I received an email today from someone who stopped by my blog and had a few things to say. I decided I would respond to that email, and that I would post both the original email and my response here and leave it open to comments from you. You always have such interesting and often wise things to contribute.Here we go… this is the email I received:
"Philosopher? That's pushing it abit far isn't it? I mean what new ideas are you putting forward, what old ways are you going against? What are you doing to improve humanity? Though you do raise some interesting points, you're a clever girl but I don't approve of your very radical feminist ideas.
Men aren't taught to hate women... I really don't know how to put it any clearer sweetie but women don't get it any worse than men. Male and female are meant to be different halves of the species, the species evolved to endear them to each other, hence the evolution of the female orgasm.
I'm a heterosexual male, I don't have a thing against gays or other races and I do see women as equals. But the two don't have the same jobs to do in the grand scheme of things. Gays are happy being who they are that's understandable.
Feminism doesn't help it only hurts everyone including yourself. Are you unhappy or a little depressed sometimes? I can sort of tell that from what you've written, but I could easily be wrong. But I think you're hurting yourself, if not you're probably a lesbian, in which case live your life but don't spread hate.
Feminism has the potential to do alot of damage, almost to the extent of other ideals which turn people into zealots like religious ones. If you're not a lesbian then one day a man will sweep you off your feet and you'll change your views.
You're probably angry at me right now and very reluctant to take anything I've said seriously... and I guess I didn't have time to word this ft to your sensitive nature... so I guess this is an excercise in wasting time and you'll send an angry email back at me. I hope I'm wrong."
This is what I wrote back:
“Well, let me respond to the email you took the time to write me. I figure something I wrote must have struck a nerve for you to actually sit down and take the time to send me an email about it, critical or not. Here goes:
First and foremost, yes, I am a philosopher. A FEMINIST philosopher. And a very proud one. A philosophy professor told me about twelve years ago that there is no such thing as a “new” idea in philosophy, there is only reworking, refining, defending, responding to and deconstructing arguments and that true innovation in philosophy is nearly impossible. In all the philosophy I have studied since that time, I can tell you it is the truth. Philosophy is like one stream of consciousness that builds on the ideas that come before. I am proud and happy to contribute what I do to philosophy as a general body of work. My professors continually give me A grades on my work and encourage me to go further, push harder, question more. I choose to write from a feminist perspective because it makes sense to me, it speaks to my personal experience as a woman, and because feminism is very useful in other fields of study. The theories represented in feminist thought can be applied to critical race theory, anti-poverty theory, anti-globalization theory, the environment, political science, and disability theory. That is what I am contributing to humanity. Give me a few years, and I’ll be fighting for the human rights of oppressed people worldwide. I’m only one step along in my journey. To answer to your question about what old ideas I am challenging, I would have to respond that patriarchy is a very old idea, and I am certainly doing my best to challenge that. Also, the theories I present pose a major challenge to liberalism.
As far as my ideas go, I am happy and comfortable being called a radical feminist. Radicals want to see changes to the existing oppressive system, and I certainly do want to see that. The best way I know how to make that happen is to present my views as best I can, to live my life as much outside of patriarchy as possible while still being true to myself and to show others that there is an alternative to simply going along with the status quo. Other than that, my ideas really aren’t that radical. My ideas represent freedom for all people to be able to truly choose whatever life they want to lead without interference and coercion from anyone else and in particular from societal structures. How radical is that? I guess it depends on where each person is positioned in regards to those societal structures. If those structures serve and benefit you personally, my guess is that you are not comfortable having those structures challenged. If those structures only serve to keep you down and present you with obstacles, my guess is that a lot of what I say makes a good deal of sense. That’s my position. I don’t much care whether you approve of it or not.
Don’t call me sweetie.
The biological approach you present is a really common one. Quite simply, it’s bullshit. Men and women are socialized to behave in specific ways. Biology gives us an idea of why the species has evolved the way it has: survival. It has no explanation for the continual degradation and oppression of one member of the species by the other. And if you think that men dominate because they are physically different or better than women, then you really have a long way to go in understanding the human condition. And you really don’t think of women in the egalitarian way you claim. Men and women have different roles in society because society has made it so. Who controls society, and has for the last several thousand years? Men. Why? It’s hard to tell. I don’t think it’s entirely because men are physically stronger than women.
