Saturday, August 04, 2007

Why Support Feminism?

It's quite often said these days that "if women are oppressed, all of us are oppressed." I believe there's enough truth in that to make it a viable statement, and it is one reason I support many feminist positions. But last night, I came across a blog post arguing people should not support feminism for that reason. The author was sure anyone who supported feminism for such a "selfish" reason was ignoble and a detriment to the cause.

Instead, she believed the only sound reason to support feminism was because supporting it was the "right thing to do" if you believe in "justice."

In other words, she is an idealist.

She believes that people can and ought to support something for an ideal reason, rather than because their skins and the skins of their friends might happen to be at stake. Well, I have to disagree with her on that.

Very few people are genuinely motivated by ideals. Most of those who say they are motivated by ideals are really motivated by some kind of self-interest -- and too often a perverse one. Moreover, the few who are genuinely motivated by ideals tend to be much too familiar with human nature to ever ask anyone else to do something merely for an ideal. Instead, they appeal to other's self-interest even when they themselves are doing the thing for selfless reasons.

You cannot find enough people in this country to support feminism -- or any other cause -- for purely idealistic reasons to fill a convention held in a small country church, let alone enough to change society. The average joe and sally are going to support feminism -- if they support it -- because it's somehow in their own self-centered interests to support it. Maybe I'm just too old and cynical to see it any other way, but that is indeed how I see it.


amuirin said...

I respect your opinion, and while I don't think this woman should reject whatever help to a good cause is being offered, I think that idealism is still alive and well.

It gets shouted down a lot, and I think idealists are made to feel stupid sometimes, so they bide their time about when to speak and act, but... hm. How to say.

Have you ever heard the song, "You've got the music in you", new radicals? Sometimes I see it in the gleam of an eye or the lift of a chin. There's a lot of us who don't do things merely for what's gotten out of it. There's something so incredible about life, about the beautiful strands of compassion that reach between people. I think a lot of us would lay down our lives for a concept we might be hard strapped to properly explain.


(you've got the music in you, too)

Paul said...

Hmmmmm... I think you raise some good points there, Amuirin. On consideration, I see I poorly phrased my post. I did not mean to imply -- which I apparently did -- that I object to all and any idealism. What I actually object to is disparaging people's motives when they are motivated by self-interest, rather than by idealism. But I didn't get that message across at all well.

As for idealism in general, I don't think it's always a bad thing. Neither do I think it's always a good thing. And I believe it needs to be tempered by pragmatism.

amuirin said...

I didn't take it that you objected to idealism, it sounded more like you thought it wasn't a realistic influence because very few people are 'genuinely motivated by ideals'.

I think there's more idealists out there than may be immediately apparent. ;)

Paul said...

I see now. Well, I do tend to believe that many people who represent themselves as idealists are not genuine idealists. Moreover, I think there are more non-idealists than idealists around. But it was an exaggeration on my part to say that idealists could hold a convention in a small country church. I should have said something along the lines of "idealists cannot hope to attain their goals without the help of non-idealists" and left it at that.