I'm not actually sure whether I realised I was a feminist first or a liberal. Logic would say feminist, but it doesn't really matter. Why not?
Because both my feminism and my Liberalism spring from exactly the same point. Every single person I have ever met has been an individual. Everyone has a unique perspective and a unique set of experiences, and I love
that. I love that everyone I meet has something new to teach me, and I love learning from them. And therefore I loathe
all the nasty little systems of social norms that try to quash that individuality and force people to conform. To put people into neat little boxes and label them so they can be sorted and dealt with without ever having to ask them what they think.
The patriarchy is one such system. It labels women and men* and tells them that this is what you must do to be considered a real woman or a real man. It takes unique individuals and judges them, and in most cases, whatever your gender, it finds you wanting. I'm not a real woman because I wear trousers**. matgb
is not a real man because he's really good
at childcare and likes cooking. My transwoman friends are not real women because they were born with penises. My genderqueer friends are not real people because they don't express their gender according to society's norms.Fuck. That. Shit.
This is why I get annoyed when people say that feminists are anti-men, or imply that feminists want to do men down. No. Really, no. I'm a feminist because I want all
people of all
genders, and none, to be free to behave as they want***, free from the strictures of conforming to the rigid gender norms of society, just like I'm a Liberal because I want all
people to be free to behave as they want free from the strictures of all the other forms of oppression, both big and small, that are enforced on us to varying degrees every day.
But it's also why, as a feminist, I detest ideas that are designed to make politics easier "for women". Because they, too, treat women and men as homogenous groups and the average man/woman as representative, when in reality the Venn diagram of the genders looks more like this:
The pink group is men, and the small pink dot is the average man.
The blue group is women****, and the small blue dot is the average woman.
The grey group is people who eschew gender expression, and the grey dot is... you get the picture.
The point is that any one individual may be further from "normal" (i.e. average) for their gender or lack thereof then they are for "normal" for another gender. I'm a woman, I definitely am, but in terms of that diagram I'm somewhere over the far left and covered by all three colours. And any individual you meet is going to be floating somewhere in those clouds, but the likelihood is that they are not really much like the average person of their gender. So treating ALL women (or ALL men) as though what works for the average will work for them? It's self-evidently bloody stupid*****.
We are all individuals******. And the ONLY way to achieve true social justice, to smash the patriarchy, and to make sure everyone gets the opportunities they deserve no matter what their gender, age, race, no matter what their quirks or eccentricities, is to treat every person as an individual. That way all the intersecting privileges and oppressions that we are almost all of us subject to can be taken into account, and the way those things affect all of us as individuals can be taken into account, without anyone suffering for being on the "wrong" side of a percieved social norm.
* and you must be one or the other; genderqueer people? You don't exist
** OK, there are LOTS of other reasons I am not a real woman, but that was the first one that came to mind
*** within the confines of the harm principle, obviously. Because if you're harming others you're taking away their freedom of self-determination.
**** the women group os slightly larger because there are slightly more women than men, not just because my mouse hand slipped in paint or anything ;)
*****An example I came across recently was that some events in politics are better "for men" because "men have deeper voices" and thus we need to rebalance this to make it better "for women" who have "higher voices". Now if you only consider the averages, this almost certainly applies. The average man DOES have a deeper voice than the average woman. This is irrefutable fact. But an individual man can quite conceivably have a higher voice than an individual woman, and so the effect of such a rebalancing on those individuals would be to skew things in favour of the man, which is the exact opposite of the effect that the person proposing the rebalancing wanted.
****** don't think I can't hear you Monty Python fans at the back going "I'm not!" *severe face*