behaves like a man, unlike others of her sex. So, she’s actually solidifying the fact that men can also do the same thing she’s doing, they can say the many humiliating things about women that Thatcher endorses. So even though she’s a powerful woman and many men respect her she also gives those men the grounds to disrespect other women. I think this brings us to the question of ‘whether masculine traits and feminine traits do exist?’. Can we actually say that there’s a clear distinction between what traits belong to a certain sex, and if we can, are masculine traits better than feminine traits?

Carl Jung said in one of his books, “every man carries within himself the eternal image of woman, not the image of this or that particular woman, but a definite feminine image. This image is fundamentally unconscious, a hereditary factor of primordial origin. (…) The same is true of the woman: she too has her inborn image of man”. You’ve got to be emotional and rational and obviously, as a society, we gave the emotional traits to women and the rational traits to men. We as a society have decided that that’s what it means to be feminine and that’s what it means to be masculine but I think every woman should be rational and every man should be emotional.

Now we’re going to take a social construct loophole. I don’t mean to say that we imposed being emotional, per se, on women and now through evolution, it rooted itself. Instead, were women really more emotional than men, for biological reasons or for reasons that the living conditions forbore, and in time we just started taking this perception for granted and now even though it cannot factually be generalized, we think that it’s one of the distinguishing traits of masculinity and femininity. 

There’s definitely something wrong with how we constructed this; these ideas about what women should be doing. One of the reasons why I said I’m reconsidering what being a feminist is, is because from some of the feminist perspectives we’re actually trying to make women become more masculine: we’re trying to make women similar to men. Women should have the same opportunities in every aspect: social; economic; and political, that’s not even a discussion. However, the genders do have their differences, and having the same rights doesn’t mean we have to do the exact same things. Also from another standpoint, some feminists began to think that having children and embracing the motherly instincts – embracing and accepting the role of a mother as a primary purpose in a woman’s life is perceived as a bad thing. But I’d argue that it is in fact one of the main privileges of women. 

I have a friend, who complains to me about how she knows people from a very small town in Scotland. That’s where she grew up and she complains to me that she’s got friends her age who have now settled down, got a family, and are currently pregnant. My friend says she could never do that to herself. In my head, I’m thinking, your friend, the one who stays at home, is being a feminist of some sort by choosing to be a housewife. That’s what she wants to do. I think the point of feminism, in my eyes, is the right to choose: the right for a woman to choose what she wants to do. I take the Lana Del Rey pill, in terms of this, where she’s arguing feminism should have a space for feminine women: it should have a space for women to be free in choosing their own path. That’s how I feel, in an extreme case, that’s how I feel about Marine Le Pen. In regards to racism, I don’t think racism is a good thing, I don’t necessarily think that feminists should embrace a racist – no not at all. But racism will always exist, and when Marine Le Pen isn’t there, a man will take her place: and we wouldn’t be questioning them on their feminist stance. Can they truly be a feminist if they’re racist? No, but because she’s a woman we have to question if she’s a feminist! 

Marine Le Pen is the daughter of a far-right antisemite. I wouldn’t necessarily call her an antisemite but she definitely is anti-muslim and in that regard she’s racist. When I look at Macron and Le Pen, there’s a shallow difference. There was an interview, where she was up against the interior minister for France; and the interior minister claims to Le Pen that she is too soft on ‘Islamism’ and her security policies are too weak to stop terrorism. Le Pen is standing there in disbelief, with a facial expression suggesting ‘I’m the one that’s the extremist! With extreme foreign policy”. She’s been told by Macron’s party that she’s not doing enough! There’s a recent thing, let me bring up the article: In Germany, there was a huge number of women going to the police with sexual assault allegations, specifically by refugees. The same thing has happened in Sweden as well where a number of women have come to the police reporting that refugees coming from Muslim countries had sexually assaulted them. Le Pen jumped on this and was claiming that she is a women’s activist; how can we allow these Islamic people in?; How can we let these refugees into our country?; we don’t know who they are?; And they’re raping or sexually assaulting our women! Le Pen has now discovered her inner feminist following the sexual assaults in Germany “invoking forbears such as Simone de Beauvoir and Elizabeth Badinter, there’s just one problem, feminists want nothing to do with Le Pen” all the French feminist organizations are saying that she can’t be considered a feminist because of the fact that she uses the rights of women for racist purposes. It is true that these women are being assaulted and Le Pen is jumping on this, saying ‘look correlation and causation’ and she herself thinks that is a form of feminism. In terms, she’s defending what she thinks is woman’s rights but it’s true that she’s also twisting this into xenophobia, into anti-migrant policy. It’s not necessarily the right answer but she is being a feminist of her own sort.

