As a company focusing on personalized jewelry for women, we believe that it is important to encourage the individual stories of women. Though the modern movement of feminism is controversial (with followers espousing strict adherence to its ideological claims and opponents not wanting to touch the word with a ten-foot pole), we believe feminism is still relevant today, but not necessarily in the way it is currently being used. We want to redefine what it means to be a feminist so that feminism’s primary features are egalitarianism; its philosophical origins of political, legal, social and economic equality for women; and a focus on individual stories of women (versus an emphasis on the belief in group oppression). We also believe in transparency: the primary intention of this post is to outline the historical progression of the feminist movement leading up to its current, troubling iteration. By outlining the history of feminism, we intend to explain why we disagree with the modern third/fourth wave of feminism and why we think it is imperative that the movement be utilized more effectively. We believe feminism is only as effective as the way it is used in a society, and so, we intend to be a part of its positive application.
In this post, we will outline:
- The history of feminism leading up to the present
- Types of modern feminism
- Features of the modern feminist movement and how we, as a company, relate to them
- An argument for why we want to redefine feminism
First Wave (1830s - early 1900s)
- This wave included some of the foremothers of Liberal Feminism, including Elizabeth Candy Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage. These women advocated for divorce laws to protect the rights of women.
- The First Wave focused on promotion of equal contract and property rights for women. Additionally, it focused on opposition to chattel marriage and ownership of married women and their children by their husbands.
- There was a strong influence of Native American women who shared land with white women. The pioneers of the Feminist movement are said to have taken cues from Native American ancestors, such as the Iroquois system of election, whereby women chose their governmental representative from a selection of eligible men.
- Emerged in the U.S. and Europe, out of an environment of urban industrialism and liberal, socialist politics.
- Key concerns of the First Wave: women’s suffrage (the right to vote), the right to education, better working conditions, marriage and property laws, and reproductive rights.
- This wave formally began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.
Second Wave (1960s - 1980s)
- This period of feminist activity began in the 1960s in the U.S. and spread all over the Western world.
- The Second Wave differed from the First Wave in that it focused on women of color and on developing nations, seeking sisterhood and solidarity. A primary claim of this wave was that women’s struggle was a class struggle.
- This wave unfolded in the context of antiwar and civil rights movements, as well as the growing awareness of a variety of marginalized groups around the world.
- Key concerns of the Second Wave: raising awareness about sexism, patriarchy, gender-based violence, domestic abuse, and marital rape; inequalities in the workplace; legalization of birth control and abortion; and the sexual liberation of women.
- Movement’s energy was focused on passing the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution and on social equality regardless of sex. A key belief of the Second Wave was that women’s social and political inequalities were inextricably linked.
- Some notable events during this period: the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Roe v. Wade decision, the formation of the National Organization for Women, the passage of Title IX in the Education Amendments of 1972, and the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.
- Second Wave Feminists continue to exist today, coexisting with third-wave and fourth-wave feminists.
Third Wave (1990s - 2000s)
- The Third Wave is believed to have arisen due to perceived failures of the Second Wave and is still occurring today.
- This wave is informed by postcolonial and postmodern thinking. Third wave ideology focuses on post-structuralist understanding of gender and sexuality.
- Seeks to challenge or avoid what it deems the second wave’s definitions of femininity, which overemphasize the experiences of middle-class, white women. This wave focuses on breaking the essentialist boundaries of gender created from earlier waves.
- Controversy and disagreement surrounding identity politics between feminists in the third wave have escalated.
- Focus on “micro-politics” and on the belief that all gender roles are due to social conditioning.
- Key concerns of the Third Wave: intersectionality; sexual identities; changing stereotypes, media portrayals, and language used to define women; recognition of the diversity of women, with an emphasis placed on identity, gender, race, nation, sexual preference, and social order.
Fourth Wave (2012 - Now)
- The Fourth Wave is not necessarily distinct from the Third Wave in terms of ideas, but it is primarily defined by technology: more tools are available now for women to build a reactive community via public spheres online. A “call-out” culture has been encouraged by the internet, in which feminists focus on micropolitics/microaggressions online.
