“I would much rather call it … humanism!”
16. December 2011 4 Comments
There are people (oftentimes, they identify as male) who think feminism should change its name. Because in a way, they can relate to what feminists say, but the label sounds so … women-centric? And they feel kind of excluded or something. That is why they would like to have more of an umbrella term like “humanism” – after all, the “male side” of gender essentialism, i.e. topics like emasculation and the “act like a man” box hurt them, too.
Let me tell you, why this demand is wrong on so many levels.
We will start with: Feminism grew and changed over several decades. It started with middle-class white women standing up for their rights. But (unfortunately sometimes not as much as necessary) intersectionality was developed.
So if I speak about feminism, I am speaking about so much more: anti-racism, anti-ableism, anti-classism etc. etc. (see my “about” page for a more elaborate list). “My” feminism tries to pay attention to every way in which people can be marginalized. But my feminism is not feminism in general, which still focuses very much on cis, able-bodied, white middle-class women. That is why some people of color prefer “womanism” or writers like s.e. smith decide to rather be allies because they do not feel included.
They felt that they are marginalized even within the feminist movement and drew the consequences. They hold feminist opinions, too, and took them with them as they created a new movement or watch feminism from the outside. Those decisions are perfectly fine. And we should work on changing feminism so as to include all the marginalized people.
“But if marginalized groups get ‘their own feminist ways’, why shouldn’t men get their own brand?”, I hear you say.
Well, if you honestly had this question in mind, I am very glad I do not have to talk to you because the subsequent discussion would be quite unpleasant for both of us.
First: If you are not disabled or a person of color or homo- or bi- or a- or transsexual or poor or several of these things (and some more I certainly forgot) you are not marginalized at all.
You belong to the most privileged group in the world. How dare you ask people to give up their movements’ name and agenda in order to pamper your privileged ass? Yes, this is a privileged question right there.
“But what if you are marginalized in one or more ways while identifying as male – should you be able to get your own special brand of feminism if you wish?” Yes, you should. But that’s a whole ‘nother deal.
Second: What really gets my hackles up concerning the “let’s change the name” proposal is that men are not trying to build their own movement -oh no- they are asking to change the name of an existing one that was created as a reaction to their privileges to verbally include them, privileged people. The demand alone is unworthy of discussion.
Again: Once upon a time, women did not have the same rights as men and as a reaction they started a movement to demand those rights. Now, men want to claim one of the few places which does not allow them to hijack any discussion and -once again- they try to silence women by proclaiming the importance of their issues. Does this seem familiar? Like … everyday life? (Also replace “women” with other marginalized groups and “men” with the respective majority.)
And finally: Why exactly does feminism have to change its name in order to include male problems in a sexist society? Feminists are already talking about the problems that gender binaries* evoke (*Women have to be this way and men have to be that way to make them hate each other and no, there cannot be other genders.) Feminists are well aware of these problems.
So if feminists are already considering these issues, why change anything? Why of all things change the name?
That one is easy to answer: because men cannot be expected to identify with something that has got a female label on it. Our whole society is designed for men (read any male privilege list again, if you want to contradict) and women are expected to identify with the male perspective all the time; in movies, newspapers, books and even in certain languages, like German, that have male and female names for jobs etc. and women still have to identify with the “more general” male form.
Men, on the other hand, cannot be expected to relate to “female” things and that’s why we have to change the name of a movement for the marginalized to include people on the top of the food chain … What?
So: no. My movement will not change its name, as long it’s not a change for the oppressed but for the privileged. You can now politely fuck off.