Posted by: mzbitca | October 11, 2008

Feminist Dealbreaker

So I just happened to be thinking about the episode of Sex and the City where the question of the day is what constitutes a dealbreaker in a relationship. (Samantha: Guy who can’t stand up to family, Charlotte, bad kisser, Miranda: guy who shits with the door open after less than a month). It started getting me thinking on some of my own criteria for deal breaking behaviors not just in relationships but in life in other ways. For example: I can handle people that are pro-life, provided they do not harass others and ya know, bomb Planned Parenthood.  I can deal with people who love the requisite “Chick Flicks” but if that’s all they see and they are obsessed with “He’s Just Not That Into You” we’re probably not going to be hanging much.  I then started to think about my feminist deal breakers after noticing a trend on many feminist blogs over the last month or so.

It never seems to fail, someone at feministing, shakesville, feminste, hell anywhere, will post about something positive for women that someone did and there was also a comment contradicting their feminist cred.  Whether it be praising Joe Biden for VAWA and having it countered with his behavior with the Anita Hill sexual harassment. Giving Hillary Duff credit for her don’t say “Thats Gay” PSA with a response focusing on a quote where she has said she’s not a feminist cause she thinks women need men or criticizing the benefits of a picture of Angelinia Jolie breastfeeding because of the luxurious lifestyle she leads.  

I am not saying that any of these criticisms are unfounded, hell they’re extremely valid. I think what always upset me was seeing them on positive posts.  I know we still have a lot of work to do and that we shouldn’t be satisfied with mere crumbs of success. But I always feel deflated when I see some of those statements. Then I realized, just because I was able to  look past certain old behaviors or separate them enough to celebrate other behaviors, it doesn’t mean others have to or can.  Maybe these behaviors are just “dealbreakers” with other individuals. Behaviors that they can’t look past, as long as the individual is not taking responsibility for themselves, or even if they do.  

So I started to think about what some of my possible dealbreakers were for feminism in general.  Where there certain behaviors views that I can’t support, even if other aspects of the person’s behavior is feminist. The biggest one I think I can find is being Pro-Life and claiming feminism.  I have plenty of friends who are personally adverse to abortion but would never dream of denying that right to others.  Also, I have a hard time because the Pro-Life movement has so many other little agendas besides the outlawing of abortion such as their fight against Plan B, birth control in general, or even just the ability for a women to have the pregnancy she wants.  I am sure there are many people who are Pro-Life that wouldn’t support those things, but to me it’s not an excuse, you side with a movement, it’s your responsibility to know what it really stands for.

What are others feminist dealbreakers?

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Responses

  1. I totally agree.

    And to me that perspective, the legislatively pro-life perspective, is indicative of an overall attitude of “the only things that are important/feminist are things that apply to ME.”

    It’s this same attitude that dismisses the different experiences of women of color from white women’s. The same attitude that dismisses the experiences of queer women from straight women. The same attitude that dismisses poor women from women who have had enough to live on… And none of those are feminist.

  2. I’m definitely with you on the pro-life issue. You can be anti-abortion and feminist, but I don’t think you can really claim feminism if you’re pro-life (i.e. anti-choice).

    That said, I personally don’t feel like individualism is very feminist–although I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say it’s a deal-breaker, perhaps depending on the situation. Feminism is about equality for all women and to just fight for your own equality/position/progress but not actively support the rights of women in general isn’t very feminist. (For example, if someone where to cry “sexism” whenever she’s characterized in an unflattering light but then charge rape victims for their own rape kits. Um. Yeah.)

  3. I see the pro-life angle, although I don’t know exactly where I’d draw the deal-breaking line. But to me the biggest dealbreaker is people who honestly buy into the virgin/whore thing; who want both elements in the same girlfriend or who talk as if that should be expected. On a related note, it drives me crazy when people act as if there’s a difference between men having multiple partners and women having multiple partners.

  4. While I agree with your opinions on the pro-life stuff, I don’t think it’s fair to hold an individual responsible for everything their movement does. I’d hate to be held responsible for everything the Democrats do, for instance. Interesting topic, though, I came here from feministing.

