Do You Know What “Feminism” Means?

I don’t Think you do

Okay, so here’s the deal. I do listen to you guys when you are talking to each other outside of the class context. I may not announce that I’m listening, but I’m listening.

So, that being said, I want to comment on a conversation that I heard in class today as it pertains to philosophy as well as to sociology.

It has to do with Feminism.

Before class let out I overheard some male students discussing the virtues of feminism.

That’s not entirely true. At least not at first. The conversation started out with the statement, “feminism sucks!”

Okay. That caught my attention. There are some immediate questions that come to mind. In philosophical terms, however, the statement is a proposition, so perhaps we are in the beginning of what could be a fruitful discussion.

No such luck. The discussion immediately dropped onto a trope of “making sandwiches.” This is a play on a common meme in which a man disregards a feminist argument by demanding that the woman make him a sandwich.

Now had it ended there, I would see no need for comment. Obviously, this person is not engaged in an honest, philosophical conversation. They are engaged in what I call a lookame! conversation. They are saying outrageous things for the sake of gaining attention. This person got attention…most notably from a female teacher–Doh!

The conversation did not end there, however. The student went on to say something along these lines. “If I make you a sandwich, you should be able to make me a sandwich.”

Ah. Now that’s a different argument entirely. Now we are talking about an exchange.

So what this student is saying, if I’m interpreting this correctly (and I always interpret correctly) is that sandwich making (as an analogy for a relationship in general) should be one of equal reciprocity. I make a sandwich. You make a sandwich. We all benefit from sandwiches equally controlling for the possibility that one of the people in this sandwich making process is not significantly more adept at making sandwiches.

Here’s the thing.

That’s the feminist argument. It’s not about whether or not one person is or is not going to make the sandwiches. It’s about sandwich making as a mutually reciprocal relationship between individuals of equal power and worth.

In essence, this student offered a proposal, “feminism sucks” then used a feminist argument to make his point. That’s a logical fallacy that begs the question, “what do you mean by feminism?”

Here’s a quick test of feminism. Feminism is premised on the moral argument that men and women should have equal status in society and on the empirical argument that, in many ways, they do not. If you believe that women should have equal status with men, and you agree that, in the real world, women do not have equal status, then you are a feminist!

When making arguments or even discussing topics it’s is crucial that one should know the basics of the topic. The definitions of the terms you are using is central to the basics of any given topic. The beauty of a philosophy class is that it is the perfect place to learn and to reinforce these skills.

You never know who might be listening.

For more information

What feminism really is.

International Women’s Development Agency

What is Feminism and Why do so Many Men and Women Hate It

1 Comment

  1. Correct. Thank you. The term itself though has become so commonplace in our day and age that it means so many different things to different people. Ie. See Gail Dines, an antiporn feminist who dealt with young women in her class who thought that feminism was all about “screwing guys”. It doesn’t help too that Feminism has so many different subfactions and branches (equity feminism, sex positive feminism, radical feminism, etc.) Like so many terms that have become so prolific and overused, different associations play out in different people’s heads. Whenever you get into a discussion utilizing a loaded term like feminism, it’s probably best to clarify exactly what you mean…just like you do in this post.


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