A few days ago the Philosophy Society I help run had a discussion over feminism: What is the difference between political and philosophical feminism?
First, I should clarify my own position: I am a feminist, politically and philosophically. However, because of that curse we call reality, it’s not as easy as that. For example, I do not believe there should be laws that state I should be paid the same as a man, that I deserve the same education or rights to vote as a man. I am a human being, a British citizen, an emotional, intellectual being; I pay taxes, I ride the tube, breathe the polluted London air and clap my short-sighted vision on the same beautiful, devastating and humours sights as my male counterparts. No law should pre-suppose that women are or have ever been the lesser gender.
Additionally, I do not deny there are physical differences between men and women that cannot be changed. Women bare children: men do not. This is not something we can change: but we can change the way we view women (and men) as a result. I feel very lucky that I had a stay-at-home dad, this is something I wouldn’t change – I owe my love of history to him (and possibly my overly relaxed attitude to money management,) women don’t have to stay at home; it’s a choice many make but it is just that: a choice.
These things said, even writing this makes me a philosophical feminist. I feel, I believe, without instigating any change within institutions or government, that men and women are equal. My beliefs sit permanently within me: ethically, politically, ontologically. I may not be taking any action towards them, but they are still there permanently.
Is that the difference between philosophical and political feminism? Does Philosophical feminism lead political feminism? Or is all feminism political?
We, the British, are lucky to be able to stand up in a room, in the street, on a roof, in a protest, and say ‘I am a feminist.’ Or, even, ‘I believe in equal rights for all people.’ There are large numbers of people in the world who cannot say this, they cannot share their beliefs about equal rights. Some do not even have the belief because of their geographical location. This is wrong, but it is also reality.
A philosophy is (according to the dictionary): A system of values by which one lives, where as a political belief is: a body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.
The real question here is: Can I have something that I live by (a philosophy) that doesn’t reflect my social needs and aspirations? Is every philosophy influenced by our surroundings? Or are some innate?
I wont go into a rationalist/empiricist debate here but just consider this: Go to ANY Wikepedia page. Start with anything you like. (I once did this with Bradley Wiggins, it took about 20 minutes), and thenclick on the first link that isn’t in (brackets) or italics. Keep doing it.Eventually you get to philosophy. Every time.
It always comes back to philosophy.
– By Katy
(Also published on Katy’s blog)