Feminist/Gender Discussion June 1996
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John M. Brower BroweJM@hqda.army.mil 19 June 1996
I would like to applaud Laura Del Col's word on Joan of Arc[ed. note: a question raised initially by Minerva list founder Linda Grant De Pauw...was Joan of Arc a feminist?] and esp. her recommendation to adopt a *class* outlook on the question of oppressed women. I should like to take exception, however, to her definition of a "feminist"--specifically that a prerequisite is to be a female. Is that the case? I've only one large dictionary available to me at the moment, a Random House College Dictionary, and under 'feminism' and 'feminist' I see no such requirement. The definition I see here is "the doctrine advocating social and political rights for women equal to those of men."--A man can never be a "feminist" then? Perhaps a triffle, but I'd like to solicit the wider range of definitional knowledge the list may possess...Best Comradely Regards.
>From Karen Offen email@example.com 20 June 1996
If one looks at the long term development of historical feminism, it is manifestly the case that men can be and have been feminists: among these one can include Francois Poullain de la Barre, Theodor Gottlieb von Hippel, the marquis de Concorcet, John Stuart Mill and many others. It is the arguments, not the sex of the arguer, that qualify a speaker as "feminist."
>From Ruby Rohrlich firstname.lastname@example.org 20 June 1996
Of course men can be feminists. My definition of "feminists" is one who recognizes the inferior status of women and struggles to change this status. In a women's studies class I taught recently the male in the class wrote a great article on male feminists. And I personally know men who identify as feminists, only one of whom is a phony.
>From Genevieve G McBride 21 June 1996
Re "feminist," the suffix is gender-neutral...and for good reason, I suspect, as many woman suffragists whose work I read were quite clear as to the use of the same suffix in referring to themselves...in this country. They did not like the European term "suffragette" because it was, literally, a diminutive--and because it was gender-specific, thus excluding the male woman suffragists, as they were called, among their supporters.
This was prior to but continued through the post-1910 era, when Alice Paul and Lucy Burns brought back with them from England the use of the term "
suffragette" as well as the strategies and tactics which came to be associated with the Congressional Union and then the National Woman's Party. I.e., the more inclusive suffix was widely preferred for its denotative meanings well before it came to have a connotative meaning in this country.
BTW, the women whose work I read also were quite clear as to use of the term "woman suffrage" rather than "women's suffrage," as they saw the latter as incorrectly suggesting that anyone "owned" enfranchisement. Note, as they did, the parallel with "black suffrage" rather than "black's suffrage."
I would note that the women whose work I read primarily were wordsmiths, i.e. editors, and other journalists. Would that the media--and we--were so precise in our use of language today...BTW, I also would note that if any of you have students who love to attend to such detail
(or even know the correct use of the apostrophe...and know a complete sentence when they see one), do let them know that--despite the downsizing and merger mania in media--copy editors continue to be in high demand, especially minorities. They're paid above the (dismal) average in print media, and "the desk,", not reporting, is the primary route to management. All they need is a minor or even a few appropriate courses in mass communication. Many of us in the newsrooms, including moi, were hired because we were history majors.