Survey #1 Results

Big thanks to everyone who contributed their answers to survey number one! I got an “A” on this assignment even though it was submitted over two weeks late! oops

Demographics: I gathered a total of eleven responses to Survey 1, with nine females and two males responding. Of the nine females, two were butch/masculine identified women. The responses came as answers to my blog posts, as answers to a myspace bulletin, and from an e-mail which friend of mine forwarded to two others. While seven people identified as “white”, there were only two people of Asian and two people of Hispanic descent represented, along with one Jewish person and one African American person. Three people were represented by more than one ethnic category. A range of class statuses were included, with one person coming from an upper-middle class background, three from middle class, two from low-middle class, four from working class, and one from and underclass poor background. Sexual orientations in the survey were represented by four Lesbian/Queer women, two heterosexual men and two heterosexual women, as well as three bisexual women. The participants were women aged 24 (2), 25, 26, 28, 29, and 48, and men aged 34 and 50. Five respondents had no religious affiliation, while three were Christian, and there were one each Buddhist, Pagan, and Jewish.

Yes or No?: Even though I am completing this assignment late, and I have heard the dismal results that my classmates presented, I still had high hopes for my respondents. Of the eleven people who responded, eight said that “No,” feminism is not an effective strategy to end sexism. Three of those who said no were actually favorable to feminism, but did not see it as an effective means to end sexism. One person wondered whether sexism could ever end! The other two who said no, said it because they see feminism as a theory rather than a strategy – “theories don’t change the world” said my first participant. Only three of the participants said “Yes,” feminism is an effective way to combat sexism, although I know those three people to be feminists already. It definitely makes me wonder if feminists are the only people who think it can change the way things work, or if believing in feminism makes one become a feminist.

Critiques of Feminism: No matter what side of the fence these people were on, everyone who answered this short survey had an opinion about sexism, and about what should be done in addition to, or rather than feminism. One male said that feminism tends to group people in categories rather than dealing with individuals, while a female said that feminism made her femaleness her most important category among many other categories. A masculine-identified female noted that she is skeptical of feminisms that overly concerned with “women” as a category. She dislikes the system of these categories “male” and “female” or “man” and “woman” in the first place, since she occupies the space of both sex categories. Another woman said that feminism only serves to strengthen the divide between men and women, and yet another contended that it is like reverse sexism! Even those who agreed with feminism had a critique to offer: “I’ve heard a lot of different people call a lot of different things feminism (including misandry). Things that seem like they unfairly help women won’t help end sexism. Things that welcome women and men to participate equally will.” A multiethnic female took offense to the word “feminism” itself, preferring to fight for “human equality” rather than for “female equality”. An adult woman who had gone to an all-girls’ high school said she has seen so many good things happen because of feminism in her lifetime, but she is not seeing these advancements anymore, whether it is because the news doesn’t show it, or because it just isn’t happening.

Personal Response: I was completely shattered by these results, and I didn’t even want to go near these answers for several days because I didn’t think I could handle all of the negativity about the home and family that I have found within feminism. It wasn’t as bad as I thought, considering that several of the people who technically said “no” were still favorable toward feminism, but this was definitely not what I wanted to hear. I wish I could go back to everyone who answered these two questions and explain to them what feminism really is. I feel like all they really know is the mass media’s interpretation of some kind of crazy radical feminism that hates men and doesn’t care about any other social justice issue besides women being treated badly, and that imagine of feminism is so very wrong. It’s not just an unfair portrayal of the work that we are doing as seekers of justice, but is simply incorrect! As much as I totally understand where second wave feminists were coming from, and no matter how thankful I am to them for their great and various accomplishments, and even though that kind of feminism really isn’t even around anymore, they are really getting in the way of my objectives as a third waver.

I wrote the following message to a dear friend who responded to these questions:

I definitely do agree that some feminists have actually dug a deeper trench between the experiences of men and women. Feminist separatists actually believe that women should live in a society all their own without the influence of men, and that is totally silly! In fact, one of my classes this semester is called “Men and Feminism” and it is all about how men and women are working together to create a world where all people can be free to live healthy lives regardless of anything that divides us (like race, class, gender expression, ability/disability, etc.). The feminists that I think are the most sensible are the ones actively involved with men, believing that only our cooperation will bring about a freer world.

