This article is a response to Marissa who posted a comment on the page I Need Feminism Because… Wait. Do I really?
Please note that all my arguments apply to North America, current day. I know the languages, the culture and can understand the legal systems and laws. I do not speak on a global scale, nor across time. I am an egalitarian and practice my Men’s Rights Activism here and now, not there and then.
Is feminism not just a label and a vehicle for someone who supports women’s rights?
This short sentence is loaded with assumptions and is a wonderful Feminism/Egalitarian/Men’s Rights Advocacy 101 question.
Let us examine how the term “Feminism” is defined, what it claims, if it matches what you claim it to be, and whether preceding all correspond to evidence and is logically sound.
Note: Text in red is mine and is used to point to a later argument.
If we inspect the majority of definitions, both in dictionaries and more importantly in common usage we will find that generally speaking, feminism is acknowledged as being rights for women, or rights that make women equal to men:
Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.
: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
: organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests
 the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state:
1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
fem·i·nism (fĕm′ə-nĭz′əm) n.
1. Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
2. The movement organized around this belief.
feminism (ˈfɛmɪˌnɪzəm) n
1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a doctrine or movement that advocates equal rights for women
fem•i•nism (ˈfɛm əˌnɪz əm) n.
1. a doctrine advocating social, political, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.
2. a movement for the attainment of such rights.
3. feminine character.[1890–95; < French féminisme]
an attitude favoring the movement to eliminate political, social, and professional discrimination against women. — feminist,n., adj. — feministic,adj.
The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
The dictionaries generally agree that feminism consists of two generalized concepts: the first being “equality” in a general sense (which is laudable), the second being equality specifically “for women” with the presupposition of the existence of one or more unnamed rights in law that men supposedly enjoy and that women do not, are the standard against which equality is to be empirically measured.
Which definition is used, in my opinion can be assessed by observing the contextual behaviour of those who use the word. I am in agreement that men and women should both enjoy equivalent rights under law, as well as being subject to equivalent duties and obligations.
Where I take issue with such claims as “feminism is exclusively synonymous with non-sexism”, or “feminism is just a label and a vehicle for someone who supports women’s rights” is the equivocation between the two senses of the meaning, and the demonstrable behaviour that is attached to those who purport to use the gender-neutral version.
Should one want to appeal to the historical root of the word feminism, we must first look to the French language . The term feminism is the Anglicization of the word “féminisme”, which might be translated into English as “femininity”. “Son féminisme est évident”: Her feminine qualities are evident; her femininity is evident. It is reported to be imported into English sometime before 1837 by Charles Fourrier (Goldstein, L (1982). “Early Feminist Themes in French Utopian Socialism: The St.-Simonians and Fourier”, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol.43, No. 1.).
The terms “feminism” or “feminist” first appeared in France and the Netherlands in 1872 (as les féministes), Great Britain in the 1890s, and the United States in 1910. The Oxford English Dictionary lists 1894 for the first appearance of “feminist” and 1895 for “feminism”. The British Daily News introduced “feminist” to the English language in a report from France.[when?] Before this time, the term more commonly used was “Woman’s Rights”. One professor of government uses the term feminism to label women’s rights partisanship including that prior to the word feminism coming into vogue in 1913.
This argument disposes the fallacy of appealing to the term’s origin as having any authority over it’s singular meaning. Simply put: coining a term in one language that is a derivation of another used to convey a tangentially related sense does not limit its purchase, or adoption of current meanings; were this so, we would also be forced to deny the plasticity of language and human communication.
Feminists themselves do not seem to agree to one simple and clear definition. This one page offers a good example. A more formal source, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy claims:
Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. However, there are many different kinds of feminism. Feminists disagree about what sexism consists in, and what exactly ought to be done about it; they disagree about what it means to be a woman or a man and what social and political implications gender has or should have. Nonetheless, motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena.
It is a subtle error to ask “Is feminism not just a label and a vehicle for someone who supports women’s rights?” where the presupposition is that feminism is ” …a vehicle… ” when in fact we know that feminism is not a monolith with a homogeneous set of tenets.
