Consanguineous Minds

A blog of endless curiosity

Learning how to feminist (verb)

Louise Bourgeois artwork Femme Maison

Louise Bourgeois artwork Femme Maison

Uh oh. It’s that “Do I identify as a feminist” conversation. You’re at a party, maybe kicking it with a beer and some friends, and some discussion prompts the question. Your mind goes blank. You can’t think of all the things that ‘make’ or don’t ‘make’ you as a feminist. Someone makes the “Well I don’t think I can claim to be a feminist because I haven’t….” etcetera.
And you think:
“Fuck, well what have I done that DOES make me a feminist? I certainly identify with feminism. I always have, despite a brief but embarrassing teenaged period of conservatism in which I thought angry females were scary, until I became one and they weren’t. Angry females are some of the most fascinating minds on the planet. Good thing that period was also an embarrassing period of shyness in which I rarely if ever spoke my mind!” Or some variation of this.

Okay so I had this conversation recently with two alike minds over Joss Whedon’s recent speech regarding feminism, and despite recalling a few points from this brilliant article, I was shocked at how blank my mind went. Until I started thinking about the ‘feminist methods’ and standpoint theory I’d read about in a recent research methodology class. Once I’d moved to a more abstract lens (the scope of big sweeping concepts like feminism often make my brain glitch!) the cogs started turning again. We’d also recently watched the biopic The Punk Singer about Rrrrriot Grrrrl Kathleen Hannah, and maybe that had thrown a switch in my head. And then I actually said something I have no idea the source of, because I’d just thought of it then but it felt like it had been percolating for some time. I said “I don’t think for me it’s useful to think of feminism in those terms, am I one or aren’t I one because I’ve done/not done this or that? It’s much more meaningful to say, how does feminism ask me to live my life?”

By this I meant to ask what does feminism require of me? And to suggest that feminism is more of an ongoing and present process which in every situation you can grab and use as a set of ethical guiding principles, much like Kantian morality “…ethics initially requires an analysis of our moral concepts. We must understand the concepts of a ‘good will’, ‘obligation’, ‘duty’ and so on, as well as their logical relationships to one another, before we can determine whether our use of these concepts is justified. Given that the analysis of concepts is an a priori [prior to experience] matter, to the degree that ethics consists of such an analysis, ethics is a priori as a well.” (1)
My sudden breakthrough brought everything into a much clearer focus for me. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s been haunting my nocturnal moments, my breakfast reading, my glances in the mirror when I strip to shower. What does feminism require of me? How does it require me to act? How can I use it to consider ethical choices a priori? How should a feminist be? (More fantastic philosophical questions like these can be found at LP’s blog post here).

And I’m fascinated and thrilled to find out. I’ve decided to spend the summer break from classes to educate myself on what this means. I’ve got Le Tigre on repeat, I’m reading the recently deceased Dorothy Lessing’s wonderful The Golden Notebook. I can’t sum it up better than Bitch Media The Golden Notebook is one of those (still all-too-rare) books… that is artistically ambitious and chronicles the lives of women grappling with important political and aesthetic ideas, raising children, working different kinds of jobs, maintaining meaningful friendships with men and with each other, and living through times of social upheaval” (2).

So, I’m taking a deep breath before I plunge into some serious academic reading and consideration of what feminism means to Development practice (my study area). I’d love some advice on what articles/books you recommend, so have a voice and please leave us a note below if you’ve got suggestions! Also, if you’re feeling chatty, leave us comments on what your ‘lens’ on life is!

Stay bomp! DS.

Consanguineous References: 

1. Johnson, Robert, “Kant’s Moral Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

2.  Gilbert, Erin. 21 November 2013.  “Remembering Writer Doris Lessing: “Whatever You’re Meant to Do, Do it Now.” Bitch Magazine. Available at: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/remembering-writer-doris-lessing-%E2%80%9Cwhatever-you-mean-to-do-do-it-now%E2%80%9D

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This entry was posted on November 28, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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