Taking stock of a year of advocating for women and the dignity of dependence
I appreciate the blend of lived experience and intellectual inquiry that you promote here. Despite a swanky liberal arts education, I never encountered "academic" or various mainstream feminisms in any sort of formal or structured or even peer-promoted way. Rather, I'd say I jumped from inhabiting a fairly complacent, don't-rock-the-boat, conservative-ish upbringing that didn't ask questions or push me much to wrestle with them for myself; into an adult milieu that is decidedly progressive but often ALSO doesn't ask questions, because the right progressive answers are already assumed to be a given. I have often feel underprepared to participate in the discourse around me, but my heart and mind insist that things are more complex than my neighbors and peer group and social media circles seem to allow for. It's as if there's a haze of fogginess hanging over feminism, when the terms and definitions and histories and other -isms either elude me or seem to contradict themselves from conversation to conversation. So, I find in following your articles and links and comment section, that I have to read carefully, think hard, stretch my intellectual and ethical muscles, and sit with things for a week or more when I'm reading along regularly. I think that kind of sustained engagement, paired with a tone of respect and thoughtful exchange, and frankly the anonymity of the web, really helps to exercise those muscles, to dispel some of the fogginess. This page is a workout. I'm grateful for your umbrella of "other" that offers me a chance to test ideas in a way that's robust but not automatically pre-determined. I've felt over the years that I'm the most liberal person in a conservative setting, and the most conservative in my liberal sets-- yet here you typically invite readers past the either/or into a both/and or other/more or even a not-yet-but-what-if? Sometimes I end up reconsidering my position, sometimes I clarify it, sometimes I get to examine my reasons for a gut-reaction disagreement, sometimes I recognize new questions to pursue. This page offers scaffolding, context, and prompting that I hadn't necessarily known how to frame on my own.
I would describe it first and foremost as an all-too-rare place where I can have a great conversation about various women's issues with people who disagree strongly with me.
I also feel like it's a place where the prompts that you share have really helped me reflect and articulate my perspectives on different issues, and having a prompt to respond to each week has helped me keep these topics in the forefront of my mind throughout this year. I really think that responding to your prompts each week has helped strengthen my convictions and in some cases forced me to reconcile contradictions I've tried to hold in my head.
As a side note, I've started playing with the name "Embodied Feminism." A current that runs through a lot of our conversations is that feminism needs to embrace the reality of women's bodies, in all their weaknesses and all the ways they must be treated differently from men's bodies. It's also a rebuke of the idea of the mind-body duality that can encourage us to hate our bodies or wish to change them because they don't conform to what our minds wish they were like.
I honestly would love it if more (or any) priests would read this. So often in my life I have felt like the primary community my 'feminism' alienates me from is the observant Catholic Church. Conservatives seem to signal their allegiance to orthodox Christianity by laughing off the women's movement without an honest, critical assessment of what the women's movement even is or contributes.
My sense is that priests don't engage with these issues either because of the aforementioned conservative attitude, or because they seem themselves as the beneficiaries of a male-dominated system and entertaining these questions is compromising or uncomfortable. Of course, the very theory of this substack is that we don't have all the answers but that it's still worth asking the questions. It would go a long way towards feeling like the Catholic Church actually isn't sexist if her leaders would care enough to listen to the concerns that are raised by intelligent and seriously faithful women.
I haven't commented much since I started following Other Feminisms and am way late to this thread, but I just want to say that I particularly love the terms "personalist feminism" and "dignitarian feminism". I definitely consider myself a personalist, which has a lot to do with universal human dignity and moral agency (but is different from individualism). But for my own qualifier attached to feminism, I've been coming to think of myself as a complementarian feminist, which I think fits with your insights about societal expectations for women to conform ourselves to standards of normativity defined by maleness.
Even though I've hardly contributed to these discussions, so much of what you write in Other Feminisms resonates with me. If groups like Feminists for Life and New Wave Feminists hadn't already brought me to a kind of feminism I could feel at home in, maybe you would have been that tipping point. Thank you for creating this forum for us misfit feminists! (Another one for the list perhaps.)
I have no problem with the conservative feminism label. I think of it as an updated version of difference feminism, see ie., Feminist Legal Theory by Levit, Verchick and Minow:
A place to discuss and challenge the ways in which modern feminism presupposes a specific mindset and political orientation about women and society.
A place to think about the challenges the (radical) trans rights movement poses to biological women and girls, and the ways in which this happens with the full suport of a number of mainstream feminist groups.
I like that you embrace that women have a unique and irreplaceable place in society while embracing their fertility and roles as Mom and Wife. We don't need to be like men - we shouldn't be like men. I'm not hearing this anywhere else online or in the media. Thank you!