We don’t expect MLK or Mahatma Gandhi to be feminists? And if anything they were sexists. I’m sure Gandhi had a lot of sexual assault allegations against him, we can’t call him a feminist, but there’s no questioning him on being an anti-racist. I feel like it’s only women in feminism that we ask of them for so much.

Women are being held to a higher standard.

I feel like we’re falling prey to this trap. I feel like feminism’s falling prey to this trap of being like ‘Marine Le Pen can’t be considered a feminist because she’s racist’ but ‘MLK can be considered anti-racist’, even though he was a sexual predator.

This woman her name is Sojourner Truth she was an African-American woman’s rights activist and a former slave. She has a famous speech called ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ where she writes that ‘That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?’. You know, she raises a strong point with this. I think the problem with feminism and the problem with intersectionality is the two have become joint. Intersectionality is a problem and the reason intersectionality exists as a word is because feminism does not describe the problems black women have. It’s feminism and should be just women’s problems. Intersectionality is the problems of minorities in general; LGBT; ethnicity; and sex. That is what intersectionality is. Feminism is about women and I think that’s how it should be defined. 

Feminism is about women and because a woman is being racist we have to question her stance on feminism. Whilst if it was a man being racist we wouldn’t think twice. It’s because it’s a woman that we have to question, is she doing enough? And I’m not saying ‘it’s like oh wow, Hillary Clinton, she’s bombing Libya such a feminist icon right?’ but we all think she is a feminist. There’s no question about it, she is the ideal feminist of our generation. However, we don’t question her civil casualties in Libya as Secretary of State… so being a murderer is better than being a racist? Question time! Madeleine Albright, who recently passed away, was the Secretary of State under Bill Clinton during the Yugoslav War. She was the one that was very pro-support of bombing Serbia in order to bring peace to the region. Which it did eventually, however, she was very ruthless and she ended up bombing a lot of civilians and there were a lot of civilian casualties because of her. I would consider her, at least in my eyes, as a war criminal. She has a lot of respect because she was the first woman Secretary of State; she pioneered a lot of women’s rights and a lot of people admire her in the political sphere. Similarly to the way people admire Hillary Clinton but there’s a detachment from the natural casualties that they inflicted. I think actions matter more than words and in this regard, she was the one that dealt the blow to most of these lives. Albright once said ‘there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other’ when talking about supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and all I’d say is there’s a special place in hell for people who bomb hospitals, Albright.

So, first of all, where do we separate these things like feminism, racism, and war crimes. All of these positive and negative things. These are all part of one single human being, so how much do these define that person. Should we consider any woman in power a feminist icon? 

I think there’s a problem with giving Madeleine Albright feminist respect. She’s done a lot for feminism but I think it’s horrible to be like ‘wow she was a great feminist’ when she was murdering people.

The principle is that she’s benefiting the equality of the sexes, maybe not equality for everyone and the problem is the definition. It’s not the problem, we’re questioning what defines a feminist. I feel like as soon as we have an answer for that, and it’s an ever-changing answer because again back in the 1800s, feminism would’ve been only for white women of middle-class background. 

We came up to this before, doing good things but not intending to do good for a certain cause like Thatcher. Does it make you good? 

You could take a piss in a pot for like five years and it grows into a tree, did you intend for that to happen? Probably not. But it gives a beautiful thing that came from it. 

I think it’s a great big thing but should she be considered a feminist? No. Should she be respected by women? Yes. Should she be respected by the feminist movement? Yes. She should be, the opposite is true for Le Pen because she considers herself a feminist but I don’t think she should be respected as a feminist.

Yeah, in general terms we should be grateful for the outcome but we shouldn’t be applauding. We shouldn’t be praising the person that caused this because that was not their intention.

No, it’s a very awkward appraisal if we have to appraise. Because that was them, if it wasn’t for them it would’ve been a man probably. It is a rarity for a woman to be in power or in the public, especially in the political sphere. It’s also true if a man wasn’t doing it another man would be doing it. If we didn’t have Donald Trump it would’ve been another Republican white man. It’s rare that it would’ve been a Republican white woman. So, you think it’s not necessarily a great thing, yeah she’s being racist, or yeah Thatcher was kind of a classist and sexist to a degree. Both of them were building blocks to a greater outcome. Should a woman actually care about racism?

Everyone should.

It’s a moral standpoint, should everyone care about feminism? That’s another moral standpoint. We don’t question men on their feminist stance, we only question women. 

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be questioning men on their feminism. We should question everyone. 

So in light of all these, how do we come to a conclusion?

The conclusion is there is no conclusion! It’s ‘if there was an answer we wouldn’t be having this conversation’. The reason we’re having this conversation is the fact that this is a difficult thing to define. At the end of the day, it’s really about how you view feminism.

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