- The Fourth Wave of Feminism is characterized by the advancement of human equality through internet-based technologies. It heavily focuses on intersectionality and greater empowerment of all traditionally marginalized groups in society.
- Example of Fourth Wave online activity: #MeToo campaign, which uses hashtag activism.
- Key concerns of the Fourth Wave: rejection of gender- and sexuality-based binaries, focus on Trans Rights, emphasis on social justice, and the belief in an epidemic of “rape culture.”
- Body positivity, sexual assault awareness and slutwalks are all examples of how the fourth wave pushes feminism into the public spotlight by non-academic means.
Modern Feminism: Where Are We Now?
Today, the feminist movement is essentially about combating an unconscious gender bias, rather than promoting equality for women. The basic idea of the modern third/fourth wave is that women are still disadvantaged in undeveloped countries and in the United State’s workforce, but instead of realizing that it takes time and intentional effort to make real, substantial societal changes, the blame is placed on the idea that people must dislike women — but on a level that they themselves are not aware of. This makes the modern third/fourth wave feminist movement a group of people bent on putting others down for an unconscious bias they may or may not have. As subjective beings, no one has an objective authority over what exists inside someone else’s mind. As a company, we disagree with the primary focus of the modern third/fourth wave feminist movement. We are not arguing that unconscious biases do not exist, but rather that it is ineffective as a strategy of the modern third/fourth wave feminist movement to achieve its supposed goal of equality for women. Additionally, we would like to make clear that we believe the United States has made substantial change regarding women’s equality; that the US has mostly achieved its goal of political, legal, economic and social equality for women; and that we recognize the need for continued change in undeveloped countries to achieve political, legal, economic and social equality for women in those nations.
First described are the various types of modern feminism. Next, features of the modern fourth wave movement of feminism are described. Following each feature, we list what we believe as a company concerning the modern feature. We want to be as transparent as possible: it is not our priority to put anyone down, but rather, to lift individuals up.
Types of Modern Feminism
The varieties of feminism present today are as varied as there are people on this planet. Many modern feminists have overlapping and intermixing ideologies composed of the following types of feminism to create a unique outlook. Thus, the following types of feminism are not mutually exclusive and, oftentimes, you will find a hodgepodge of feminist types as coexisting beliefs within an individual feminist’s ideology that, for the most part, promote the idea that some form of oppression subjugates women.
Not all types of feminism profess this belief, however: we at Sincerely Silver are most aligned with Liberal Feminism, Choice Feminism and Equity Feminism (#s 1, 3 and 16). Today, the movement of feminism comprises a variety of social, cultural and political sub-movements, theories and moral philosophies, which make the movement as a whole rather complicated. The following 16 types of feminism are the most commonly known and utilized types of feminism today.
#1 Liberal Feminism
Liberal Feminism seeks the equality of men and women through legal and political reform. Liberal Feminists see the individual interactions between men and women as the place in society in which real change is possible, and argue that no major change to the structure of society is needed. This kind of feminism works within the structure of mainstream society to integrate women into it and make it more responsive to individual women’s rights, but it does not directly challenge the system, structure or ideology behind women’s oppression. An example of Liberal Feminism is the Suffragette Movement of the First Wave. (Liberal Feminism has also been called Individualist Feminism, not to be confused with the following type.)
#2 I-Feminism/Individualist Feminism/Libertarian Feminism
I-Feminists, or Individualist Feminists, call for freedom of choice and personal responsibility for all women. They believe in the feminist slogan, “a woman’s body, a woman’s right.” I-feminists believe that freedom and diversity benefit women, whether or not the choices that woman makes are considered “politically correct” choices. I-Feminists accept personal responsibility for their own lives and they do not look to the government or any other privileges for assistance. I-Feminists want legal equality and they offer the same respect to men. The primary distinction between I-Feminists and other forms of feminism is that they believe the State, if given power, can become a hierarchical entity that can control what groups of people do with their bodies. For example, they believe that the State being in control of whether or not a woman can get an abortion is similar to patriarchal control indirectly or directly controls the minds and bodies of women. Thus, they oppose all governmental interference into the choices adults make on their own bodies.
