This week’s edition of Geek Word Wednesdays is different from the usual. After a lot of intense discussion, we’ve decided to collaborate and share what feminism and gender studies mean to us. And we all acknowledge that it’s impossible to have a “one-size-fits-all” definition for both.
This is what we came up with.
Featured image courtesy of Aeron Emm
Feminism is about promoting equality, regardless of gender. While also acknowledging that females throughout history and up to the present are ignored/marginalized just for being female.
It’s the idea that women are human beings that deserve to have agency and be treated with respect.
A lot of people say that feminists are just angry women who hate men. Well, I am a feminist, and I am angry, but not at men.
I’m angry that, globally, women still earn less than men. I’m angry that women are underrepresented in leadership roles; both in business and in government. I’m angry that women who are victims of sexual abuse are stigmatized and blamed for their attackers’ actions.
But what angers me the most is that many people won’t take my anger seriously. Because I am a woman.
“We cannot expect in the immediate future that all women who seek it will achieve full equality of opportunity. But if women are to start moving towards that goal, we must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us; we must match our aspirations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed.”
– Medical Physicist Rosalyn Yalow, awarded the Nobel prize in 1977
My brothers and I grew up in a traditional environment because it’s what our parents knew and understood. We also grew up non-traditional because our parents believed that we could do whatever we wanted to do.
So whenever I came across people – family, friends and strangers – who say things like: I can’t believe your brother loves ballet and knows all the terminologies! It’s a little weird! or I’m surprised that your brother knows more chick flicks than I do; those comments sound exactly the same as people going: But why do you like superheroes and geek stuff? That’s a guy thing! and Isn’t hockey such a rough sport? I can’t picture someone as tiny and as girly as you being interested in it.
You see, to siblings who never believed there were gender-specific labels to what we could like or do, comments like that made us feel like our thinking was so radical. When it really isn’t.
I’m not repeating anything that hasn’t said before, but the fact of the matter is: There continues to be a lot of resistance to the idea that girls can do a lot of things boys can. Just as there’s a lot of resistance to ideas of what boys should be.
That’s unfair for everyone involved.
Feminism has always been about equality for all genders and all orientations – whether you’re straight, identify as LGBTQ+, or are still figuring yourself out.
When there are “movements” that claim that feminist attitudes couldn’t possibly benefit people outside of the Angry Feminist – I get mad. I’m mad that some people actually believe that to be true.
What’s wrong about being outspoken? About not wanting to be boxed in by limitations justified by people through the use your biological sex, or your sexual orientation, or the color of your skin. Or even your place of birth and the life experiences that make you uniquely you?
Nothing. That’s what. I’d be angry. I AM. I’m a person. I just want to be able to breathe.
Quoting feminist writer and editor Marie Shear, Cheris Kramarae, a professor of Women’s Studies said: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”
I agree with her. I’d also like to tweak that statement given the way the world works now. Feminism is the radical notion that human beings – women, men, straight, gay – are human beings, period.
Feminism is the belief that people should not be forced into compartments based on what they have in between their legs.
It’s unfathomable – and rather absurd, really – that women are shamed for choosing their career over marriage and raising a family; but other women are similarly looked down on for choosing to be stay-at-home moms.
It also sucks that men are ridiculed for being stay-at-home dads or for daring to be emotional. Moreover, their masculinity is put into question when they defer to their wives (“under sa asawa”, as the Philippine expression goes).
Whatever happened to live and let live as long as no one gets hurt in the process? (People’s fragile sensibilities on traditional gender roles don’t fall under that category.)
Feminism is not about man-hating nor should it be used as a bubble to shield oneself from criticism.
Being a feminist entails being open to dialogue about subjects uncomfortable to either or both sexes, in the name of progress and unity. It’s about educating each other and growing from it – no matter how inconvenient some truths may be.
I’m a feminist and I’m proud to be one. If reading that makes you uncomfortable, isn’t it time to examine why?
Where do I even begin? Feminism is the Big F-Word for anyone with a Liberal Arts/Cultural Studies background, with an academic history that has the potential to be even MORE frustrating than the usual field of study. When you add in the fact that I’ve been trundling along in the geek scenes and living the internet child life since I was 10, feminism and feminist ideas get even more complicated than they already are.
It goes beyond girl power, female empowerment, and all those other nice buzzwords. It’s something that exists for everyone who doesn’t quite fit the usual “type” in their milieu.
At the end of it, though, my personal definition of feminism is believing in your own voice, whether you’re a girl or a boy, homosexual or straight, the “pure-blooded” member of a particular ethnic group or a mix. It also involves condoning equity over equality.
Total equality won’t help anyone, especially since we all come from different walks in life, and have different circumstances defining our unique positions. Equity isn’t out to level the playing field: it’s out to ensure that everyone gets what they need to be safe and happy.
