The Dartmouth Observer
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
A Clarification for Kesler
Yet again, I find myself attempting to disabuse Brent Kesler of his erroneous ideas about feminism. First of all, I must remind him that feminism is not a single theory. There exists no core of beliefs that all feminists adhere to, besides an interest in the well-being and freedom of women. Many people who call themselves feminists I disagree with deeply, and yet I would never question their feminism, just their interpretation of feminism. So, Mr. Kesler, please try to avoid indiscriminately lumping feminists into one category. But on to more specific matters.
Kesler refers to the "strict body/mind distinction" that, he claims, feminism proposes. Kesler fails to acknowldege that many feminists disagree with the "sex/gender" split. Judith Butler, a prominent and influential feminist theorist, believes that not only gender but sex too is socially determined. Moreover, feminism has historically been interested in deconstructing the body/mind binary, an old patriarchal division that placed women in the body, in immanence, while men were identified with the mind, and with transcendence. One of the successes of feminist theory has been deconstructing the age-old binaries that place woman as passive, dependent and outside of the world of the mind. Kesler simplifies for the sake of his argument, but he misses out on the breadth of feminist theory.
Finally, Kesler's last paragraph made me want to either laugh or cry: he assumes that "radical feminists" (he does not define this word, despite his critique of the inexactitude of language made earlier) claim that men cannot be feminists. While, as I mentioned above, there is considerable diversity of thought in the feminist camp, the idea that men cannot be feminists is rarely a belief claimed by any feminists. I have never encountered an individual who holds to such an extraordinary position, and I have taken plenty of Women's Studies classes with proudly radical feminists. While there may indeed be a few feminists out there who believe such an idea, it is hardly enough to constitute making a generalization regarding all radical feminists. Radical feminism actually refers to a specific theory of feminism that claims that the fundamental bases of society must be reevaluated and changed to reach a state where women can enjoy freedom and equality. Finally, to answer Tim's query. Acccording to the general definition of feminism I introduce above, anyone with a concern for women's freedom and well-being can be a feminist. Any other answer is constrictive or, to my mind anyway, a misreading of feminism.