Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Humanist? Feminist? Rambler.

A friend asked me recently if I considered myself a male feminist. That’s not a question I have really put any thought into. It seems to be a popular topic this last week. Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind, talked about being a feminist in his blog recently. I told my friend that I’d get back to her after I spent some time ruminating.

I tend to be blissfully ignorant as to how others define most labels. I have a very general idea of what constitutes a liberal, a better idea of what constitutes a conservative, barely understand the differences between Democrat and Republican beyond what I see of their actions and decide for myself. This is my general modus operandi. Think for myself. A part of that "ignorance" is a conscious decision. Labels are fluid things, words that shift meaning with time. A decade ago, Republican didn’t mean conservative Christian intolerant assholes deluded by their representatives into thinking it’s still a party for the people by labeling progressive movements scary things like, “socialist” which does not equal “communist” and so on. At least, my understanding of it was different. It’s only since Bush that I’ve concluded that they’ve come down with some sociological form of rabies.

I digress. Am I a feminist? I was raised by one, but that feminist is also Catholic and I am clearly not one of those. I am not certain of my feministry. I admire, appreciate, and prefer strong, independent intelligent women. I dislike patriarchal societies that treat women as baby factories. It was, in fact, my strongest source of distaste for Japanese culture. My manager quit her job as soon as she got married to become a housewife. My friend with dreams of cutting hair in Hawaii wouldn’t chase her dream because her family was putting so much pressure on her to marry. It is a cultural phenomenon, not simply two cases.

I don’t know if my dislike for that kind of treatment makes me a feminist. I am a humanist and no one should be pressured like that: man, woman, child, adult. As a society, we should all be encouraging each other to follow our dreams and make the most of our lives.

Feminism works toward equal treatment for men and women in the workplace, pay grades, socially, etc. I don’t particularly see any reason why a man should earn more than a woman, unless he performs better. That performance should be based on the numbers, however, not pre-conceived notions of what that performance might be.

Is equality enough? One of my favorite quotes is from Robert A. Heinlein’s Notebooks of Lazarus Long: “Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, ‘equality’ is a disaster.” I tend to see the world through Long-colored glasses. Women and children first. Even biologically, it makes sense to protect the young and child-bearer’s of a civilization; it only takes one man to recreate the race. I wouldn’t envy the poor fellow the effort, though.

I have my chauvinistic moments, when I roll my eyes and say to myself, “Women.” When this occurs, it is generally in the presence of other men. Which is somewhat subversive, because I tend to appreciate my gender on an individual level. “Men,” irritate me and I usually avoid their company. One might extend that to people in general, however. I enjoy individuals on an individual basis. There are a lot of reasons for stereotypes out there, however, and I have difficulty connecting with them.

Since in a good argument we must weigh both sides, I’m going to explore my male chauvinist side a little deeper. It has been my experience that women are more likely to listen to what they think I am saying without listening to what I am actually saying than men are. That isn’t a particularly good measurement, however, since I don’t make an effort to spend as much time around men. But I think my male friends are just more likely to not listen at all.

In the spirit of the exploration, a moment of vulnerability: I often find men intimidating, particularly when I don’t know them. I rarely find women intimidating. I do not fear women. I am uncertain how that applies to the discussion at hand.

I suppose I must ask myself if I think that men are better than women. I do not. I think we could argue that my problem is generally that I think I am better than many other people, of either gender. You may call it arrogance, if you so desire.

In my own self-diagnosis, I am not a male chauvinist. I separate myself from those I don’t respect equally. This allows us to revisit the topic at hand.

Am I a male feminist? I support the rights of women to have sex with whomever they choose, whenever they choose. I think she should be able to access birth control without difficulty, and have an abortion. If it is my child, I hope she will consider discussing the decision with me first, however. I would volunteer to be a single father. That has less to do with the abortion argument and more with personal life goals, however. Sorry, got distracted.

A woman should have all the rights and privileges as men. There are undeniable differences however and I don’t agree that they should be ignored. The major feminist example in my life still believes in gender roles. My mother cooked and cleaned most of my childhood (with help), but refuses to do anything with machines. Checking the oil and getting it changed is my dad’s job. I am uncertain, however, that if she were mechanically inclined and my dad a gourmand that things wouldn’t have been organized the other way. Impossible to tell.

I know that in my own experience, I would like to try being a “househusband,” if the opportunity is provided. Depending on the circumstances, I want to home school my future children, though were the future mother of my children a teacher and wished to do so herself, I certainly think the topic open for discussion. I would welcome the opportunity of house husbandry to provide time for writing, raising puppies and children and educating them to be the kind of people I wish their were more of in the world. Would I be satisfied in that role? I don’t know. But I would give it a shot. I am not a career-oriented person. As long as my future significant other knows how to balance work and play, I have no problem with her being the professional, bread earning one.

I don’t know that I have come any closer to an answer. I don’t really think I am a feminist, per se. I am just a humanist. Man, woman, everyone deserves equal opportunity and humane treatment. (Not all men were created equal, except in terms of human rights. It’s an unrealistic statement.) I keep coming back to the quote from the movie, 100 Girls, when at the end of his feminism course, the protagonist says, “There are just too many ‘-ists’ in the world. Feminists, chauvinists, capitalists, communists, racists, sexists… These are all groups that fight one another instead of trying to understand one another. I think the only “-ists” there should be are humanists.”

So, my dear Robin Goodfellow, you tell me. In your words, am I a male feminist?

And a thousand words, goodnight.


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