A huge part of that is recognizing that everyone, no matter who they are, has rights.
Everyone has something to bring to the table. And shouldn’t simply be written off or disregarded because they didn’t win the genetic lottery. They certainly shouldn’t be ignored because they don’t fit the mold or adhere to what society expects them to be.
Feminism is what empowers all of us to fight for that. Speaking for feminism and declaring one’s self a feminist makes sure that we’re heard.
I personally have this simple definition for Feminism: The belief that gender doesn’t dictate what someone should be or should do.
“She can’t because she’s a woman” is a quote that has been used throughout history to discourage women from taking certain roles in society. It was used as an excuse against women for things such as land ownership, skilled labor, suffrage, corporate and national leadership – even merely partaking in Shakespearean theater!
It’s crazy to think that it took philosophical breakthroughs and social movements to state what should have been obvious from the beginning: There isn’t anything about those above examples that would make them exclusively for men. You mean a woman can play Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet”?! That’s so radical, (wo)man!
You could also make a similar case for men.
Why should men also be relegated to specific roles in society? Why is it a problem if it’s the man who chooses to stay home to take care of the kids? How is it an issue if a man is the assistant or the secretary of a female boss?
Too often we don’t consider the circumstances or the lifestyle choices of these men. Why are we making the choices for them? The Y chromosome doesn’t explicitly say that men should be breadwinners and that they aren’t allowed to take orders from females. So why do we keep pretending that it does?
It turns out that society has historically distinguished genders in purely artificial ways.
There are real differences between genders, but the reality is that these actual differences are purely physiological. There is an insane amount of overlap across genders, and being a feminist means realizing that there is no such thing as gender roles, just old assumptions that don’t hold up to closer scrutiny.
I believe that we can do so much better as a community if we can acknowledge the uniqueness and potential of every person we meet regardless of gender. I am a feminist because I want everyone to reach their potential without shame or fear. We all have something to offer, and it would be a shame to turn people down for very artificial reasons.
Feminism is something that I dislike talking about with people offline; if only because I get the strong urge to punch people’s heads off five seconds in the conversation. Actually, it’s not at all that different from talking about it with people online as well. Why is it so hard for people to wrap around their heads the idea that men and women are pretty much the same? The only difference is if we have a dick or a vagina between our legs. Come on, admit it- men have boobs too.
Alright, a little background: I was born to a Catholic family. My parents are Catholic, my grandparents are super religious. I went to an all-girls school run by nuns who drilled it into our heads that, we, as women, can do anything we wanted to.
Yes, we were all prim and proper, with our white blouses and long blue skirts. But the ladies who ran the school? They let us do whatever the hell we felt like doing.
We wanted to take up computer programming as extracurriculars? Sure, why not! A class of girls want to learn how to make a circuit board and use an iron solder? Go right ahead. Ladies want to learn how to sew quilts and make pound cake? Hells, yeah! Want to make out with another girl in front of the treasurer’s office? Go ahead, but you might get a short lecture about exploring sexuality at a tender age at the disciplinary office and from your guidance counselor because you’re only fifteen, and you can do that if you want but maybe wait three more years. (Or skip the lecture entirely because it’s after school and no one’s around anyway!)
So what’s the point of saying all that? Why are you telling us what you did in High School, no one cares!
Wrong. You should care, because that’s what feminism is.
Feminism is allowing girls – you know, humans with vaginas between their legs – to do whatever the hell it is they want without being told no. Feminism is not discriminating those with vaginas (natural-born vaginas, or vaginas from sex-change operations) who want to do something that is stereotypically male.
See, that is the problem right there: stereotypically male. Like, what the hell is that, even? It’s only stereotypical to be make if you have a dick between your legs.
Just because we’re girls doesn’t mean we can’t do what boys can. And no one, no one should tell us otherwise.
Hey, let’s talk about feminism, and to an extent, misogyny.
Let’s talk about feminism (and misogyny) from a non-academic perspective.
Did reading that make you sweat? Writing it certainly made me. When I was first approached to write something for this article, my first thought was “oh shit”. Among the many contributors on this site, I thought that I would probably the least qualified to talk about it.
My college trajectory is firmly in the realm of Info Tech. My environment is traditonal, both in terms of religion and family values (two things often impossible to disentangle). What the hell do I know about feminism?
A lot, as it turns out, by virtue of being a woman living in the twenty-first century.
I won’t write about color politics. Despite what the Filipino community would like to think, there is a deep-seated institutionalized racism present in our society; and it’s a whole other issue completely. I won’t write about feminism in relation to LGBTQ+ issues, too. Conflating one with the other is dangerous for everyone involved.
What I will write about is feminism and its inverse relationship with hate.