#3 Choice Feminism
Choice Feminism takes an individualistic approach, stating that individual choices of a woman are inherently feminist, because she made them herself. This approach to feminism implies that every woman has the privilege of dictating exactly how she’d like to live her life, no matter what that is.
#4 Radical Feminism
Radical Feminism focuses on the capitalist hierarchy of society, which it describes as sexist and male-based, as the defining feature of women’s oppression. Most Radical Feminists believe there is no alternative other than to entirely uproot and reconstruct society in order to overthrow the patriarchy and achieve their goals. In terms of feminist theory, Radical Feminism contributed the bulwark of ideas between 1967-1975.
#5 Cultural Feminism
As Radical Feminism died out, Cultural Feminism took over. The difference between Radical Feminism and Cultural Feminism is that Radical Feminism was a movement intent on transforming society, wherein Cultural Feminism retreated to vanguardism, intending to build a women’s society. Cultural Feminism emphasizes the essential differences between men and women in terms of biology, personality and behavior, wherein women are seen to have superior virtues that provide the foundation for a shared identity and sisterhood. Since, stereotypically, women are kinder in nature, their argument is that if women were in power, the world would be more at peace. In the 1960s and 1970s, some Cultural Feminists supported the idea of forming separate, women-only societies.
#6 Socialist & Marxist Feminism
Socialist/Marxist Feminism links the oppression of women to Marxist ideas about exploitation, labor and oppression. Socialist Feminists believe they should work alongside men and all other groups to create real change in society: they focus their energies on broad change that affects society as a whole, and not just on an individual basis.
Ecofeminism links feminism with ecology, arguing that the domination of women stems from the patriarchal ideologies that bring about the destruction and domination of the environment. This branch also believes that feminism is an imperative to save the global health of the planet.
#8 Black Feminism/Womanism
This branch argues that sexism, class oppression and racism are inextricably linked together. Alice Walker and other Womanists claim that black women experience a different and more intense version of oppression than white women. Womanism is a social and ecological change perspective that emerged out of Africana women’s culture and women of color around the world.
#9 Intersectional Feminism
Intersectional Feminism focuses on the idea that certain groups of people have multi-layered facets to their identity, which interweave to create a unique systems of oppression for each individual. As a term, “intersectionality” was coined by American professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. Her textbook definition is, “The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.”
#10 Separatist Feminism
Separatist Feminism is a form of Radical Feminism, which argues that sexual disparities between men and women are unresolvable, that men cannot make positive contributions to the feminist movement, and that even a well-intentioned man might replicate patriarchal dynamics. Separatists are often stereotypically viewed as lesbians; these are the feminists who argue for separation from men, sometimes total and sometimes partial. They believe that separating from men allows women the freedom to see themselves in a different context. Many feminists (whether they classify themselves as Separatist or not), believe that this is a necessary first step for a woman’s personal growth, though they do not normally endorse permanent separation.
#11 Sex-Positive Feminism
This branch is a response to anti-pornography feminists who argue that heterosexual pornography is a central cause of women’s oppression. Furthermore, they believe that sexual freedom may or may not include a women’s right to participate in heterosexual pornography and is an essential component of women’s freedom.
This is an offshoot of Radical Feminism and combines feminist and anarchist beliefs. The result is that patriarchy is viewed as a hierarchical system in society, so that the fight against patriarchy is an essential part of the class struggle and the Anarchist struggle against the state.
#13 French Psychoanalytic Feminism/Post-Structuralist Feminism/Existential Feminism
French Feminism tends to be more philosophical and literary than the pragmatic Anglophone Feminism. This kind of feminism is less concerned with political doctrine and is more concerned with theories of “the body.” The 1949 work, “The Second Sex,” by French author and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908 - 1986) is a foundational document of modern Feminism since it describes a “feminist existentialism.” This idea describes a moral revolution and focuses on the woman as “Other,” which Beauvoir describes as essential to women’s oppression. French Feminism called for women to write from their biological experiences and their bodies regarding menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth and sexuality in order to combat the “dominant phallic culture.” French psychoanalytic Feminism focused on the way that cultural productions reflected and represented the masculine unconscious and patriarchal culture.
