I have had quite a few discussions lately about common feminism topics, perhaps because of my recent post Whose Right to Live. Up until recently I hadn’t discussed feminism on twitter before. I have long considered myself a feminist. Going by the definition on Oxford Dictionary, I am indeed a feminist.

The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

It seems however that I have led quite a sheltered existence or at least less exposed to extremes, because there are some rather extreme feminists out there. I do recall one conversation with one feminist who believed men should not look at a woman without permission. This of course is rather extreme. In my book feel free to look all you want, just be respectful about it. To me equality is about respect, respect of women, men, gay, hetero, black, white, young or old and so on.

Feminism, anti-feminism, feminazi, MRA

Since my post about the Planned Parenthood Shooting I have found myself drawn into some conversations with anti-feminists. It was a term I admit I had also only heard of over the past few months. There is one particular anti-feminist who shall remained unnamed, not just for his privacy, but also my sanity. This particular chap, I have come across with before under my other twitter alias. I had never discussed feminism previously on that handle and we came across each other during an atheist discussion.  He was perfectly civil with me, we discussed our opinions openly and freely without any issues. We were able to respect each others opinions on feminism without necessarily agreeing with each other on them.

Then I encountered him under my @pinkheretic username during a discussion about Planned Parenthood. I don’t know how we even got into the discussion, but he made claims that feminists are man haters, and want to have more rights than men. Wait! What? So I spoke up and said, well I am a feminist and I don’t hate men, nor do I want more rights than them. The discussion devolved from there.

This guy appeared to me to be the exact opposite of the extreme feminists. He had previously and under my other alias, asked me to watch a video of his and comment on it. I did as promised but after watching his video I lost all interest in conversing with him further because it seemed clear to me his views were a little on the extreme side.

At one point in the video he talks about someone joking about Lorena Bobbitt and what she did to her husband and in a comment under the video he refers to the same woman who made a joke about lowering the male population by 10%. I made the mistake of commenting responding to that comment saying, “So what it was a joke!”. It seems he takes jokes on male violence in particular very seriously and I hit a sore spot. Oops!

The conversation devolved even further to the point it just got ridiculous and circular. Every time I thought it was over he would pop up again a few days later and start all over again. In the end I had to mute him for my own sanity. He started making claims that I rape children of all things. Apparently because I called him a misogynist based on his comments and videos it was ok for him to state on a public forum that I rape children. Calling someone a misogynist is NOT the same as claiming someone is a rapist, which is illegal, let alone raping children which is one of the most hateful crimes there is.

Let me get this one thing straight, I don’t call someone a misogynist lightly. His behaviour well and truly warranted it. He made a lot of assumptions about me that he would not make had I not declared myself a feminist before he could form an opinion on me. This was after having perfectly rational conversations previously on twitter under another alias. He didn’t give me the chance to show my true self as he pigeonholed me in his box of feminism and declared me a nutjob before even bothering to get to know what my opinions actually were. He continually claimed that I hated men, that feminists hate men, and that I am a hate monger. He claimed that I would never speak up for inequality against men because I was a feminist. He claimed speaking out against circumcision wasn’t good enough because I am atheist and atheist are against circumcision because they are against religion.

Well actually no. I don’t tie those issues together. No, I am not a fan of religion and I am certainly not a fan of circumcision but that is not why I am against circumcision. I am against circumcision because I believe it is the child’s body and should be the child’s choice. I believe that circumcision is unnecessary and barbaric. I am fully aware that many circumcised men feel happy about being circumcised, but in most cases they were circumcised at birth and are not in a position to say which way is better. If they were circumcised later for medical reasons, they are unlikely to say it was a bad thing to be circumcised because they did it for medical reasons. I believe intact men are not in a position to say which is better either. If it is medically necessary then absolutely go ahead but I don’t think it should ever be done routinely like it so often is. I have one friend who did it so that her sons would look like their father. I am sorry but that is not a reason for circumcision in my books. I could go on but I digress.

I am not going to prove anything by listing the times I have stood up for men, because 1. I don’t have a scorecard and 2. I stand up and speak against things that I believe are wrong, that includes the Planned Parenthood shooting, religion, men’s issues, women’s issues, children’s issues, domestic violence, the crimes of the Catholic church and I could go on and on. I don’t see equality as an only male or female issue. I see it as an equality issue. I don’t claim MRA’s (Men’s Rights Activists) are misogynists, because I know that would be wrong. I also don’t claim Feminists are man haters because while I accept there is in all probability men hating feminists, I know not all feminists are man haters. Why? Because I have up until now declared myself to be a feminist and I don’t hate men. I do in fact love men. Men are awesome, but you know what, so are women.

Blanket statements like Feminists are man haters are wrong, because when you deal in absolutes it just isn’t true. Claiming Feminists are man haters is like claiming Muslims are terrorists. By the simple fact of using a blanket statement encompassing all of a group, it usually makes the statement untrue. All Muslims are NOT terrorists, all Feminists are NOT man haters. All MRA’s are NOT misogynists. In all of those groups there are extremes, but that does not make blanket statements about the group at all true.

Prior to the ending of my discussions with the above anti-feminist I came across several more discussions with similar results. No matter how much I tried to get my point across it made no difference. All I got were arguments about why feminists are man haters or why feminism was wrong because women have never been oppressed. Because of those prior discussions I realised that the feminism label is no longer workable because of all the anti-feminists and extreme feminists out there. If the feminist label is perceived to be about man haters and wanting superior rights them it defeats the whole purpose of calling yourself a feminist. Particularly when you subscribe to the brand of feminism as defined by the oxford dictionary and not the extreme side. For that reason I posted this declaration on twitter in an effort to end the arguments and allow for more workable discussions.

Egalitarian vs feminist

The result was nothing like I expected. I expected mostly to be ignored. I expected more rants and more anger more blanket claims. Guess what, several of those anti-theists welcomed me to the dark side and most of the negative discussion ceased. Despite trying to claim the whole time that I was egalitarian and therefore that meant all feminists can’t be man haters or think all men are misogynists or whatever their claims were. With that declaration it stopped. I was floored.

I learnt a lesson the day I posted that statement. I learnt just how powerful labels are. I learnt that sometimes defending a label isn’t effective. Just as feminism has in many ways been a worthy cause many of those anti-feminists did have several valid points. Some I was aware of, some I wasn’t, some I think are extreme and unreasonable. I think we would do a whole lot better if sometimes we learned to discard those labels and what you perceive them to be, and try and meet each other in the middle.

I also learnt that sometimes no matter how hard you try to be civil, it can be hard not to use one of those labels yourself. I don’t use the word misogynist lightly. I call it like I see it, but I certainly don’t think it helped the conversation at all. I do need to at times smooth down the blunt. It doesn’t come easily to me, especially when someone else is getting unreasonable without provocation. I do lose my cool just like anyone else. Sometimes however, using labels just makes things worse and I think I made the right decision with the statement above. I consider myself egalitarian and I am against inequality of any kind. I may not always agree with you as to what inequality is, but I do believe all people no matter the race, sexual orientation, age or sex deserve to be treated equally.