So let’s start. What is feminism? I’m not going to link any research or academic papers here. Not even a Wikipedia page, nope.
Feminism, as I’ve come to understand it, is a very simple but very difficult thing to grasp: It is treating women as equals to men.
Here’s a short exercise – read along with me on the following statements:
- Women are weaker than men because.
- Women are more emotional than men.
- Men are the stronger sex.
- Women should be at home taking care of the family.
- Men aren’t emotionally expressive.
- Women should comport themselves in a respectable manner.
- Men are the providers.
- Women are terrible at communicating.
- Men are successful when they are assertive.
- Women can’t be trusted to make level-headed decisions.
Did you notice anything?
Where the perspective for a man is uniformly encouraging, the perspective for women are either comparative (with their having the lesser weight or value), undermining, or straight up directive.
If you agreed with any of these statements – any single of one of them, let me congratulate you: You have internalized misogyny.
It’s impossible to talk about feminism without pointing out the existence of misogyny. Misogyny is when you put women down; and blame them for things out of their control – specifically, when you blame them for being born a woman.
Feminism is not the opposite of misogyny; it’s the correction of it.
If misogyny is blaming a woman for her own rape, feminism is hitting back with “it’s not her fault she was raped”. Misogyny is when a girl is taught to second-guess herself according to the demands and expectations of her male peers. Feminism is when a girl is taught to value her self-worth according to what she wants for herself.
Misogyny is telling a girl she’ll never find happiness if she doesn’t get married to a nice young man. Feminism is telling a girl to chase after her dreams without hurting herself or those around her. If her dream is to get married to a man who’ll love her like she’s the sun and stars, then that’s more than okay, too.
Misogyny is about restricting a woman’s freedom of choice. Feminism is setting her free.
Feminism is rough, let’s get that out of the way. If you’ve read this far and are finding yourself discounting this article as poorly researched (if at all), having an agenda, biased, probably written by a fat ugly girl with no love life, misandrist, and so on – again, congratulations. You have internalized misogyny.
If this article had been written by a man, you would be thinking one of two things: either the writer is a supporter of women’s rights and should be celebrated; or he’s a supporter of women’s rights and should be condemned for furthering an agenda. Regardless of the stance you take, the important part is this: both assumed perspectives completely remove the woman from the equation, in favor of the male writer.
Funny, right? Only it’s not. Women live every day with their accomplishments discounted at every turn. Quick, name me ten women leaders. Or ten women scientists. Or ten award-winning writers. Do it in under a minute!
Did you have a hard time? What if we tried it with men? Was it much easier?
Do you see what I’m getting at?
Because feminism isn’t about hating men.
Feminism is about interrogating one’s perspectives about whether or not women are given the short end of the stick on pretty much everything society has to offer. That alone is a challenge that will get you insulted, threatened, made fun of, and scorned. I don’t need the statistics for it; I’ve lived it.
I’ve had friends call me out in public spaces for “being annoying” and “having nothing else to live for”. Simply because I’ve brought up the fact that hey, you’re kind of being a sexist pig. I’ve been called names behind my back, and an untrue reputation made up for me; purely because I don’t wear dresses or make-up or smile when I’m asked.
This is mild. You want the full feminist experience, try being Gloria Steinem. Or Gillian Flynn. Or our favorite problematic “role model” Taylor Swift. How charitable have your thoughts been to them?
How charitable have your thoughts been about Sean Connery (wife beater). Or Bill Clinton (wife cheater), or OJ Simpson (alleged wife killer)? How many of you thought “innocent until proven guilty” about these men. But also condemned Monica Lewinsky or Rihanna or Amber Heard for “staging it” and “faking it” and “doing it for the attention”?
Feminism is not about burning your bra and letting your armpit hair grow out. Or shearing your hair off so you look like a man.
Feminism is realizing that there’s an imbalance in the way the world sees a woman, compared to a man. And that this imbalance is damaging.
Feminism will always relate to sex, as well. Feminism is specifically geared towards women, and the attitude of others towards women. It’s that uncomfortable feeling you get about sex when the rest of the world pressures you into its normalized ideals about it. It’s when you want to say no to your boyfriend for pressuring you into sex because you’re not ready. It’s when you insist on using condoms because you don’t want to get pregnant. It’s when you want to decide whether or not you want to have sex at all.
The short of it, really, is that feminism has nothing to do with hate. It’s got everything to do with self-respect.
It’s everything to do with not hitting glass ceilings because “you should be home with your children,” or “you should already be married,” or “you’re too pretty/ugly to be working a job like this”.
Guys don’t get these questions; why should girls get them? If your answer is some version of the bulleted lines I’ve already brought up, ask yourself why that’s your excuse.
