Humanism Without Feminism Is Broken

A friend asked the question today: What does “feminism” mean to you?

This was followed by a whole lot of “evil feminists!” “humanism!” “egalitarian!” “manfeels!” and so on and so forth.

Here’s a better primer.

Feminism, as a philosophy is simply the concept that women have the same opportunities regardless of their gender.

Feminism as an American movement is something altogether different and it seems that many here grossly misunderstand it. Using this or that example that you personally don’t like as if it represents a movement dating back to its roots out of the abolitionist movement is fairly absurd.

The feminist movement has existed in quite a few forms and consists of several schools of thought, some complimentary and some out of necessity. The primary schools are liberal feminism and radical feminism. Liberal feminism is typically the focus on self and the empowerment of women. Radical feminism, contrary to popular belief and a lot of bad straw man arguments, does not mean “extremist.” In fact, it merely means the type of feminism that focuses on a societal change to improve the cause of gender equality.

Within, there are absolutely poor examples, such as trans-exclusionary feminists and the very white upper-middle-class version that often ignores the plight of women of color. That’s why movements such as black feminism have sprung up and are necessary.

Making statements such as “humanism” or “egalitarianism” replaces feminism or is somehow better tends to show a distinct lack of understanding of the philosophy and underpinnings of all these terms, as well as the history of movements. Both humanism and egalitarianism are overriding ideologies that include feminism. They do not replace it. Just as a humanist can also identify as a racial equality activist or an LGBTQ+ activist or part of any other philosophical or ideological movement as we do humanism, they can also and should also identify as a feminist for the same reason: humanism encompasses all those things.

This is a pretty basic introduction to the concept, but it should give at least a base understanding of the complexities of feminism. So, when you decided to make “sound byte” assertions based on pure ignorance about feminism, you’re pretty much making a damned fool of yourself and should probably educate yourself better before complaining that men are somehow the victims here.

While we’re having this discussion, we should also touch on the idea of “patriarchy,” because it’s not quite the caricature that people are trying to make it into. We’re not discussing a monarchy or some unbreakable male line. We’re actually, in a simplified way, discussing power systems as they exist in all societies.

Within society, power systems naturally evolve. They evolve as small structures are put into place that favors certain demographics. These can be race, class, religion, etc. When we talk about privilege in general, this is the concept we’re discussing.

In America, the straight white cisgender male Christian hold the dominant privilege within the power system. Every other possible combination exists within some levels of privilege and oppression through a pretty complex spectrum.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some more privileged people in that dynamic doing worse than some less privileged people. It only means that the system itself favors certain demographics and it’s the core

Philosopher, science communicator, and social justice bard.