Feminism is not a personality trait

18 Sep

(Or, Reconciling my Feminism, Part II)

In the early days of my blog, I posted an entry entitled “Reconciling my feminism, Part I” in which I talked about my early process of, well, reconciling my feminist identity with my submissive desires.

I eventually intended to write a follow-up post in which I went further, expanding on my ideas about sex-positive feminism. But I’d like to do something different, instead. I’d like to talk about the idea of feminism as a personality trait, and why it’s so problematic.

Recently I was talking with a fellow, a thoughtful guy exploring his own dominant desires. He’s also single but lives far away and neither of us is looking for something long-distance, so it’s been a good opportunity to talk to someone with no romantic or sexual intentions.

I’d asked him for his thoughts on my fetlife profile, and he ventured, cautiously, that I might want to avoid referring to myself as a feminist, in said profile. Because most people hear “feminist” and think “strong woman” – and that runs counter to what people will expect from a submissive woman.

Let’s leave aside, for a moment, the idea that a submissive can’t or shouldn’t be strong (I don’t think that’s what he was trying to say, and anyway I think I’ve made my thoughts about that idea pretty clear). Let’s talk about the idea that “feminist” means “strong.”

One thing that’s happened as feminism has become more mainstream is that it’s gotten depoliticized a bit. So that feminism, in the popular imagination, is not simply about equality between men and women, or about critiquing gender-based privilege, or male privilege, but about being a “strong woman.”

I think that’s a problem, for a number of reasons. But mostly, as I say in the title of this post, feminism is not a personality trait. It’s a point of view, a philosophy, an ideology, a social/political movement. 

A feminist can be shy or outgoing, feminine or masculine, analytical or emotional, driven or lazy. What makes a feminist is not their (because men can be feminists too) personality, but their beliefs. And yes, how they live those beliefs is important, but I don’t believe anyone should have to change their personality to be called a feminist – because feminism is not a personality trait.

So that’s how I can be both feminist and submissive. Because neither explains the whole of my being. Feminism is part of my worldview and political belief system; submission is a part of how I interact with certain people.

For some deeper thoughts on feminism and personality, with an excellent Jungian analysis, check out this post by Sady Doyle. It’s not about BDSM, but it’s highly relevant and gave me the catalyst to write this post.

2 Responses to “Feminism is not a personality trait”

  1. discerning dom September 20, 2011 at 8:44 AM #

    This is very cogently expressed, and I think your point is sound. I’d also wonder whether a dom who would run away when he saw the word feminist would really be the kind of dom you would wish to attract.

    • feministsub September 20, 2011 at 9:30 AM #

      I’d also wonder whether a dom who would run away when he saw the word feminist would really be the kind of dom you would wish to attract.

      Definitely not! Good point, and one of the reasons I did decide to make my feminism clear.

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