My concept of feminism is quite simple.

For me, feminism is about Choices and a woman's right to make those choices about our lives, our bodies, etc. which are not restricted simply because we are women.

I'll try to illustrate this with some questions which I'll give my answers to, which are a reflection of my concept of feminism and perhaps others can respond with their answers and concepts.

(I've stolen this style from Nerd because I like it and it seems to work well in terms of opening up constructive discussions. Hope you don't mind Nerd).

1. Should women be allowed to be a Fireman?

There are height, weight and strength requirements to be a Fireman.

If she meets those requirements then Yes she should be able to make that choice and not be discriminated against.

2. Is it okay for a woman not to meet her full potential with a career and choose to stay home with the kiddies and be a housewife?

Yes, If this is what she wants to do.

3. Is it okay for a woman to objectify herself?

Yes, If this is what she wants to do.

Tags: concepts, feminism

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Replies to This Discussion

Thanks Nerd! Your answers don't surprise me and I see that we agree.
I agree with all of those statements, except the wording of point 2. I don't see it as not meeting her full potential if a woman wants to raise kids and stay at home. Let me re-word it to illustrate my point:

2. Is it okay for a woman not to meet her full potential with staying at home with kiddies and being a housewife and instead choose to have a career?

That way it seems messed up, right? I think it is a choice, pure and simple, and neither choice is more or less a meeting of full potential than the other.
I stand corrected on Point 2. You are right. And I accept your change.

Yes for me that's the main point. Free choices for women whether they are one's that I personally agree with or not.
1. There are height, weight and strength requirements to be a Fireman.
This can sometimes be back-door discrimination. There were strict height requirements in my state for the police force for many years until it was pointing out that short police could get the job done just as well as tall police could. When the requirements aren't necessary for the job, or set the benchmark unnecessarily high, then it's a form of discrimination. If a fire-fighter (not fireman, that's a gendered term) can carry an unconscious person out of a building, operate all of the equipment necessary and simply do their job well does it matter if they're 6'2 or 5'6?

2. Is it okay for a woman not to meet her full potential with a career and choose to stay home with the kiddies and be a housewife?
I've got no problem with people being stay at home full-time carers, male or female. In fact my partner utterly hates his job. He has no career ambitions whatsoever. So the plan is for me to be the breadwinner and for him to stay home with the kidlets. And if I see this as perfectly acceptable for men I see no problem with it for women. The problem I have is when society has an expectation that all women must fit this stereotype.

3. Is it okay for a woman to objectify herself?
I have mixed emotions about this. While I abhor slut-shaming as a way to control women, I think that feeding into a misogynist system by further objectifying women, even if that women is yourself, is harmful to all women. Therefore it's not okay because you're harming others. However, I don't think the answer is to slut-shame objectified women into compliance. Rather I think that education is the answer. There is a book that deals with this called Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy that I cannot recommend highly enough. It looks at how raunch culture is simply the commodification of one extreme male-view of sexuality, and far from liberating women it simply rewards them for perpetuating misogyny.
Hi EWQ

Just so that you have an idea where I'm coming from, I'm in my 50s and was a women's activist in the 70s when I was in my 20s.

The Concepts of Feminism were different amongst many of the women's groups at the time but in my opinion that wasn't really a bad thing in that we all brought different perspectives to the table and worked on resolving different problems.

The idea that there had to be a monolith was dispelled by virtue of the fact that there wasn't and it worked for us.

That said let me deal with your interesting comments. Some good points there.

Regarding point 1.

I understand what you're getting at and this used to be a huge problem in the 60s and 70s that the Women's Movement faced at the time. Requirements would sometimes be arbitrarily adjusted to exclude women.

I'm with you in that this sort of thing is discriminatory and has to be opposed.

So while I agree with your point, I would still say that, where the requirements are not set up to exclude women in particular, it's fair to set job standards such that people who can actually do the job are hired.

I couldn't be a Firefighter (thanks for correcting the slip) for example.

I'm 5'2" and wouldn't have a hope in hell of carrying an adult out of a burning building and I would hope that any Firefighter who rescued me could.

Point 2. I agree with you completely.

Point 3.

Slut-shaming is what I find the most annoying about this. So we're in agreement there.

I think that feeding into a misogynist system by further objectifying women, even if that women is yourself, is harmful to all women.