Transfeminism is defined as “a movement by and for trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linked to the liberation of all women and beyond.” This form of feminism includes all self-identified women regardless of assigned sex. Furthermore, this type of feminism challenges cisgender privilege, or, the privilege that someone has when their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth (i.e. born a biological female and identify as a gendered female). A central tenet of this type of feminism is that people have the ability to define who they are regardless of biology or physical characteristics.
#15 Commodity Feminism
Commodity feminism co-opts the feminist movements’ ideals for profit. Ivanka Trump has been accused of utilizing this “brand” of feminism by using her #WomenWhoWork campaign to sell her eponymous lifestyle brand.
#16 Equity Feminism/Conservative Feminism
Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, is a champion of what she calls “equity feminism.” Sommers argues that equity feminism is focused on legal equality between men and women, while “gender feminism” is focused on disempowering women by portraying them as the constant victims of the patriarchy. Trump’s advisor, Kellyanne Conway, stated, “I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances, and that’s really to me what conservative feminism, if you will, is all about.”
Features of the Modern Fourth Wave Feminist Movement
- outlines how oppressive institutions (i.e. racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be understood independently.
- focuses on how axes of oppression intersect to create a hierarchy of oppression where the more oppressed you are, the more valuable your opinion is.
- Intersectionality, n. “The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage; a theoretical approach based on such a premise.” (Oxford Dictionary)
- Intersectional theory claims that people are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression: their race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and other identity markers. Intersectionality recognizes that identity markers (e.g. “female” and “black”) do not exist independently of each other, and that each informs the others, often creating a complex convergence of oppression.
What We Believe
We do not believe it is helpful or beneficial to focus on a hierarchy of oppression. The theory of intersectionality would argue for giving the least privileged individuals in society more privilege, as a means of rectifying historical errors. Instead of attempting to fix an unjust hierarchy, mitigate its worst offences and encourage solidarity among all humans (regardless of our “groups”), the theory of intersectionality would rather flip the hierarchy upside-down, giving the least privileged more power while everyone else clamors for some form of advantage. The focus of intersectionality is on determining who is the most disadvantaged, breaking up society into groups who compete for the special privilege to demand that others “check their privilege” before speaking.
We believe that by inverting the hierarchy of privilege, nothing is fixed. If it was once sexist to treat women as inferior to men, it is still sexist to treat men as inferior to women. If it was once racist to treat people of a certain race as less than people of a different race, it is still racist to do this. The theory of intersectionality is not making any significant change: all intersectionality has done is encourage prejudice against the previously advantaged.
We believe we should not be fighting against those who were once advantaged; we should be fighting against the presence of unequal political and legal structures and systems (where they exist). We believe no one gets a leg up: we are all fighting to have our voices be heard.
#2 Postmodern Feminism
- Feminism and Postmodernism have each, separately, arisen as two leading ideologies of the present. They are each in a struggle against the grand narratives of Western Enlightenment and modernity.
- Together, Postmodern Feminism argues that gender is entirely constructed through language and that gender is performative.
- Postmodern feminists recognize the male/female binary as a main categorizing force in our society, in which “female” is cast into the “Other” category. They criticize the structure of society and the dominant order, which they believe to be patriarchal in nature.
- Postmodern feminism is primarily focused on establishing multiple roles and multiple realities, and reject the idea that there is an essential nature of a woman.
- The philosophy of postmodern and poststructural feminism is one that rejects essentialism and argues for diversity in feminism.
What We Believe
While the philosophy of postmodern feminism seems to be in line with Sincerely Silver’s beliefs (as we both argue for a more nuanced understanding of feminism), what it does in reality is focus on how a “male-dominated society” has forced women into oppressive gender roles and has used women’s sexuality for men’s benefit — not something we believe.