I’ll tell you what. Try being a woman. You’ll find out quickly enough that men do indeed have it easier than women. I have known it my entire life. Men who are ignorant to this fact are so because men are the ones who benefit from the way society operates. Plain and simple. Men have been taught from birth that they are stronger, smarter, more rational, more moral, more powerful, independent, etc. Girls are taught that they are emotional, caring, dependent, weak, immoral, powerless, and dumb. Even when girls are raised in a home where they are praised and encouraged, when they step out their front door and into the world, it’s a different story. Your arrogance in making the claim that women don’t have it any harder than men is absolutely disgusting. How the hell would you know? Women are the majority of the victims of sexual abuse and assault. Women make 2/3 of what men make for the same work. Women are the large majority of those who live in poverty worldwide. Women undergo oppressive social practices like sexual slavery to a huge statistical majority, and are the exclusive victims of practices like female genital cutting. Perhaps if a society existed in which half of all men’s penises are cut off without anesthesia, maybe then we would be equal.
I assume from your letter that you are white. That means you have a good deal of privilege in this world, being a white heterosexual western male. Maybe it would do you some good to acknowledge that some people have it worse off than you do. All you have to do is open your eyes and read the newspaper, walk down the street in the “bad” part of your town, and try your best to understand that not everyone has the full spectrum of choices available to them that you enjoy, and think for a moment that attitudes like yours are the very things keeping those oppressive societal structures going strong.
I disagree very strenuously that feminism “hurts everybody, including [my]self.” Feminism challenges patriarchy. Maybe that hurts men who benefit from patriarchy. It hardly hurts women. It hardly hurts me. Feminism does not hurt me. Why would you think that it does? What hurts me – and causes me to be sad – is injustice and inequality in the world. Feminism gives me, and many others, a voice, a vocabulary to use in expressing intolerance for the oppressive social systems that keep all kinds of people from achieving equality and freedom. Perhaps you think I should just shut up and give up and go along with the status quo, since I will never be able to change sexism and patriarchy? Do you think forgetting about the oppression I and so many others have and continue to experience would make me happy? Do you think I could forget, when I am faced with the truth of injustice on a daily basis? In order for gender equality to be achieved, men will have to give up some of the privileges they now enjoy. Some men are actually WILLING to see that happen in order to support equality and freedom for all people. You are clearly not one of those people. I’m sure the current social system suits you just fine. It doesn’t suit me, or millions of other people around the world, just fine. It doesn’t suit us at all. So I will continue to rant, rave, scream, cry, rage, reason, write, and speak out against injustice in the world through the megaphone of feminism. And yeah, I hope that feminism does have the potential to “do a lot of damage” – that’s the whole idea. And quite to the contrary of your assumption, being able to do all that I can to further equality in the world gives me a great deal of satisfaction and joy.
I have never in my life spread hate. How dare you accuse me of that? I encourage nothing but tolerance, open-mindedness, acceptance, equality, and justice. I have never said I hate men, or any other group. My dearest hope is that the world will one day be united in common understanding and gentleness of spirit towards one another, no matter our differences.
My private, personal sexual preferences are none of your business. It’s interesting that you jumped straight to the assumption that I am a lesbian, just because I’m a feminist. Feminists come in all shapes, colours, sizes, religions, ethnicities, and sexualities. I certainly will not give up my feminist views for any reason, much less because a man comes along and sweeps me off my feet. I won’t even dignify those completely inappropriate comments with one more word.
I certainly don’t expect to change your opinion about feminism, or about me. Like I said, I really don’t care what you think of me or my views. I don’t need anything resembling your approval to live my life in the best way possible for me, and that means doing what I can to further equality, acceptance, freedom, and social justice. You are certainly not the first man to try to shut down a feminist through any of the methods you have chosen. I only respond to your letter in order to do what I think is right in defending feminism from baseless attacks such as yours. Any time someone attacks feminism, I will stand up and respond. Education is the only way to spread the truth about patriarchy, and dialogue and debate with those who support patriarchy is a great way to do it. Something I wrote clearly made you write to me in the first place. Hopefully something I have said here makes sense to you. I don’t need your approval, but I do hope for your understanding. At the very least, I am glad that I have made you think.
Okay, your turn…