Okay there is where I disagree completely (and have had this discussion with feminists in the 70s too).

How does what a small percentage of women do affect all of us?

Now just to clarify, I'm not talking about mass media objectification of women which I agree is a problem.

I'm talking about the woman that decides she wants to be a model and have a look which could be described as sexually appealing.

I agree that makes her part of the machine but she is not the problem, the machine is the problem.

So, it seems to me that fighting the objectification of women in the mass media is good but making women feel that it's somehow wrong for them to be models is wrong.

I'm not sure if I'm making the differentiation clear here or not so I hope you'll ask if something isn't clear.
I think I'm understanding you. Let me know if I'm not!

My problem with self-objectification is that whether or not it's a minority of women (I think the percentage is higher than that, personally) it's the behaviour that we're all being told to emulate. When the media claims that flashing your tits at drunk college students is 'liberating' some young girl is going to pick up on that and think it's a way to gain approval. Supporting her 'personal' decision to flash her tits only perpetuates this damaging message.

'Models' is a fraught term. There are fashion models and playboy models. Each can be said to be damaging to women's self-image and the view of women in society, but in different ways. Is it 'okay' to be a model? Well, I have a long rant about the term 'okay' in another comment further along. I wouldn't want to shame a woman out of becoming a model, but I'm not going to pretend her choice helps the cause of feminism either. But hey, I'm wearing lipstick and heels at the moment. I'm not pretending they're advancing feminism but nor am I feeling too guilty about them! ;-)
Hi EWQ,

Supporting her 'personal' decision to flash her tits only perpetuates this damaging message.

Agreed. I wouldn't support her decision, or claim it's feminist, but I wouldn't condemn it either. If I knew her, I might talk to her about it suggest that it's probably not the smartest thing to do in that particular context.

On the other hand, there was a young atheist woman who produced a Youtube called "Boobs" (I think that's what it was called) who was basically making fun of the cultural obsession that exists in North America with female breasts and was responding to insulting comments that had been placed on her page.

It was hysterical and IMO not at all objectification. However, I believe someone else felt it was. And therein lies the problem.

I attended my daughters' high school graduation in 1998 and wore a dress that was an inch or so above my knee and was the target of all kinds of gossip about how I was dressing "inappropriately" for a "woman my age".

I didn't know there was a rule that women in their mid 40s weren't allowed to wear short dresses. And if there is I don't think I care. Haha.

I'm not pretending they're advancing feminism but nor am I feeling too guilty about them! ;-)

Me either and I agree that they're not advancing feminism at the same time I don't think that every women needs to advance feminism either. It's okay if they choose not to. I don't agree with them but it doesn't influence how I think of them.

I look at the Modeling issue this way.

The problem in the industry is the unrealistic way that women's bodies are presented and the insane size requirements placed on women.

How many women look like those models?
And if it's true that their clothes only good on models that thin then why are making clothes like that? Who's going to wear them?

I don't buy the justification because obviously lots of women wear their clothes, most don't look like those models and most look quite nice in them.

What has to change is:

1. The industry needs to present women realistically.
2. Women don't make themselves ill in the pursuit of their career.
3. Young women and girls who emulate these models don't make themselves ill trying to emulate them.

So, I'm all for women becoming models and using their influence from within to invoke change.

I don't see an issue of objectification here.

We all objectify ourselves to some extent but women can be objectified in a good way.

The same applies to sensuality. I think there's a lot of Christian influence in terms of how we see ourselves that way in North America.

The Europeans are far less uptight that way than we are.

I'm sorry it's taken a little time to get back to you but I wanted to give my responses some thought so I could give a clear response.

I think that you and I agree on the general principles of feminism and where we disagree is on our perception of the objectification issue.

Great discussion though!
I think that the problem is that we are talking about behaviours that are labelled in loaded ways. If someone wants to do a boobflash, that is not necessarily a problem or even objectifying - the problem is that there is a belief system out there that relates this to a view of women as items for consumption, and that labels such behaviour as a sign of agreement with it.

So I agree with Trance - it is the system that is wrong, but the behaviour, when seen in isolation, is not really objectionable.