The ideals and philosophy of Postmodern Feminism seem to agree (on the outside) with Sincerely Silver’s beliefs: both are arguing for a diversity of opinion when it comes to the topic of feminism and to understanding individual women, in general. However, in practice, postmodern feminism romanticizes women and demeans men, blaming men and “The Patriarchy” for women’s role as “inferior” or “Other.” We do not believe in demeaning or blaming men.
#3 Fighting “The Patriarchy”
- Modern feminist rhetoric teaches women that they are victims under constant oppression due to “the patriarchy” — a society in which men dominate and women are subjugated.
- The patriarchy is argued to be a system that perpetuates sexual assault, oppressive and limiting gender roles, and the political and economic subordination of women.
- “Smashing the patriarchy” means challenging the social, political, and cultural system that values masculinity over femininity.
- Common argument from third/fourth wave feminists: “the patriarchy hurts both men and women, so it is up to both men and women to stop it.”
- According to Miki Kashtan, Patriarchy “is a system that encompasses a worldview, arrangements about how we live as humans with each other on this planet, implicit blueprints for what kinds of institutions we would create, and guidelines for what to do with our young to prepare them for the system itself.” The underlying principles of Patriarchy are separation (in which we place boundaries between self and other, and self and nature), and control (in which we value self-control and belittle emotionality).
What We Believe
We do not believe we live in a patriarchal society. There is no male-dominated conspiracy that values masculinity over femininity or that subjugates women in any way. We believe men and women are valued equally, but differently, in society.
#4 An Obsession with Oppression
- Third and Fourth wave feminists focus on “gendered oppression”: the systemic way in which certain groups are valued or devalued based on their gender.
- Gender is an integral part of society, in which modern feminists believe that unconscious gender stereotypes are based off of socially constructed assumptions about gender that do not describe the essential features of men or women, yet they claim to.
- Gendered oppression centers around the belief that there is a gendered power difference that allows certain groups to benefit (socially and/or economically) at the expense of others.
- The maintenance of gendered oppression is believed to be due to the everyday practices and unquestioned assumptions in our society, via systems and structures, rather than due to a few individuals in power.
- Examples of gendered oppression: jokes that are perceived to be demeaning towards women, insults for men/boys (e.g. “girl,” “pussy,” “bitch,” etc.)
- In addition to gendered oppression, modern feminists believe they idea of gender (in general) is oppressive: cultural ideas around women’s bodies and the gender roles/gender stereotypes that arose from those ideas have been used to justify the subjugation/inferiority of women. Furthermore, it is believed that gender is a hierarchy in which women are at the bottom and men are at the top.
What We Believe
We believe that gendered differences exist between men and women, but that these differences are not inherently bad. Claiming that these differences are entirely due to social constructs is inaccurate and limiting when attempting to understand the human condition. We do not believe that women are oppressed based on their gender or that the idea of gender, in general, is oppressive.
We do believe that women have been disadvantaged historically, and modern feminism should take this into account by encouraging listening to the stories of modern women.
#5 The Fear of “Toxic Masculinity”
- “Toxic Masculinity”: the phrase itself is derived from studies that focus on violent behavior perpetuated by men and is designed to describe not masculinity itself, but a form of gendered behavior that occurs when expectations of “what it means to be a man” go wrong.
- The Good Men Project define the term: “Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits — which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual — are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.”
- Researchers have defined “toxic masculinity” as a set of behaviors that include the following: suppressing emotions or masking distress, maintaining an appearance of hardness, and using violence as an indicator of power.
What We Believe
We believe that inappropriate male behavior exists, just as inappropriate behavior can exist regardless of gender, sex, age, race, nationality, etc. We believe there are terrible individuals, but that the concept of toxic masculinity disregards individuals and instead states that all men are culpable of this greater, cultural problem. We do not believe that all men are responsible, nor that there is a culture-wide error within manhood. Additionally, we believe that the use of the phrase “toxic masculinity” is more prejudicial than facilitative: the intention of the use of the phrase is to put others down rather than to solve the problem it claims exists.