I also agree with you that some people will always have their own opinions. Feminism does deal with this at a personal level (for example, when someone tells a sexist joke, and their friends will tell them “that’s not cool, man!”), but feminist theory on the whole is concerned with the systemic issue of sexism. It’s not just that some people have their opinions, but the whole system of our society is set up to the advantage of men. Of course, the men we both know and love don’t really believe that women are any less awesome than men! But the issue is bigger than that, and widespread change is necessary to start everyone out on equal footing. We probably won’t see that in our lifetimes, but I think it is possible!

If I could, I would send this message to everyone who said “no.” I realize that there will probably always be someone who disagrees with feminism, but I am a feminist, and most of these people who responded are from my very own sphere of influence! Where have I missed the opportunity to show people that feminists can be perfectly sane, well adjusted individuals who are seeking liberty and justice for all? When I used to be involved in missionary work, one thing that we would always try to remember when we faced opposition was that if we are not making anyone mad (the “Enemy” included) then we must be doing something wrong. So maybe that holds true in this instance as well. Since we feminists, womanists, and profeminists are doing something that shakes up the order of society, maybe the fact that some people dislike us, are angry, or disagree with our politics, that perhaps we are actually doing something right.

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2 thoughts on “Survey #1 Results

  1. So – I don’t want this to come across as defensive, but I’m pretty surprised at your response to our responses. I can see why the results may have “shattered” you, but I think that you’re failing to engage with some of the real and valid concerns that people have with feminism, both as a theory and as a movement. You assume, in your last paragraph, that everyone who answered that feminism wasn’t an effective strategy for ending sexism disagrees with feminism, or thinks that feminists are crazy people. I think that assumption is wrong.

    I was the one who answered that theories don’t change the world – meaning I was, in your analysis, one of the people who said “no” but was still favorable toward feminism. You go on to say that you wish you “could go back to everyone who answered these two questions and explain to them what feminism really is.” Personally, I think you’re misunderstanding a lot of the responses you got, including mine, and it’s kind of insulting to be told that just because you don’t agree with my response, that it must be because I don’t understand feminism. I’m not going to list all my feminist credentials here, but suffice to say that I have run feminist organizations, studied Women’s Studies and Sexuality Studies in undergrad, done the reading, learned the theory, and engaged with feminism beyond the classroom. My feeling that feminism, as a theory, is often problematic and might not be the best (or only) tool for ending sexism is not because all I really know about feminism “is the mass media’s interpretation of some kind of crazy radical feminism that hates men and doesn’t care about any other social justice issue besides women.” Nor, from what I can see in your write-up about the objections other people had with feminism, is that a limitation experienced by your other survey participants.

    Rather, the problems I have with feminism are those that seem to be mirrored in several of the responses you got – the inherent limitations of identity politics, the requirement that there be a category called “woman” which is often essentialized in ways that make many people who queer gender uncomfortable, the failure of such a movement to adequately address intersecting identities. These aren’t problems experienced solely by the feminist movement, clearly – these are weaknesses of identity politics, period.

    Of course you are free to draw your own conclusions from the responses you got, and there are certainly parts of your personal response that I agree with. But to me it looked a bit like you were dodging the issue and failing to genuinely engage with some of the valid critiques people were making, painting all the respondents who disagreed with you as second-wavers who were too ignorant to understand that feminism is the be-all-end-all of political movements and were therefore getting in the way of social progress. I think it’s a little more complicated than that. I stand by my response: theories *don’t* change the world. Actions change the world, and the way that the theory of feminism has been put into action is through the use of identity politics. Has it been useful? Absolutely. Does it have problems? Most certainly. And those of us who point out those problems are not trying to tear down the feminist movement or get in the way of your third wave. We’re trying to problematize, engage, make better. That is its own important form of social justice, and one that I don’t think you should immediately write off as the product of ignorance.

  2. I’ve always thought of feminism being a movement to remove gender restrictions for all. That said, I think it’s very instructive to see how others perceive philosophies or movements or theories that we feel are self-evident. I think your desire to educate others on your standpoint is good, and I also think there are things you can learn from what the others are saying.

    I don’t think getting unexpected responses is necessarily a bad thing 🙂

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