But can we see the behaviour in isolation? You get stuck in a chicken-and-egg question - did the person chose to do so because of the system that is in place or despite of it? Are they expressing themselves freely, or simply seeking approval from a society where objectivied sexuality is an approved commodity? I think we cannot judge this with certainty. Also it seems unfair to ask women to watch their step in what they do here - it is kind of making them responsible for how men react to them.

There is a radically different sexual morality in place for men and for women - and THAT, I feel, is the real problem. We need to get to a level playing field where your sexuality, preceived or otherwise, does not somehow lower your standing in society, or changes how people perceive you as a moral person.

The outdated idea that your compliance with the sexual rules for women is somehow linked to your worth in society is what needs to go. It should have the same low impact is has for men.

I think that if we can banish these remnants of the morality of our neolithic goatherder ancestors, (the same people who brought you abrahamic religion!) we can really take the next step were equal rights for men and women are concerned.
I think we cannot judge this with certainty. Also it seems unfair to ask women to watch their step in what they do here - it is kind of making them responsible for how men react to them.

Exactly. And the reason doesn't matter anyway IMO. The context matters and in some contexts it would be negative and in others okay.

There is a radically different sexual morality in place for men and for women - and THAT, I feel, is the real problem. We need to get to a level playing field where your sexuality, preceived or otherwise, does not somehow lower your standing in society, or changes how people perceive you as a moral person.



This is a really important point and I think that this is actually the source of what some call "objectification".

For example, in Europe, a woman can expose her breasts and it's really not that big a deal.

In NA, there's an obsession with breasts to the point where a natural maternal process like breastfeeding your child in public is controversial and a big deal basically because of the generally repressed attitudes towards the female body.

When any woman exposes her breasts for any reason it's considered wrong and the reason that it's considered wrong is because it's so tied to the issue of sexual morality.

In Canada, a court case regarding this went right up to the Supreme Court and it's now legal for a woman to walk around in public with her breasts exposed.

Most of us don't do that but a good legal point was being made here.

The same problem occurs in the Media.

A female model can be shown mostly naked and there will be complaints of objectification and/or pornography (different sides of the same coin IMO).

No such complaints will be made if a male body is displayed that way.

I think that if we can banish these remnants of the morality of our neolithic goatherder ancestors, (the same people who brought you abrahamic religion!) we can really take the next step were equal rights for men and women are concerned.


Well put.
What is considered liberating and what is considered demeaning when it comes to sexual expression is totally subjective. Some would say it is demeaning for women to pose nude in a magazine, and some would say that the human body is nothing to be ashamed of. I can see how a person would want to enjoy their physical appearance while they have it, although the danger is that they will build their identity around it and therefore be devastated when it changes. I see things that I personally think are derogatory and I realize that making some laws against it would be more harmful. I don't have to like it, and I can say that I don't like it--and fight it with ideas. In the end, people have to decide for themselves.

Women's sexual expression is much more politicized than men's, so I also think about what the reaction would be to men doing the same behaviors. Usually they are not viewed as exploited or liberated, although guys flashing would be more viewed as "obnoxious" or "predatory". Why should women's sexual expression take on so much more political connotations than men's?
I can see how a person would want to enjoy their physical appearance while they have it, although the danger is that they will build their identity around it and therefore be devastated when it changes.

Very true. But I don't see that as problem associated with only women. The same thing can and does happen to men. It's just something we shouldn't do because it's a shallow existence and we're not fulfilling our potential, as well as the emotional damage we can do to ourselves as you indicated.

Why should women's sexual expression take on so much more political connotations than men's?

That's an important question.

And my answer is that it goes directly to historical Judaeo-Christian influences in North American society. The Judaeo-Christian attitudes towards women and women's sexuality are repressive.

The female body is considered "unclean" as are the natural processes that our bodies go through. The value of a woman is directly attributable to her ability to attract a male for marriage and produce children.

All of these attitudes block women.
It is the same attitude and I believe that it's rooted in the Judaeo-Christian belief that women, past a certain age shouldn't be sexually appealing because sex for a woman is for the sole purposes of reproduction.

Well, in today's world, many couples are getting divorced in my age group. A lot simply stayed married for "the sake of the kids".

We're all out there, single, and for many part of the adventure has been to open up and explore ourselves more fully and all aspects of ourselves including our sexuality.

Yet, it's these Judaeo-Christian repressive attitudes about women that sit in judgment of us while accepting that it's okay for men to do that.

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