I approach this topic from the point of view of someone whose primary goal is unity about fairmindedness. My own feminism started when I was a teenager. It was popular then. We all did it. For me it was always about fairness. At the core of most of what I consider important is the concept of fairness.
The boys, and later the men, weren’t so much with us.I remember having a discussion with a man in an English Lit class. He was an older student. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I know it was about women not having the same (something) as men. My response to him was, ‘I know you don’t mean that. You’re too smart to actually think that.’ He went quiet. I thought I was very clever, but I realize now that wasn’t the whole battle. Or perhaps ‘battle’ is exactly the wrong word.
Time passed and things got a bit better. We went through the time when women a few years younger than I was seemed to think it was no longer hip to be a feminist. Like maybe we’d achieved what we were trying to so we could shut up about it.
I remember having a huge argument with two male friends about whether women should change their names when they got married. I proclaimed that I never would. What should happen, but a few years later, one of them married a woman who didn’t change her last name. He laughed when I reminded him of the conversation. And then after I graduated from college, the next generation of women started to love the idea of changing their names to their husbands’. It was romantic. I was shocked. Wasn’t this a sign that all our progress had been lost?
This is the way history develops. This is the way opinions develop. We go back and forth. The tide of public opinion shifts like a pendulum until we find a place somewhere in the middle. Hegel would suggest that both the opinion and its opposite are synthesized into the ultimate conclusion, that it’s through a dialectical process of logically examining and reacting to both that we come to a final conclusion that’s greater than the sum of the two.
According to Wikipedia, “Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.” (You can read the entire article at the link.)
The internet is changing the way we’re having this discussion. It’s being had by more people now. Not just students and activists, but anyone with an opinion. It’s being had outside the context of education and active, educated involvement. In other words, people who know quite a bit about it and people who know very little about it. It’s anti-intellectualism at its finest.
What the internet is doing to discussions of feminism is the same thing it does to a lot of other discussions. It polarizes. It sets faceless, unaccountable people against thoughtful ones on a grand scale. It creates an instant mob mentality. This is not the way to have such a serious discussion, but have it here we will because it’s what we’re becoming — the people of the screens.
I’m going to talk a little about this for a few days. I’ll divide it into sections to prevent tldr.
N.B.: These are just my own, evolving thoughts on this subject. I claim no superiority on the topic. I’m interested in approaching it thoughtfully, because what I see happening in the internet trenches worries me.