  5. I will not date anyone anti-choice, against LBGT rights, or with completely different political views. I will date someone who supports the death penalty, but if we disagree on the big issues, it’s a no-go. He must identify as a feminist or be feminist-friendly. He cannot be racist, classist, or sexist at all.

    I can and do have friends with these characteristics, but not partners.

  6. I think it isn’t so cut-and-dried.

    I mean, I have known progressive people to live in places liek Idaho. If you can’t be friends with a conservative under any circumstaces, then you’re gonna be lonely.

    I have a lot of friends that don’t share my political views, because we’re friends for different reasons. For instance, I don’t agree completely with some people I hang with from a dojo where I train (there’s a small bit of right-winger self-selection sometimes). But I can’t just dismiss the many times they have done things for me that were above and beyond the call.

    I even married someone who doesn’t agree with me 100%. And disagrees with me on many things when it comes to the way one interacts with family. But we were raised in very different places, so I can’t judge her for it. (I once did and realized it was stupid and unfair).

    So I can’t say there are any deal-breakers, only case-by-case situations. I think also, on a more important level, if your goal is social change then you sure as shit won’t get it only hanging out — or even learning to love — people unlike yourself. if we only hang with people just like us, how are we supposed to change anything? And isn’t that kind of narrow-mindedness something we condemn right-wing people for?

    Ideological purity tome is a lost cause anyway. We’re all hypocrites sometimes, the question is whether it’s in an important situation. If you live in LA it’s probably not too easy to get around minus a car. And nobody is totally consistent politically either becuase we don’t live in self-referential bubbles.

  7. if your goal is social change then you sure as shit won’t get it only hanging out — or even learning to love — people like yourself.

    bloody typos. arrg.

  8. What gets to me is feminists fighting for equality, but only in ways that are in direct benefit.

    Examples – Should women be drafted during wars? Should mothers get automatic favor in child custody cases?

    If you want equality, you have to want equality in ways that may not be exactly what you want.

  9. I did a whole rant about this in my personal journal to my friends one really bad night…I hate that I can’t be considered feminist and pro-life, but I guess if it helps people to create an “other” persona in their political wars, you can consider me a non-complex entity who was totally brainwashed and wants all women to be controlled by the government. *rolls eyes* And I won’t say anything at the pro-life rallies when they claim feminists are man-hating baby-killers, and we can all just hate each other with a clear conscious, can’t we?

    Frankly, I think what whatsername said about the pro-life movement is just as valid to this post. Feminism is about what you want it to be, it seems. Only people who follow a pro-choice philosophy can truly be for women, yes? Um, but then how do I call myself pro-woman and pro-life? I must be deluded.

    Or it could just be that I think the pro-life movement ties into a pro-woman movement. Being pro-life has made me more conscious of the slut-shaming women have to deal with when they are pregnant and the sort of help that people need to provide as well as the mindsets that need to be changed. I understand many people in the pro-choice movement got to this point without being pro-life. But for me, I can look at this situation from this angle and make choices based on these this viewpoint. And hell, maybe I’ll pick up on something nobody else would have thought of.

    So don’t tell me I’m not a feminist. I’m sick of feminists complaining about how people make that a dirty word, and then telling people like me who want to genuinely call themselves feminists to stop it. I’ll use that word and support women using my own choices instead of your stereotypical political view.

  10. Debbie,
    Most Feminists you find are against war in general and are often fighting for those women who choose to enlist to get all the same rights and respects as men. As for the child care/custody issue, that it is the go to plea for any MRA and the fact is there are other sites you can go to debate that, As a feminist I do not believe anyone but the best parent should get custody of the children
    Konkonsn
    -No one told you you weren’t a women. Being a feminist and being a women is not mutually exclusive. However, Feminism was started as both a theory and a movement and reproductive rights are central to that movement. You cannot claim that you are a marxist and embrace the idea of free market capitalism. I am sorry you cannot define yourself as something if you don’t follow one of its core beliefs. As for political, all you have to do is go to a blog and realize that there are feminists of differing political beliefs, not many republican’s, but green, democrat, independent.

