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The feminist label

By Dara Macdonald - posted Tuesday, 27 April 2021

'Feminist' has become a much-loaded label, the modern conception of feminism leads people to disassociate from it as quickly as possible. Many women on the centre-right either set themselves up in opposition to 'feminism' or have their female card taken from them. The opposition to promoting Amanda Stoker is a clear example of the 'wrong kind of women' brush that many get painted with.

Whilst I agree with many of these critiques of the excesses of feminists of the Clem Ford ilk, I can't bring myself to throw the term 'feminist' out just yet. It feels like an abandonment of the righteous causes of women in times past who campaigned under the label as well the many who are still striving for the formal legal equality (think Ayaan Hirsi Ali, My Stealthy Freedom etc) that we in Australia (and generally in the West) enjoy.

In short, my relationship with the label is fraught, it is certainly not the first label I would use to describe myself due to its modern associations. However, I also think it is a useful concept and one that I don't much like seeing tarnished.


Question one often gets: Why have a label? If you are for legal equality between the sexes why not just say that and do away with the incredibly fraught label?

All labels fall short in reality - that is the nature of labels - but it doesn't mean they are not useful. Saying that I am simply pro-equality between the sexes leaves a lot to be desired. The aim for formal equality is a true descriptor if we are solely talking about the legal position of women in society - but so often we are talking about more than law and here is where the feminist label comes into its own. Implicit in the notion of feminism is an inherent recognition that there is a difference between the sexes - and at least socially - they will require and want for different things. If there is a point in using the label 'feminist' as opposed to just 'pro-equality' it is that.

In fact, in the era where the mere mention of sex differences is taboo, feminism is becoming increasingly necessary and edgy, and one of the reasons, why (despite all its baggage), I am still not willing to toss the term out entirely.

Feminisms Plural

There are a whole lot of schisms between different types of feminists. There are so many qualifiers one can add. You can be a radical feminist or a reactionary feminist. An equity feminist or a gender feminist or all sorts of things in between.

Equity Feminists vs Gender Feminists

There are the old school 'equity feminists' like Christina Hoff Sommers and Camille Paglia who oppose the excesses of modern feminism for its man-bashing and fragility. Instead of empowering women 'fainting couch feminism' teaches them to be victims. There is truth to a lot of the insults these types of feminists hurl at the gender feminists and why many conservative women tend to associate with their brand over the gender feminists they oppose.

This brand of 'equity feminism' (or first wave that recognised the formal legal equality of women) is incredibly useful against cultural relativists that have flooded the movement. These feminists look at the hijab as empowerment and wish to take Ayaan Hirsi Ali's vagina away. In much of the world, feminism hasn't gone far enough and there are still legal rights to be won for women.


In the west, however, we struggle with too much progress. The complete denial of biological difference has brought forth very different times for women, and I am the opinion that whilst the critique of old school feminists is correct it doesn't do much for taking on the new issues that women face - particularly when many of them are a result of the feminist Frankenstein that many old school types helped to create.

TERFs, Reactionaries and Social Constructionists

There is a very hotly contested schism in the world of feminism over biology.

The first way this schism manifests is through TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and their often very powerful opposition. TERF's argue that feminism is not for trans women because they don't live with or were born with female biology, and therefore how can movement that is intimately intertwined with being biologically female represent them? Then there are the radical feminists that oppose the TERFs (the TIRFs if you will) that say that gender is socially constructed so biology makes no difference whatsoever.

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This article was first published at The Conservative Vagabond.

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About the Author

Dara Macdonald writes at The Conservative Vagabond.

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