Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Say When

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Labels can be affirming and also say true things about who you are.

    Because this is true I'll spend a moment expanding on why I get frustrated with labels.

    The point at which it becomes an issue for me is when the label gets too big. Russell already said "but which feminism?". And that instantly says to me there is a problem. It's like US politics, 300 million people and 2 political positions (right wing and extreme right wing). That's not helpful to anyone. Instead of representing everyone you end up representing no-one.

    If feminist represents 20 or 50 or a 100 different flavours then it isn't a helpful label. I've said I don't consider myself a feminist but I've also made it clear that I hate treating women as lessor beings. By Megan's definition I am a feminist. So am I right or is Megan? And the answer is we are both right because the label can mean two different things depending on who is listening and who is speaking.

    We have this problem in science where words that have a very specific meaning in one field get appropriated by another field and misused, or worse get appropriated by the general public. On the one hand it's simply evolution of the language but on the other hand we end up having to make a new word to again mean the very specific thing we first described.

    Feminist used to mean something very specific and I would have been happy to be described as one back then, but I was like 8 and much more interested in space flight. But now it is a term with many diverse meanings, despite Megan's link. I'm no longer happy to be described as a feminist, it's too big a grouping.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Danielle,

    Yeah, I… kind of have a wee bit of a problem with being told that.

    It seems to me...

    that was the whole quote Danielle :P.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    that was the whole quote Danielle

    Yeah, but it's not as if you said in that post 'it's not a label that works FOR ME'. You said it seemed to you that it 'no longer functions'. In general. If you didn't mean that, then hooray.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    "Feminism" and "feminist" work for me.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to recordari,

    In some instances I think labeling them can equally restrict them.

    I agree, but then, like you have done, the label can then be expanded on. I sometimes get introduced to people as an artist, because I spent four years in an art school, but I am in-fact, a boiler maker that doesn’t build boilers. I specialize in opaque spheres, when ever posable. However, by arguing my way out of being labeled an artist consolidates my identifying as a maker of two diminutional objects out of steel. This in turn, ironically, only adds to the argument that maybe I am indeed an artist. So at some point I shall have to concede to being crap boiler maker.

    So, forgot what I was talking about… OH, yes, yes I agree that labeling people particularly when its gender loaded can be ambiguous. But I think that by testing there meanings—arguing there appropriate applications raises there value. IE: by labeling myself ‘a feminist’ I help to dispel ideas like that feminism is a struggle by women for equality, when we know its not just that.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2277 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to steven crawford,

    This in turn, ironically, only adds to the argument that maybe I am indeed an artist.

    By this same token I'm a picture framer. Haven't framed a picture, as a job, for 22 years. But I can still frame pictures. What's my point? I'm not a boiler maker. ;-)

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to recordari,

    What’s my point? I’m not a boiler maker. ;-)

    But you are a fabrication engineer, by your own admission. ;-)

    Since Nov 2006 • 2277 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I'm a human, a woman, a teacher, a wife, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a daughter, a friend. All of those things are labels which define what I do, who I am, my relationships to others. But the word which informs them all, is feminist. I am a thoughtful, conscious, supportive friend to other women because I'm a feminist. I'm a subversive, gender questioning teacher of little girls because I'm a feminist. I'm a fantastic, stroppy wife because I'm a feminist. To water it down, to deny it's importance to me, to try to make it anything other than what it is devalues my relationships, my work, my beliefs. I may not have the same ways of being a feminist as other women, I may beg to differ or argue about what constitutes empowerment for women, but I am no less a feminist, and neither are the women I count amongst my closest and dearest friends. None of whom, incidentally, call themselves feminists. They use other words, such as strong, stroppy, characterful and so on. And that's up to them. I don't love them any the less, neither does it injure my relationships with them. For them, that label doesn't necessarily ring true. TBH, we don't even talk about the word, feminism, but we do talk about ourselves, our work and struggles and triumphs as women. We support each other, and try to make life better for each other. That's feminism, whichever way you look at it. And it makes me very happy. My name is Jackie and I am a feminist.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I'm just saying, if someone posts a Meredith Brooks YouTube video at any point during this thread I'll know we are all beyond hope. ;)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Danielle,

    Ok so it's probably fair that you have a problem with me then. Because by saying "it seems to me" I don't mean feminist isn't a label that works FOR me but rather that I think (with the proviso that I can and will be wrong at times) that the label no longer works properly. To the extent that I'm reluctant to use it when describing another at all, and not happy to fit the label to myself.

    Deborah says it works for her, so theoretically I could describe her as a feminist, if I knew her beyond these posts. But would my description of her as a feminist be the same as hers? Would we be meaning the same thing? Would using the word to describe you mean the same thing as using the word to describe Deborah or Emma or Megan, regardless of who was using the word?