  11. The biggest deal breaker for me is when you say you’re a feminist and you actually don’t like women. (I’m not talking about the sexual..so don’t get confused). I’m a feminist but I think breasts are ugly. I’m a feminist but I think women shouldn’t menstruate. I’m a feminist but I don’t like female odors. I’m a feminist but I’d really like it if women were men. I’m a feminist but I’m against women only space, women only protective shelters, women only care, women only anything. But I’m a feminist. *exhales*

  12. steadycat,
    I’m a little confused/concerned by your wording. Are you implying that if you support transwomen and their inclusion in things like Michfest you are not a feminist? or are you refering to that types of women that say they are feminists and then in the next breath talk about how they’re only friends with guys cause women are all catty?
    If it’s the second I would have to agree with you but if it’s the first I would suggest you read “Whipping Girl”.

  13. @mxbitca – I did not mention transwomen at all. What would make you think that instead of my talking about feminists that don’t like women. For example, did you know little girls have a hard time receiving positive information about menstruation because the women who are supposed to teach them something positive about themselves will instead go back to what many of us have been taught. It’s horrible, its a curse, etc. My polite question to you…I’m puzzled. Why do you think that has anything to do with transwomen?

  14. Steadycat
    That’s why I asked to clarify, There is a history for some feminists to be very anti-trans women and often use the women only space as an example such as the womyn born womyn policy. It has made me ultra sensitive to what some commentors might say because I want this to be a safe place for trans-women that is all. Thanks for clarifying and I completely agree with you that it is frustrating how some women have completely internalized all the crap that was thrown at them and how it continues to affect the younger generation.

  15. It’s really very simply konkonsn and I laid it out in my post, too. Philosophically I think it’s more than possible to be pro-life and feminist. You are squicked out by abortion and could never have one yourself. Dandy. Lots and lots and lots of feminists feel that way.

    The deal breaker comes in when you want to legislate that for all of us. You are literally standing in the way of other women who are directly telling you “I NEED this procedure” and saying “No, you can’t have it.” That, is just not feminist. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings.

  16. I am so with you on the pro life thing. I cannot tell you how hearing them go on about abortion is murder and then abandoning the child after it is born turns my crank.
    Another big deal breaker for me is so-called feminists that display trans hate. This is mostly the radical feminists crowd who think that they have the right to define what constitutes ‘woman’. I also take huge issue with feminists that fail to acknowledge intersectionality. To say that women need to privilege one part of their identity over another is plain wrong.

  17. […] has an interesting post on “feminist dealbreakers” — exploring the question of how we discuss feminist statements and actions coming from […]

  18. I think that being racist is a deal-breaker. If you are a feminist, what you should be fighting for is equality for women. If you only want equality for one race of women, that is not equality that you are fighting for. That also directly relates to equality for men, because we’re not equal if some men are more privileged socially, economically and politically because of racial factors.

  19. And this awesome, discussion-generating post is also up at the 68th Carnival of Feminists. Thanks!

  20. The anti-choice thing is a dealbreaker for me as well. Sorry if that offends anyone. I’m just not going to consider you or respect you as a feminist if you want to legislate choice.

    Intersectionality is sort of a deal-breaker for me, but only partially, because of all the work I needed to do to get over my white and middle-class biases. If someone struggles with recognizing intersectionality but is willing to learn from their mistakes, I’m not going to write them off, because that would be a metaphorical slap in the face to all those feminists out there who were patient with me (and still are) as I learned and continue to learn. But if someone is unwilling to even try to understand intersectionality and overcome their own biases and privileges, I don’t think they can be true feminists. You don’t have to be perfect; you can make mistakes. But if you’re not going to even try to learn how to dismantle your own biases and recognize your own biases, I don’t have much time for you.

  21. I’ve been thinking a lot about that, too, since a while back when Tobes’ post on what would make a feminist club caught my eye.

    Pro-life is definitely a dealbreaker for me in terms of someone calling themselves a feminist. Sorry if anyone here considers themselves pro-life (as in believes abortions should be illegal for all) and a feminist.

    Not wanting to have an abortion or finding them uncomfortable, but allowing others to have that choice doesn’t make someone pro-life, because if you believe others should have a choice, even if you find that choice problematic, you’re really pro-life.