#6 “Check Your Privilege”
- The idea that you cannot speak on a topic depending on your “privilege level.” The more privileged you are, the more you are forced to be silent. This phrase is often used as a means of deflection, to make assumptions about the speaker’s knowledge based on particular social groups he/she belong to.
- Related to the idea of intersectionality, privilege-checking is the idea that people gain special advantages, or privileges, based on the fact that they belong to certain groups (e.g. white, middle-class, heterosexual, etc.), which are deemed to have more advantages in society.
What We Believe
In reality, when someone uses the phrase, “check your privilege,” this has become the go-to response for those determined to take a moralistic high ground, but who lack the ability to formulate a coherent argument. Calling on someone to “check their privilege” is merely an ad hominem attack: the phrase redirects the focus of the discussion to the person, rather than the ideas or position the individual is taking.
We do not believe there should be an emphasis on privilege-checking, ever. It should not matter what groups we belong to: what matters is the quality of our ideas and arguments.
Furthermore, when someone demands that someone else “check their privilege,” all it really does is act as virtue signal: by uttering the phrase, the individual demands that everyone else involved pay homage to their moralistic tendencies and superior knowledge, as they act as leader of the disadvantaged.
#7 Sexism/Anti-male ideology/Misandry
- Modern feminists claim that misandry should not be classified as a hate crime, while misogyny should be. Their argument is that since females are systematically oppressed and exploited by males, it is not acceptable to do anything that might belittle a woman, but is perfectly acceptable to do this to a man.
- A lot of feminist rhetoric today crosses the line from attacks on sexism to attacks on men. Though many feminists would argue that male-bashing is not their intention, what happens in reality is just that: the faults of males’ behavior are seen as absolutely horrendous and as a sign of attack. The way men talk, approach relationships, and even the way they sit on public transportation is under attack; if similar generalizations were made for women, these claims would be considered grossly misogynistic, but, under the new wave of feminism, such statements are acceptable and encouraged since the belief that they are fighting the patriarchy is in full force.
- Modern feminism claims that the main issue facing feminism today is men. It is believed that men have the “power to prevent [women] from climbing up there on the phallic plinth beside them,” and so men are in the way of womanhood’s success.
What We Believe
We do not believe that men are the problem, in any way. We are primarily advocating for listening to and hearing more of women’s stories, without any notion that anyone is in the way of hearing those stories.
#8 Pop Feminism
- The political message of modern feminism has become intertwined with popular culture. Feminist rhetoric is weaved into most of what we consume today: our movies, TV shows, songs and lyrics, articles, comics, art, video games, etc.
- Actresses like Emma Watson, Lena Dunham and Beyoncé act as cultural mouthpieces for the modern feminist movement. On January 4th, 2019, Watson stated on her Instagram account: “Thank you to everyone who has been part of TIME'S UP over the past year. 💗 From my sisters in the film industry to the activists and campaigners around the world who have supported us, I've been so inspired by the way people have reached out to each other, shared experiences and advice, and organised together as part of this movement for change. 🌍 Gender equality can only become a reality if we harness the transformative power of solidarity across professions and across borders.” Involvement such as this is one such example of the intertwinement of popular culture and the modern feminist movement.
- In general, pop culture is used to signify allegiance to specific communities or groups. By utilizing pop culture references to make political statements, an in-group is created that is simultaneously exclusionary for those who disagree, and overwhelmingly welcoming for those who do.
- Essentially, feminism has become a fashion statement. Popular American culture is primarily dominated by liberal, leftist ideas, one of which is the modern feminist movement. As a result, corporations have taken advantage of individual’s willingness to identify as feminists, which has consequently aided in spreading a shallow, diluted form of feminism without a genuine desire to uphold feminist ideals or contribute towards significant change. Ultimately, mainstream pop feminism sells, and corporations use this solely to boost their profits.
