The Difference between REAL Feminists and the Devout Mormon Kind

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I've generated a fair amount of heat for myself because of my announced intention to stay the fuck away from Mormon feminists whose primary allegiance is to the Mormon part of that phrase rather than the feminist. I came to this decision after an experience I allude here, about finding a Mo-fem blog where a married non-feminist dude (he's a HUMANIST instead, but he tries to muster some interest in feminists, since he's married to one) came along and asked the age-old question, "But what about MEN?"

And wouldn't you know, most of the women started falling over themselves to say, "Oh, don't ever imagine that we'd forget about MEN! We're the NICE variety of feminists! We LOVE men! Oh, yes, men suffer! Men's problems are important! Men's problems are EXACTLY WHAT WE WANT TO DISCUSS HERE!"

And then I came along and left the following comment:

I'd like to ask: is this one of those feminist forums where a man will jump in every so often to remind the women that "men have problems, desires, concerns and issues too"?

I see it happen a lot, particularly in Mormon forums, where women are taught to defer to men, even on topics like feminism. I admit I am surprised to see it happen so quickly here, and surprised as well that no one has commented on the gender dynamics involved when, in a forum designed to promote women's voices on women's issues, a man calls attention to men's concerns, after which women rush to agree with him.

The further problem is that not only does Dude call attention to men's concerns, he also invites a comparison between women's struggles and men's struggles, ostensibly in an effort to show they are the same--and, it would seem, to remind women not to imagine that their problems and difficulties are more severe or more important than that of a man in the same situation.

Perhaps it is just me, but it seems to me it is the job of feminism to call attention to ploys like this, and it is the job of men who truly want to respect women's forums and women's voices to find other arenas in which to invite such comparisons and make such reminders. Women are told in so many ways that their concerns are not as important as men's; it seems remarkably insensitive and unkind to draw attention back to men so that women do not focus on their own difficulties, even in a forum like this.

And guess who became the naughty one in all of this? That's right: the feminist who questions male behavior and motivation. Which is why I said, "I'll have a big order of getting the hell out of here, to go."

WHEREAS if you go read I Blame the Patriarchy, when some dude drops in and does something similar, he's offered thorough (and far less diplomatic) critiques like this, from Ron Sullivan:

One thing an old broad like me has seen many many many times already is some huffulacious oh-so-sincere dude walking in to a group of women almost at random and telling them

a/ what they should be doing in their free time;
b/ how to do it right;
c/ how to be feminists;
d/ why he has their best interests at heart, really;
e/ why he’s qualified to give them orders;
f/ that they’re intolerant, which is self-evidently a Bad Thing;
g/ that they’re preaching to the choir (and the biggest surprise is that they’re preaching);
h/ that some of his best fucks are women;
i/ how to be better feminists;
j/ that they’re not serious enough;
k/ that his wife thinks he’s the greatest;
l/ what God thinks;
m/ why whatever he’s doing this month is more important then feminism;
n/ that feminism is boo-zhwah, and that’s self-evidently a Bad Thing;
o/ that they’re shrill — wow, I almost forgot shrill;
p/ that they can’t pee standing up;
q/ that they should be ashamed of themselves;
r/ that they just don’t welcome open and vigorous debate;
s/ that he needs a beer (this is followed by an expectant silence);
t/ that they’re taking everything he said wrong;
u/ that they’re unreasonable;
v/ that they’re ~touchy~;
w/ that they’ve never said anything about oppression of women in (choose sauce: Iraq, Afghanistan, China, sub-Saharan Africa, the southeastern USA, the ghet-to, Brazil, Antarctica)
x/ that they should apologize to him because his parents had him circumcised;
y/ that he Is Too A Feminist (which evidently means something);
z/ how they should transcend feminism and embrace humanism.

Pick any two menu items and get the third half-price; pick any three and get the fourth free. With five you get a can of wine. And if you’re the guy in question, you get a free hot cup of Shut the Fuck Up.

And Twisty herself examines the question Can a Liberal White Dude Be a Feminist? (she pretty much answers no, using this excellent analysis from Chris Clarke to support her reasoning), and concludes

But do MF dudes [male feminists] grasp this? No. Unaware that they are still flaunting precisely the white male privilege from which feminists aspire to be liberated, they insist on joining the rank and file so that they can explain feminism to the stupid women. They must infiltrate right down to the core (one example of which core would be, say, this blog, which expressly caters to a female audience of radical feminists). Once in, they start leaving the seat up and throwing their weight around, with the result that they either get laid (or its blogular equivalent, successfully hijacking the thread), or start whining and threatening that we’re nothing without them and accusing us accursed ungrateful humorless prudey hairy dykes of not kissing their asses with sexy enough lips.

Personally, I still think men can be feminists, since feminism is an ideology, not a biological state. I even think Mormons can be feminists. I just think, more and more, that since feminism requires a recognition that patriarchy is bad, and that (almost?) all male privilege and (almost?) all of Mormon doctrine and practice are rooted in and dedicated to the continuation of patriarchy, there will be these awful moments when a male feminist's allegiance to feminism will be in conflict with his allegiance to his own male privilege, or a Mormon feminist's allegiance to feminism will be in conflict with her allegiance to Mormonism. I hope that in those instances, the allegiance to feminism will win out, but I don't hold my breath.

In the meantime, it's nice to see feminists who take pride and pleasure in pointing out just how full of shit patriarchy really is.

5 Comments

As you've previously seen from me...there's not much that angers me more than men who seem to understand the issues of feminism, but who choose to participate in the most glaring forms of patriarchy and female domination, all the while wringing their hands in supposed anguish over their own plight.

Yuck. These men (and women), who choose to uphold and sustain patriarchy, and yet bemoan sexism in trendy academic or religious conferences often score lower on the integrity scale, for me, than those who are just plainly ignorant.

To understand the issues of feminism and yet to continue to participate in and perpetuate acts of patriarchy is the height of hypocrisy. And, this judgement is not unique to men; there are plenty of mormon women who deserve it as well.

Mormon feminists? As fictional as the Book of Mormon. The only known cure? Leave.

Mormonism is hard to pull away from, I think, because it is a total life plan. It's easier to stop being a Catholic or Protestant or observant Jew without having to upset your entire existence.

And yet, lots of people do it everyday.

Holly: thanks for the hat tip, and I'm glad to have been thus introduced to your blog. I'll be reading.

Hi Chris--thanks for dropping by. I'm likewise glad to have discovered your blog--always happy to find someone else who appreciates the southwest!

Tim--I agree with you that it's maddening to deal with people who sort of talk the talk but don't even begin to walk the walk.

Hattie--I agree with you that Mormonism is exceptionally hard to leave. One thing I've always admired/envied about Judaism is that you can be a cultural jew without buying into every last creed. In The Spiral Staircase, Karen Armstrong quotes a jewish scholar as saying, "Nobody can tell Jews what to believe. Within reason, you can believe what you like."

Whereas in Mormonism, you're expected to believe it all, part and parcel, which is what makes it hard to stay.... But the fact that the religion encompasses so much of your life is what makes it hard to go.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on April 30, 2006 4:45 PM.

Bad Habits was the previous entry in this blog.

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