    It’s also probably because I haven’t met one ‘pro-life’ feminist so far who has been willing to explain their position, rather than flouncing in to get defensive. Not saying it isn’t possible, but so far my experiences with people claiming that label have not been positive AT ALL. So they occupy the same shelf as trolls in my mind: sometimes you classify someone wrongly, and they end up patient to have a discussion, but often, your initial conlcusions were right and they’re all about drama.

    I don’t believe in taking away or handing out labels for people, but you can either believe women should have the legal right to choose what is best for their bodies and lives, regardless of what you personally believe, or you don’t. If not, sorry, but what is so feminist about that? It reminds me of when Palin was being called a feminist by the media: on one hand, you don’t want to use bigoted tactics and assign labels. Certainly it’s not someting to be done lightly, otherwise you get a No True Scotsman thing going on…

    But, to me, being feminist is more than owning the label, it requires being functionally feminist. That doesn’t mean you need to protest every day or be really hardcore, it means letting your actions, however small they be, show your philosophy. If someone says they’re a feminist, for example, but then spends their time talking about how women are bitchy, how the sexes have different roles, how all women would feel better staying at home, they’re not functionally feminist yet. They may well contribute much more to feminism in the future, and I’m not going to take the label away, but at the same time, through their words, they’re not contributing to equality but reinforcing gender differences. They’re taking a label but not living up to the terms of it.

    Same thing with people who, whenever they disagree with someone else taking offense/seeing sexism etc where they don’t, and then bothering everyone else for being offended, how dare they criticise something this inconsequential, they don’t have a sense of humour, etc. To me, being a functional feminist means trying to NEVER use the words of the oppressor against others. So ‘it’s just a joke’ ‘you’re too serious’ ‘well I am not offended!’ are not feminist replies, because they are all used to minimise criticism of problematic elements when one doesn’t have a point and is being defensive of the status quo. If I find myself resorting to these kinds of phrases, it’s a good indicator that I have privilege and that I should listen and learn. Some of these people will eventually learn that shutting down criticism just because you can’t be bothered isn’t a great move, but they kinda annoy me whilst they’re at that stage. A lot. Because to me, being a feminist, ally, etc is LISTENING when someone else sees something you don’t, and not being all ‘laaa laaa I can’t hear you!’about it. It just overlaps so much with not caring to examine your privilege.

    People being anti-trans, racist, etc also bother me, because I can’t see how you can work for the good of one group, yet denigrate the other. I’ll never forget reading on some radical feminist blog about how transwomen have some sort of ‘trans privilege’, it was that surreal. You know, if someone’s being murdered at higher rates than non-members of that group, they’re not really that privileged. If the media treats them as a joke or a freak show, they’re not privileged!

    But at the same time, I’m willing to admit that people with views I disagree with in some areas can still do good work as a whole. They’re pretty big movements, and we don’t have to always agree. I do believe in the importance of critiquing each other as a movement, and our allies and sister-movements, too (yay intersectionality!), but to me that critique is on a different level to the critique and disdain I reserve for absolute douchebags who wouldn’t touch feminism with a stick.

    I’m willing to believe that we all haven’t worked out where we stand on a lot of issues, and that someone can improve and take heed of the comments of others and grow and realise their privileges. That is, of course, if they show any willingness to believe that they could have privilege in an area. It’s rather irritating when someone insists that something is NOT offensive in any way, because they don’t find it offensive, and instead of relalising their experience is not universal, they then spend the thread derailing and trying to telll everyone they shouldn’t be bothering to criticise, etc. I’m sure some people like that do learn about their privileges, so I’m willing to believe it’s possible to be more of a functional ally/feminist through time.

    Likewise people who can’t respect women’s choices, and make the differentiation between analyising a choice, and beating a real living person over the head with it for not living up to some standard. Choices are OK to critique, but people’s individual decisions for themselves are their own. Again, some will learn, but there are some more extreme cases out there.

    So for me it really depends on the degree to which someone is something that is make or break for me. I can handle people who make comments which are ignorant and subtly misogynistic, homophobic, etc, just like I can handle someone who thinks abortions are unsavoury, really serious, personally wrong etc. But to me, someone who insists that they should be illegal for all is someone like an outright misogynist, homophobe or racist of the worst kind, because if someone’s willing to demand other people make your choice, they still have a long way to go before they are functionally an ally in these fights.


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