Today I want to discuss feminism and how it relates to humanism and egalitarianism. The argument I have heard, and subsequently dwelled upon, can be summed up with the following questions:
Aren’t you for equality for everyone? Then why are you a feminist? Why aren’t you egalitarian? Or a humanist?
Have you ever been confronted with these questions? When I travel down this line of thought and all the roads it produces, I do not find anything that immediately explains to me why I identify as a feminist first, and as an egalitarian/humanist second. I ask myself, if I am fighting for the same things as an egalitarian or humanist, why do I continue to identify as feminist?
To start, I want to define what all these terms mean. I acknowledge that the definitions I have chosen are not going to be everyone’s definitions.
Let’s start with feminism. According to Wikipedia:
Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
Feminism is mainly focused on women’s issues, but author bell hooks and others have argued that, since feminism seeks gender equality, it must necessarily include men’s liberation because men are also harmed by sexism and gender roles.
Egalitarianism is defined:
either as a political doctrine that all people should be treated as equals and have the same political, economic, social, and civil rights or as a social philosophy advocating the removal of economic inequalities among people or the decentralization of power. Some sources define egalitarianism as the point of view that equality reflects the natural state of humanity.
Humanism is defined as:
a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism). The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated, according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of a “human nature” (sometimes contrasted with antihumanism).
I was a bit confused at this point regarding humanism, as its definition seems to change with the political winds. However, after perusing the internet a little bit, I have determined that the humanism in question is probably Secular Humanism:
The philosophy or life stance of secular humanism (alternatively known by some adherents as Humanism, specifically with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism) embraces human reason, ethics, social justice and philosophical naturalism, while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.
It posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or a god. It does not, however, assume that humans are either inherently evil or innately good, nor does it present humans as being superior to nature. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology—be it religious or political—must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy.
Here is how I think they all fit together:
Egalitarianism is the end goal, which is to treat everyone as equals.
Secular humanism is a belief that human beings should base their decision making on facts and observations rather than just accepting things as they are told to you.
Feminism uses the secular humanist mentality to sift through our patriarchal society in order to bring inequalities to light and move toward equality, aka egalitarianism. So humanism and egalitarianism aren’t so much as umbrellas under which we can place feminism, as they are all three intertwined. I identify as a feminist first because I want to be very clear to everyone that I acknowledge we still live in a patriarchal society, and that I am trying to change that. Egalitarianism is the end goal. Secular Humanism is part of the means. Feminism defines the current problem.
I’ll be post-feminist in a post-patriarchal society.