On Feminism, and Other Things

As an English M.A., I have the pleasure of taking a class called Literary Theory. Realistically, it shouldn’t be called Literary Theory; it should be called just Theory, or Critical Theory, or Hey, This Guy Thought He Had Something to Say, so Let’s Read About It!

In all seriousness, it’s a really great class, and I think everyone should take some form of theory class. Now, everyone does take some level of theory (Themes in Western Thought), but that class is broader and doesn’t cover the theories discussed as deeply as we do. Nor is it a particularly small class, so students don’t get an opportunity to sit in a circle and talk out the theories amongst each other. And really, that’s the best there is. But I digress.

We’ve covered a variety of interesting theories. We just started feminism. Now, up to this point, I’ve considered myself to be anti-feminist. But that’s more because I didn’t understand what feminism was than because I actually opposed the feminist movement. I have always thought that feminism was some sort of bizarre women’s supremacist movement that wanted to invert the patriarchal nature of our society and make women dominant across the world. Apparently, feminism means that you believe that men and women should be equal. To be fair, I don’t think my misunderstanding of feminism has been entirely unfounded. Some feminists hardly sound like they want equality. Furthermore, the name itself doesn’t really sound very egalitarian. I mean, if you’re a Marxist, then you believe that Marxism should be the dominant paradigm. If you’re a formalist, you believe that literature should be interpreted according to an analysis of its form as opposed to other modes of literary criticism. If you’re a feminist, shouldn’t it also mean that the feminine or the female should be dominant?

It’s a hasty generalization, I know. But how many are going to go and look something up when they think they have a solid understanding of the concept? Would you? I didn’t actually look up a definition of feminism until it became quite evident that I had no clear idea what feminism was.

Food for thought: how many assumptions are you making based on concepts that you think you understand?

Considering all of the assumptions I make, that’s a scary thought.

Am I a feminist? I don’t think so. I’m a not-quite-feminist. I mean, I’m all for equality, and all, but I also don’t think that men and women actually are equal in all things. Sure, I know that, almost universally, a woman can do any job that a man can do, and vice versa. But I also know that there are some things that men will be inherently better at and more interested in than women, and vice versa. Is that stereotyping? Is it sexist? Maybe. But it’s still true. And that’s ok. I think men, in general, make better fire fighters than women. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I think that that’s a man’s job. I also think that women tend to be better with children*. That doesn’t make it a woman’s job.

*Digression: I feel like I should explain the whole women are better with children point before I get yelled at. Yes, women tend to be better with children, but that is, admittedly, somewhat of a result of society rather than physical ability (as with firemen). The stigma is that women are better with children and, therefore, young girls looking for jobs will often babysit. Boys won’t; they’ll mow lawns. So girls get more experience with children and boy’s won’t. As adults, women will choose a vocation which they have experience in or interest in and go with childcare. Men, having little to no experience with children, won’t. My comment above is based on the current societal norm. Perhaps I should change the above example to nurses? But I know a few male nurses and don’t want to get in trouble… End digression*

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