The Early Days of a Better Nation

Saturday, July 12, 2003

More on the F Word

I realise that what I said below sounds completely bonkers. Of course I didn't decide what I thought about feminism from one conversation with one not particularly representative feminist. And, of course, I don't seriously think that many unknown such conversations created the current widespread impression of feminism.

So I want to try to clarify what that in itself trivial conversation crystallised for me, and still does.

That is: that there are (at least) two usages of the term 'feminism'. One of them means opposition to a particular kind of injustice, namely the oppression of women. The other means opposition to a particular kind of people, namely men. They are often coincident, but they are not the same.

One is equivalent to a recognition of, and a struggle against, women's oppression (i.e. systematic social injustice suffered by women on the grounds of sex).

The other is equivalent to a belief that the interests of all women, as women, are in conflict with the interests of all men, as men; and that feminism in the first sense - of winning justice for women - is entirely and exclusively the business of women, or of the women's movement, and that men are its enemy.

Men who agreed with the latter tied themselves in deeply unproductive and unnecessary knots. Men who agreed with the former included J. S. Mill and V. I. Lenin, to name but two, and whatever else may be said about them they were not ineffectual in this regard.


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