Monday, August 16, 2010

Women first, then the world

Nancy Folbre, New York Times:

The historian Dorothy Sue Cobble, going further back in time, explains how New Deal feminists lobbied for what they called “full Social Security,” including paid maternity leave, investment in child care and early education, tax exemptions and tax credits for dependents and the recognition of women’s unpaid caregiving as part of the calculation of Social Security benefits.

To think there was a time when "Social Security" might have meant what it says!

Feminism means independence for women in all relations. Whenever women's choices reflect honest preferences, not some third-tier compromise negotiated at the heels of men and employers, the world comes that much closer to saving its own skin, and aspiring to something worthwhile.

But you have to remember that you are a feminist first!


Anonymous said...

A relation by definition precludes independence. A relation establishes interdependence. Your formula doesn't work. And it asks people to stop being human and start being imaginary creatures.

Ethan said...

Anonymous, your first objection sounds like a potentially interesting difference in definitions, but I'm not sure I understand where the last one is coming from.

JR, this is a nice inversion of the more common stalling tactic that goes like "Yes, women's issues are important, but first we have to focus on ____, then once we have that we can work on women."

Jack Crow said...


That was me. I was on my kid's laptop, because my computer was running maintenance on itself. I thought I signed it "~Jack." I guess I didn't.

Sorry for that.

As for the last part - what I mean is that it reduces the person down to an adherent of an -ism. Whether that -ism is communist, fascist, feminist, anarchist, it just doesn't encompass the fullness of actual personality.

Or, sometimes, the weakness of it.

It's a formula for an ideal, not the real.



Rachel said...

As for the last part - what I mean is that it reduces the person down to an adherent of an -ism. Whether that -ism is communist, fascist, feminist, anarchist, it just doesn't encompass the fullness of actual personality.

It's shorthand for saying you agree with an idea. We don't need to "encompass the fullness of actual personality" all the bleedin' time. There can be some problems when we're not all working from the same definition of a given "ism", but that's a really weak tea criticism of an excellent post, and sounds like a philosophy undergrad.

Jack Crow said...

Focusing on any one facet of the human experience and elevating it into an -ism won't remake the world, or make the world more just.

Certainly, women have had a rough go in a number of human societies, for a very long time.

But, creating myths to believe about them and calling it feminism won't alter the fundamental problems of power.

It will change access - for some women - to that power, and not much more.

C├╝neyt said...

Wouldn't be the first time. What about the Pankhursts (was it?) splitting between nationalist feminists and internationalists skeptical about WWI? Or about women suffragists backing away from anything involving black liberation in the US? Or trade unionists committing pogroms and banning non-white members?

What is the old saw? Divide et impera?

Hattie said...

shoot. Us wimminz just never have got serious about this here equality stuff. maybe the menz will be willin' give us some goodies if'n we act like good little girls.

JM said...

I agree with JRB here. Sorry Jack.

Asp said...


Being a woman is not merely one aspect of human experience, and referring to it as such erases a lot of women's history and daily experience. You do this again in the very next sentence by referring to women's history as "a rough go," over which "myths" are now created. This, in itself, is nothing to get particularly worked up about, or we'd have to get worked up over a lot of the Internet. Erasing women's experience and claiming that feminism is fabricating history are not such bold or original statements, but commonly used tactics in perpetuating oppression. It is galling, though, when it's used by people who have claimed to be sympathetic to feminist ideas and who are supposedly fighting against oppression themselves.

almostinfamous said...

i think the approach should be more 'yes, and' (a la JRB) and less 'yes, but'* (a la Jack C)

* thanks to ethan for clarifying this.

Sitakali said...

Glad to see another male feminist. Feminism truly complements anti-capitalism and equality. Don't leave home without it.

I understand some people's aversion to labels. However...labels are like words. They don't necessarily communicate every possible facet of an idea, but they get to the point and are succinct.

I suppose that I could say to people, "I believe that government and hierarchy in general are unnecessary and disruptive to the human community; that capitalism goes against our social nature; that all human beings should have free access to the bare necessities; that we should have local barter systems, workers' cooperatives, subsistence-level agriculture..." but I choose to instead call myself an "anarchist."

JRB said...

Good to know you, Sitakali. I look forward to learning more of what you're up to.