Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Of course I believe in gender equality, but I'm not one of "those feminists"

I like to take every opportunity I can to point out that feminism is not a scary thing, and feminists are not scary people (as a general rule.)

This post from a blog I read regularly (and you should too, if you are interested in skepticism, anti-racism, and anti-sexism) is a great collection of thoughts, both from the blog author and via the inclusion of a video from Anita Sarkeesian at Feminist Frequency called "The Straw Feminist." A play on the logical fallacy "strawman," the Straw Feminist is the stereotypical militant scary feminist that people always seem to think of whenever feminism is mentioned.

From the post:
As I’ve said before, my feminism (like my anti-racism) is simply one expression of my general skepticism. You could call it ‘gender skepticism’ if you wanted to. It’s a philosophical and methodological approach to evaluating claims made about differences between sexes and the social constructs built around them. Are women more nurturing? Are men more naturally assertive? Is gender a binary state? How does biology inform a gender role?
These are questions about which evidence can be gathered and appraised, and in the absence of which it is reasonable to assume the ‘null hypothesis’ (i.e., that women and men are equal). We can reject ‘tradition’ or ‘common sense’ or assurances that “it’s obvious” as persuasive arguments and demand something better. We can observe systematic forces and recognize their influence. We can find reasonable rubrics by which to measure inequality. And when anti-feminists (or simply those who think that the whole exercise is unimportant or ‘overemphasized’) trot out their creationist-like claims, we can reach into our bag of common refutations.
Can you spot the militant radicalism? No? Cool, because I can't either.

And, you know, I get it. A lot of people will be turned off from feminism, regardless of how level-headed or well-reasoned some of these arguments can be, simply because it pushes back on the status quo, and that makes people uncomfortable.