In almost every case, feminism is neither consistently defined, described or practised as a genuinely egalitarian movement. The term, without a modifier is incorrect. A better, more accurate, consistent and absolute terms for the ideologies and people who activate for general gender equality across contexts might be “egalitarian”, or simply “non-sexist” or at the very least, Christina Hoff-Sommer’s term “Equity-Feminist”. The simple use of a precise modifier can be the weight that cements the goal-post from shifting.
Feminism as Women’s Rights
Let’s look at the part that speaks of “supporting women’s rights” in detail. First, we agree that a right itself is non-sexed. A right is, fundamentally, a social agreement that is encoded in a body of laws. Whether it is enforced or not is separate issue. In this case, we can safely say that what is intended might be “rights applied to the class of people who are females”.
To rephrase that one bit more accurately, one might say “to support rights in law that are applicable to women”. As an egalitarian, my first question is why support rights that are only applicable to women, or if the self-same rights are applicable to men as well, then why refer to them as “women’s” rights?
The second implication might be, to promote the adoption, acceptance and enforcement of rights under law that are applicable to women, that women do not yet have. Once again, I ask the same question, and follow up with another: what rights under law do men have, that women do not? Can you point to a black letter law, act or statute that clearly points to a right that men can enjoy that women cannot?
If the above yields no results and if Feminism is indeed what it claims to be about “equal rights” for men and women, then an inconsistency becomes evident: after 50 years of vigorous feminist activism that has led to women having each and every single right under law that men have, even the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of the United States, our legislatures, congress, senates, corporate CEOs and billionaires, let alone the common man are without a fundamental right that women have: reproductive rights.
As a tangent I may point at that this in violation of articles 1, 6 and 7 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which both Canada and the United States are signatories. I will further leave you to ponder article 25 from an egalitarian point of view.
Feminism as Women’s Wrongs
Those who claim to promote and activate for “gender equality” have failed to demonstrate any visible or effective activity on the matter, even with the feminist movement collectively bringing in untold sums of government and charitable funding demonstrates that “equality” is not in fact central to the thesis that “feminism is about equal rights”. Either the claim is spurious or actively duplicitous.
This same group of people have actively demonstrated a willingness and ability to promote, enact and enforce laws that specifically violate some of men’s most fundamental rights in law, such as the the benefit of being considered innocent until proven guilty in cases where men are accused of violence or sexual-assaults when women are involved, or to be treated equally under the law.
The third implication might be that the term “right” is in fact misused, it has become a colloquialism for “interest” or “advantage”. One has no rights in politics or culture, for example, rights are a matter of law. I believe that it is a commonly misused term and that what is intended is not “to promote rights”, but to promote “interests”. In short, advocacy for women as a class, which may or not imply advocacy for or against men’s interests, in the sense of vested interests.
Interest: something that brings advantages to or affects someone or something:
1. a strong personal interest in something because you could get an advantage from it:
2. vested interests [plural]
people or organizations who have a financial or personal interest in a business, company, or existing system.
Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
Yet to be mentioned are the multiple examples of individuals in positions of influence or power who actively speak out against and lobby, and activate for causes that are specifically contra men’s rights being enacted or enforced, who wilfully censor voices that oppose mainstream feminist ideology, who promote knowingly false materials in an effort to discredit or support the discrediting of men’s issues. Universities promote mainstream feminist ideology under the guise of studying women in a positive light, whereas the message that is conveyed is in fact a demonstrably false one: men as a class of oppressors and women as a class of victims. This not only dis-empowers women but promotes bigotry against men.
Bigotry is the state of mind of a bigot: someone who, as a result of their prejudices, treats or views other people with fear, distrust, hatred, contempt, or intolerance on the basis of a person’s opinion, ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, or other characteristics.
Wrapping it up
I believe that I have demonstrated that an accurate-to-reality definition of feminism is : “a collection of movements and ideologies that advocate for women’s interests”. This is the definition that I accept, and can measure.
I find that advocacy for any groups interests to be perfectly natural, acceptable and even in many instances, laudable.
Where I take issue with the use of the term “feminism” is that it has been demonstrated that the word itself does not singularly represent one universally agreed to position, that it is inconsistent and thus natural fodder for equivocation and political manipulation. As is currently used, the term feminism is a bait-and-switch tactic.
This is why I declare myself an anti-feminist and an egalitarian, and why I activate for men and women having equal benefits and duties under law, and for equivalent and fair treatment in politics and culture.
I welcome any counter-argument.