What We Believe
We believe the shallow, diluted form of mainstream pop feminism ultimately serves to undermine the positives of the feminist movement and its philosophical ideals. What matters is real equality between men and women, and having individual women’s stories be heard, not mimicking feminism by wearing a t-shirt that reads, “Sushi Rolls Not Gender Roles” — a common pop feminist slogan.
Why We Want To Redefine Feminism
We want to redefine feminism because it is not working for us. As it has been laid out extensively above, we believe that the features of the modern, third/fourth wave, feminist movement serve to promote a greater divide in society rather than encourage support and community-creation among men and women. Thus, as we see it, the most common features of the modern feminist movement are counter to their philosophical ideals. We believe feminism should promote egalitarianism, individual women’s stories and its philosophical origins of political, legal, economic and social equality for all.
What Happened to Egalitarianism?
According to the Oxford Dictionary:
Feminism: The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.
On the outset, feminism and egalitarianism should converge considerably. Here at Sincerely Silver, we believe they should. However, this section will outline why they do not converge in the feminist movement’s modern iteration. The egalitarian quest for equality is tangential (at best) to the modern feminist movement.
Any reasonable person will read the above two definitions and think, “yes, I agree with that.” However, a fair number of people today feel put-off by the term “feminist,” and refuse to associate it with it — why is this? Because, unfortunately, feminism in modern practice veers drastically away from its definition, where the key theme is internal disagreement among feminists regarding feminism.
The first hint that feminism and egalitarianism are distinct in practice is noted by bell hooks, an American feminist, in her book, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. hooks states, “Feminism, as liberation struggle, must exist apart from and as a part of the larger struggle to eradicate domination in all its forms. We must understand that patriarchal domination shares an ideological foundation with racism and other forms of group oppression, and that there is no hope that it can be eradicated while these systems remain intact. This knowledge should consistently inform the direction of feminist theory and practice (hooks 1989, 22)” Nowhere in hooks’ definition does she mention equality; instead, the goal of feminism is liberation from patriarchal domination.
Next, to understand how feminism diverges from egalitarianism, it is best to focus on what the majority of modern feminists have in common, rather than on how they all differ. Most modern, third/fourth feminists agree on the following:
- Patriarchy is a socially constructed phenomenon that enforces notions of sex and gender, which ultimately equate to male supremacy and female inferiority.
- Patriarchy is the mechanism by which all men institutionally oppress all women.
- All feminisms are united in the fight against patriarchy (if little else).
We at Sincerely Silver are not convinced women need liberation from The Patriarchy, from men or from anything at all. This is because we do not believe The Patriarchy exists, nor that men oppress women. Does this mean we are anti-feminist? Absolutely not. We would argue our position is more feminist than the modern feminist movement’s position: we want to utilize our brand to help uplift individual women’s stories, rather than support a group-think mentality that ostracizes, blames and proselytizes the need for liberation against an unconscious — and possibly non-existent — form of injustice (i.e. oppression).
We believe that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities. This is what we mean when we say we are feminist.
Feminism’s Philosophical Origins vs Tribal Feminism
The primary difference between feminism’s philosophical origins and its modern, third/fourth wave iteration is its lack of emphasis on egalitarianism in place of its dependence and adherence to authoritarianism. Ultimately, the modern third/fourth wave feminist movement is characterized by a blind submission to its dogmas.
Features of Feminism’s Philosophical Origins
Here at Sincerely Silver, we believe the feminist movement should adhere to its philosophical origins of political, social, economic and legal equality for all. (Note: feminism’s philosophical origins should not be confused with Philosophical Feminism.) However, we believe that the modern third/fourth wave of feminism more closely resembles tribal feminism, due to the desire to keep the movement relevant in today’s society.
- Political Equality — This is the extent to which citizens have an equal voice in governmental decisions. As a bedrock of American democracy, political equality demands equal consideration of the preferences and interests of all citizens. This is expressed by equal rights of free speech, equality before the law, and the principle of one person, one vote.
- Social Equality — This notion describes a society in which all regard and treat each other as equals. This describes the state of affairs in a given society in which all people have the same status in regards to civil liberties, freedom of speech, property rights and equal access to goods and services.