Because it is an excuse. It’s an excuse that keeps women from earning more; from getting promoted, and establishing themselves in a career. It’s an excuse that places unfair responsibility on a woman to safeguard her body, while relieving a man of responsibility for his. It’s an excuse that normalizes domestic violence, because if you say “the problems of a married couple isn’t my business” when you see a man beating his wife, you’re already making her a statistic. You have become complicit in hating women for being women.
Don’t be a hater. Be a feminist. You don’t have to have a PhD in Liberal Arts to be one.
I identify as a feminist, that beautiful and problematic word that has history behind it. I identify mostly as female and therefore if I love and protect myself, I should do so because feminism particularly encompasses my right to experience and enjoy the things I do without any restrictions of gender. I also shouldn’t have to fear societal retribution or fear for my safety because of what gender I identify as.
People don’t like that word because it has been twisted and reviled. So there is some part of me that feels the need to reclaim it.
I always recount a story from my childhood on how I won a neighbourhood beauty pageant.
I got tricked into leaving my Game Boy at home and entering it on the premise of dressing up in a cool outfit and free food. So imagine my surprise as I have my face in a plate of pancit canton that I’m being corralled onto the stage to have a crown put on my head, lights focusing on me, flowers in my arms – the works. I had a breakdown on stage, crying and sobbing.
Most people thought it was because I won. But when I was asked to speak into the microphone, I tearfully declared that I shouldn’t have won because “I did nothing”.
It came crashing into me that a female could get around in this world by merely possessing the correct set of physical attributes that society deems desirable. I had the correct set of physical attributes at the time; so I was to be applauded and paraded around. It felt hypocritical. Especially after growing up most of my life believing that I did not have any physical features that society considered beautiful.
There were interviews and photos after the event. But I was told to talk about girlier topics like boys or make up; rather than computers or books or – god forbid – video games. The threat of being ostracized from your peer group hung over your head the entire time. The worst part about it was that it wasn’t people my age saying this – it was the adults!
Even back then, I knew that the censorship of girls’ personalities at an early age to fit some societal ideal bothered me.
Why couldn’t I talk about computers? Or how great I was at Tetris? Or how books were better than most people? Was it because boys didn’t want a girl who could talk like that? Why should I care whether boys found me girlfriend material?
I could never articulate clearly for the longest time why; which is why I studied philosophy both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in an attempt to do so. I think I am at a point at my life where I can begin to articulate a coherent answer, based on my life experiences (which include going to an all girls catholic school, being accused of lesbianism and sexual harassment) and the various theories that I’ve studied.
The basic tenet of feminism is the advocacy of the rights of women.
This can be interpreted in different ways. Which is why feminism is often described in waves with their own often personal concerns and issues ranging from moderate to extreme. However, we are in a position where some of the deeply held beliefs in society can be challenged and are being challenged. We are seeing the woman who is not bound her biology – she is not a mother, a daughter, a sister. She is an embodied self in the same way a man always has been throughout history and this is something I believe.
Feminism isn’t perfect. But neither is any other social justice movement out there.
I do however, lament that things like no platform policies exist. There is an argument for safety of all the participants involved. But policies like this often cause issues about censorship and freedom of speech to be directed at feminism in particular. Which is why I barely go on the internet to argue with people anymore. The extent that people will justify their own subjective social reality begets belief, and all sides are guilty of this.
To bring this to light, I will give a recent example which gets the internet in arms – censorship, particularly in video games.
When Nintendo localised a number of games – notably Bravely Second, Fire Emblem: Fates and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, there were instances where ages were changed and costumes being altered to be more palatable to western cultural norms (i.e. covered up) and a very vocal portion of the internet cried foul.
How dare social justice warriors dictate my video games now! How dare they remove bits from the story!
This is a kind of fallacy – a causal oversimplification where one simple cause is the reason for a certain outcome existing. It’s a myopic view of video game censorship that ignores the business model upon which video games operate in.
Localization is a risk and video games are a business. It is completely within the IP holder’s right to minimise that risk how they see fit and if that includes tailoring morally questionable content, then so be it. Not like it’s all well and good it happens – but when I see long commentaries simply blaming feminists for it, I sigh deeply because that is what feminism has become in geek circles in particular: A bogey(wo)man to be frightened of.
While there are some pretty questionable feminists, selfishly, all I want to do is all the cool things. And nobody should say no, you can’t do the cool things because you are a girl.
Let me play video games until I’m 60. I want to pass my comic books to my future progeny, either boys or girls. Let there be outcasts and feminists!
Did any of these definitions speak to you? Let us know what you think.
Geek Word Wednesdays is where we feature common terms relevant to geeks everywhere; and explore a more critical discussion on geek identity, culture, and discourse. If you have a word you’d like us to study, let us know!