When it comes to “feminism,” I have more questions than answers. So I emailed Sady at the smart, free-wheeling lady blog Tiger Beatdown and asked her if she’d answer some of them. In the interest of full disclosure, she has, on occasion, offered succinct and thoughtful analysis of some of my work on this site. I realize that what I know about “feminism,” specifically its recent history and its academic role, could fit into a thimble. My questions might seem basic, but remember, I’m the one with the testicles over here.
DeVore: Does a man have to call himself a feminist?
Tiger Beatdown: Well: I know a bunch of men who DO identify themselves as feminists. Because they email me and such! I also know a lot of men in my life who don’t call themselves feminist, but are anti-hitting-ladies, pro-abortion-rights, anti-discrimination, pro-treating-ladies-like equals, and that’s fine too. Basically, a dude doesn’t have to identify as feminist. If he identifies as PRO-feminist, or maybe just anti-sexist, and walks the walk, that’s totally cool.
DeVore: What should a dude know about a woman who calls herself a feminist?
Tiger Beatdown: Ha, probably that she is not exactly like every other woman who calls herself a feminist? The word means a lot of different things right now. But, most generally, in my experience, he should probably know that she spends a lot of time thinking about gender stereotypes, and gender roles, and has come to the conclusion that they are a bunch of crap. What you should know about a lady who calls herself a feminist is that she is not interested in business as usual.
DeVore: What kind of feminist are you?
Tiger Beatdown: Oh, god. SO MANY TYPES! There are probably as many types of feminism as there are women. I used to call myself a radical feminist, in my teens, and a sex-positive feminist, in my early twenties, and by my mid-twenties I’d decided I didn’t need the labels. I identify myself as a feminist, full stop. I am the type of feminist that is always on the internet. I am the type of feminist who feels guilty that her boyfriend does all the cooking. I am the type of feminist that really likes to make vodka gimlets and ride her bike and spend too much money on iced coffee. I am the type of feminist that is Sady, I guess. I am also the talky kind of feminist.
DeVore: Why do you think, then, that so many dudes are hostile, or dismissive, of the label?
Tiger Beatdown: Well, think about it. For a long time, dudes have had a vast majority of the institutional and societal power in the world. Feminism is about challenging that. It’s about pointing out that being a dude doesn’t make you automatically smarter or stronger or more awesome than anyone else. So a lot of dudes are just defensive because they don’t like to be challenged on their assumptions. Also, there’s the stereotype that feminists hate men. And you don’t have to HATE MEN as a group to have problems with the way that dudes act toward women sometimes.
DeVore: Let’s talk about stereotypes. Are feminists all angry?
Tiger Beatdown: Every human being gets angry. I do think that it’s irresponsible to take things like rape and domestic violence out of the equation when we talk about anger, because it’s like saying women have nothing to be angry about. I think that a lot of feminist theory has revolved around supporting a woman’s right to be angry, and to express anger. Because, you know, women are supposed to be docile and sweet, and being docile and sweet all the time is not good for anyone. In my experience, a lot of people completely overreact when women get angry. They don’t know how to deal with it. They think the woman is crazy, or a bitch, or just out to get them. So you making a sarcastic comment can turn into you trying to destroy the male gender.
DeVore: Another feminist stereotype is humorlessness. Can feminists be funny?
Tiger Beatdown: Ha, it is difficult, but it CAN BE DONE. But, like, Tiger Beatdown is full of jokes because I am basically a happy person who knows many people of the dude variety — as well as many people of the lady variety — who are over all this “women be shopping” business.
DeVore: Do you get negative responses from just men or do other feminists jump on you?
Tiger Beatdown: Mostly it has been dudes who get angry! I did make fun of Andrea Dworkin [a well-known radical feminist known for her criticism of pornography, which she believed to be linked to rape and violence against women] one time, and I got in trouble with some ladies about that. But actually, I am not the only feminist in the world who makes jokes, and a lot of people appreciate that I make so many jokes. One lady wrote that “misogyny seems less scary after I read your blog.” Which is kind of what I’m trying to do: make it clear that this business, in 2009, is not only wrong, but so pathetically wrong as to be laughable. And you can resist it, and you don’t have to give up your right to have good times in the process. Having fun can be feminist. Being feminist can BE fun.
Check out Sady’s very funny, very feminist blog here.