    That's why it seems to me to be broken. But I could be wrong ...

    to dispel ideas like that feminism is a struggle by women for equality, when we know its not just that

    And oddly this is the definition that I am most comfortable with :). Even though I know it is more than that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    See, my understanding of feminism, is that its a political movement. When your definition, is that its almost spiritual and almost the same thing as a sowing circle.Thats why its good the we all put it out there so that we know when where not on the same page.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2277 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Of course, feminism is a political movement, Steven. But I'm one of those people who believes that the political is personal, and vice versa.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I think (with the proviso that I can and will be wrong at times) that the label no longer works properly

    I don't want to be an asshole here Bart, but... isn't it a bit presumptuous to say that a group you're not a part of isn't defining itself appropriately?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3582 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I think that it's simply polite to refer to people using the labels which they assign to themselves. So once I was apprised of Emma's (former) preference not to use the label 'feminist', I tried not to use it in respect of her. Given that I happily use it to describe myself, then it would be at least polite of you to describe me as a feminist, even if you want to add 'self-proclaimed' to it. Though I think that 'self-proclaimed' soubriquet is more usefully applied to people who don't really seem to be feminists at all i.e. there is no external validity to their claim to be feminist (for example, I would be confused and disbelieving if Tony Veitch described himself as a feminist).

    Also, what Danielle said just above.

    My name is Deborah and I am a feminist.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Deborah,

    I think that it’s simply polite to refer to people using the labels which they assign to themselves. So once I was apprised of Emma’s (former) preference not to use the label ‘feminist’, I tried not to use it in respect of her.

    Can I just say this is what I was trying to convey earlier.

    It's my label, and I'll cry 'feminist' if I want to. Or not.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I think (with the proviso that I can and will be wrong at times) that the label no longer works properly

    I know it's not a direct analogy, but I always die a little inside every time I see "queer" used as a shorthand for 'all not heteronormative people' -- and I can respect but remain unconvinced by all the arguments that you can recontextualise a vile hate-term like that, any more than I accept referring to myself as a nigger takes the sting out of that hate-bomb. (Which is a whole other can of linguistic worms.)

    In the end, hey, if it works for you let's agree to disagree and move on. Goes back to a way that I can respect the person's right to make a choice while not always agreeing with, or even fully understanding, their reasons of doing it.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Danielle,

    presumptuous

    Moi????

    Yeah of course it is. Hence the doubt I have about it. But my problem still stands, when you say you're a feminist you mean something different from when Deborah says she is a feminist and when Jacqui says ...

    Now if you each take the time to tell me what you mean by that word and I take the time to listen then it's all good. And really I'm happy to take that time. But if all I had was your name and the word feminist then the image I have of you would be wrong. If I took just your definition then my image of Deborah would be wrong.

    If you are going to have a label and have it mean something to other people then it kind of needs to be consistent ... doesn't it? Or does it not matter a damn if my image is wrong when you use that label?

    You are of course right that you can use whatever word you want to describe yourself and I have no real problem with using that word to describe you if that's what you want me to do (providing I don't believe it to be offensive). But it still makes my head hurt because effectively I'm just using a word that I can't know the meaning of ... for you.

    BTW I'm trying really hard not to be offensive about any of this and if the discussion does offend in some way, I'm happy to stop. It would be easier to have the discussion with hand waving and wine.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm feeling eirôneia has entered this thread.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8011 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But my problem still stands, when you say you're a feminist you mean something different from when Deborah says she is a feminist and when Jacqui says

    I'm sorry - how is that a problem? They may all mean different things, but in applying the label to themselves they're indicating that they care more to claim the things that feminists have in common than to disclaim the things that set them apart.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    It would be easier to have the discussion with hand waving and wine.

    Or really, just the wine and whatever comes up with it.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to BenWilson,

    I'm feeling eirôneia has entered this thread.

    I think that word means something different to you than to me. I'm not trying to hide anything.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Feminism is a broad church, Bart. There’s room in it for lots of variations. A long long time ago, nearly four years ago in fact, I wrote a long comment here about feminisms: comment on feminisms. It covers quite a lot of the ground that we’re covering here today, though there are some things that I wrote back then that I wouldn’t write again today, because my thinking and approach has moved on a little (as it should).

    I think that part of the difficulty may be that you are looking for one meaning for feminism, ‘though I may be mistaken about that. If I am, I’m sorry for attributing views / concerns to you that are not your own.

    I don’t think that there is a single meaning of ’feminism’, other than the broad one of assuming that women are, and should be treated, as social, economic, legal and moral equals to men. In that regard, if you have time, then the link that Megan posted earlier today is really worth taking a look at: Yes you are.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to BenWilson,

    eirôneia

    I find if you say it slowly with punctuation, it sums up about where I am right now quite nicely.

    e, ir, ô! n, e... i, a?

    To the music of From Scratch.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    It would be easier to have the discussion with hand waving and wine.

    Well, Megan and I just got given free wine with lunch (and any assumptions about why that was arrived at without asking us would be Just Plain Wrong, possibly with a sprinkling of 'insulting') so... yeah.

    I've talked about labelling before, and while my label use has changed (and without sex-positive blogs and events never would have) my views on labelling have not: labels are good and bad. They simplify, but on the other hand, they also simplify. It's a mixed bag. For me I find the solution is to not get too hung up on them.

    That said, "baywatch feminist" is a label I'm going to assume is meant to be insulting, therefore I'm not happy to have it applied.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Emma Hart,

    That said, "baywatch feminist" is a label I'm going to assume is meant to be insulting, therefore I'm not happy to have it applied.

    There should totally be a "MacGyver feminist" label.

    [spelling of show edited after severe off line reprimand]

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

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