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Monday, 27 February 2012

Buffet Feminism

By: Liberate Zealot

There's a lot of jargon when it comes to feminism (just like any area that has had extensive thought and writing) and what types of feminists there were/are.  There's the waves: first, second, third, forth, fifth? (which are we in now?).  And then the different feminist theories about where oppression (either sexist or otherwise) springs from, and how best to combat it.
  • Radical feminism where the belief is sexism and other oppressions come from the Patriarchy and unequal relationships between women and men.  Lots of discussion about gender roles/stereotypes/norms and gender as a performance/construct and what the meaning of gender (women/men) means and how it relates to sexism.  
  • Socialist feminism believes that sexism is aided and abetted by capitalism (which profits off the free labor provided for by women) and posits that to end discrimination against women we must also end capitalism.  
  • Liberal feminism focuses on individualism and legal battles to overcome sexism.   
  • Difference feminism believes in men and women being ontologically different versions of the human being, and is apparently more popular among Catholics who are feminists, or interested in gender theories. 
  • Sex-positive feminism, also known as pro-sex feminismsex-radical feminism, or sexually liberal feminism focuses on sexual freedom, and embraces various sexual minority groups. They oppose legal and social efforts to control sex between consenting adults.  They often see attempts to control or curtail sex as an attempt to control women.
  • Libertarian feminism conceives of people as self-owners and therefore as entitled to freedom from coercive interference.
  • Separatist feminism, which is often conflated with rad fem (and can easily go along with it) focuses solely on women and girls, and doesn't believe that men can positively contribute to feminism.  Some separatists believe in a physical separation, while other's focus on political/intellectual separation.  This form isn't very friendly to straight relationships.  
  • Anarcha-feminists believe that class struggle and anarchy against government require struggling against Patriarchy, which comes from involuntary hierarchy.
  • Black/PostColonial feminism seeks to distinguish itself from and challenge other forms of feminism, which often focused on, and were lead, by white/western women. There's a lot of different branches and approaches within this large branch of feminism. 
And there are other forms of feminism and feminist theory besides these!  Also, all of these types of feminism have various branches and off-shoots.  For example, radical feminism has given birth to separatist and sex-positive approaches to feminism.  This often leads to confusion within (and outside of) feminist groups about what someone means when they identify as a certain type of feminist, or a feminist in general.  Sometimes it leads to feminists telling others that they can't be x type of feminist for whatever reason.

There's also the fact that different approaches and theories are more practical for different situations.  When I'm discussing child rearing/education or rape and rape culture I make use of radical feminism.  When fighting against the US War on Women I focus on legal battles and freedom of choice, so liberal feminism is the best to employ.  When fighting for queer rights my focus is on sex-positive feminism. Since I believe in intersectionality and try to stand for all women I try to follow and practice black/PostColonial feminism (though in this case it's following the thought of others who experience racism and the effects of imperialism/colonialism).  When I fight against economic inequality (which does effect women differently then men) I make use of socialist feminism. 

And maybe it's because I've been raised Catholic by a cultural/agnostic Catholic, but this cafeteria style approach seems normal to me.  I can't follow every tenant of every feminist theory, and sometimes one is more applicable then another.  And so I'm a Buffet Feminist.  I pick and chose what's best for the circumstances I see.  The different systems of oppression (patriarchy, racism, colonialism, classism, heterocentrism) all intersect and overlap, and so does my feminism and feminist approaches.  

There are dozens of feminist approaches and theories, each with their different side dishes and flavors.  So I'll pick and chose from the established theories and find the combination that best suits my life and views.  And as I learn and grow I'll try new dishes, my tastes will change, as will my precise feminist identity, but I'll always be a Buffet Feminist.

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