- Legal Equality — This is the idea that all people within a society are subject to the same laws of justice. This includes the principle of universal legal subjectivity, meaning that every human being shall be treated as a legal subject with respect to his or her capability of having legal rights and duties.
- Economic Equality — This is the idea that there is a level playing field where everyone has the same access to the same wealth.
Political, economic, social and legal equality should be the ideals we strive for as a society and as a country. Though a true egalitarian society is not possible, it should be the goal we work towards, making our communities stronger each day with these ideals in mind. We can do this by creating laws, systems, institutions and businesses that prohibit discrimination and that enforce equality regardless of race, sex, gender, nationality, religion or age.
Features of Tribal Feminism
The definition of feminism as concerning gender equality, common sense and kindness to others is an ideal. However, in our modern society, this ideal has been warped as it has been put to use. In reality, the modern practice of feminism transformed from necessary and positive philosophical origins to a tribal state, in which a specific set of beliefs, and strict adherence to those beliefs, creates an in-group and an out-group. Those who question the beliefs of feminism find themselves kicked out of the group. Tribal feminism is created by the shared recognition of certain dogmas, the adherence to which delineates in-group from out-group. The dogmas are as follows:
- Cultural Determinism — This argues that behavioral differences among men and women are entirely the result of culture, and reference of biological differences is dismissed.
- Victimhood Narrative — The victimhood narratives states that any differences between men and women are seen as negative: it is not just that there are differences, but that these differences are inherently bad and seen as a form of injustice or oppression. Furthermore, these differences are generally understood to be caused by someone: they don’t simply happen, there is some sort of agency behind them, making certain people into the oppressors. This is where oppression from the patriarchy comes in
- Non-Negotiable Goals — The only acceptable explanation for differences between men and women is cultural. The only acceptable solution for the problems must begin with acceptance of the dogmas, which will facility equality. The only acceptable outcome is absolute equality. Any intermediary outcome is temporary.
- The Zero-Sum Assumption — This is the idea that in order for one to have privilege or power, it must be taken from someone else. The fact that there are differences between men and women is seen as the fault of “malekind,” who has reserved certain rights for itself by taking them from “femalekind.” The idea of privilege is that for the “have-nots” to gain something, the “haves” must be trained or forced to give it up.
Circular Reasoning: How an Inverted Philosophy Becomes Corrupt
Tribal feminists claim to fight oppression and shame, but, when an idea contradicts their own, they then have no problem shaming and oppressing. Their circular reasoning has the movement eating itself from within: the modern feminist movement only remains relevant by promoting the ideology that women are victims. Without this fundamental feature, the modern third/fourth wave of feminism would not be needed. Its fundamental claim that women are victims within a grander patriarchal and oppressive system serves only to undermine the original movement’s purpose: gender equality.
Our Focus: Individual Stories
We believe that the modern feminist movement should be primarily concerned with encouraging individual women’s stories, rather than with promoting the idea that women, as a collective group, are oppressed. Our concern is on individual action, rather than collective action. We believe that it was necessary for the feminist movement to focus on women as a collective in its first and second waves, in order to attain political, legal, economic and social equality for women as a whole. Today, we believe that viewing women as a collective who are oppressed is more damaging than helpful, undermines the origins of feminism, and serves only to keep us from progressing as a society.
Here at Sincerely Silver, our focus is on uplifting individual women and their stories. We want to do this in two ways:
#1 by creating unique & personalized high quality jewelry to help a woman convey something deeply meaningful and personal to her.
#2 via our social media accounts, wherein we hope to engage with women and their stories. If you’re personalized jewelry item has a special meaning attached to it and you’d like to share it with us, we would love to help get your message out there. By sharing your story with us, this could inspire others and serve to create a system of support for other women.
If you are interested in interacting with us in either of these two ways, please feel free to get in touch with us, or contact us via our Instagram account. To learn more about why this matters to us and our definition of feminism at Sincerely Silver, please check out Our Message.
Thanks for reading!
- March 15, 2019
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