The MWS Podcast 79: Susan Averbach, Tim Kaine and Shana Averbach on Feminism

In this round table discussion, Susan Averbach, Tim Kaine and Shana Averbach discuss what they understand by feminism, how it has evolved, the progress it has made and the challenges it faces. Reversing gender roles in fiction and professional documentation is also discussed as well looking at gender equality in the work place and to what degree feminism is a phenomenon of the developed world.

(In the initial exchanges the Skype audio quality is a little bit choppy, but it clears up after that)

MWS Podcast 79: Feminism as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_79_Feminism

Click here to view other podcasts

About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

One thought on “The MWS Podcast 79: Susan Averbach, Tim Kaine and Shana Averbach on Feminism

  1. I enjoyed listening to this discussion, particularly as the participants had different but complementary perspectives to feed into it. The account of how one can apply the Middle Way to feminism was very practically oriented, and that may well be the best way to communicate it. However, the possible limitation to understanding the Middle Way only in relation to extremes as one practically encounters them is that it becomes rather contextually dependent, and harder to transfer to very different social or ideological situations. So I thought it might be helpful if I just offer a few further suggestions on what the Middle Way in relation to feminism might look like.

    The key element in identifying the Middle Way as I understand it is that there are absolutised beliefs on either side that contradict each other. When you’re talking about a social or political ideology like feminism those absolutised views are likely to be interpretations of values that we all feel and use more moderately, and here I find the work of Jonathan Haidt (‘The Righteous Mind’) in identifying value foundations really useful. Where feminism is concerned I think those value foundations are ones of justice (understood as equality), and to some extent freedom (from patriarchal restrictions) and care (as a nurturing value often particularly associated with the experience of women). So in some ways you could see Middle Way feminism as positively valuing those things in a way that closely relates to your experience. On the other hand extreme or dogmatic opposites related to feminism (patriarchal beliefs and extreme feminist beliefs) tend to either take one of those foundations and absolutise it at the expense of the others, or bring in other dogmas (such as essential male supremacy on the one hand, or essential androgyny – denying that any psychological differences between men and women might have a biological basis – on the other).

    So, the Middle Way in feminism seems to me to involve explicit avoidance of such dogmas. Obviously the biggest one of these is still patriarchy itself, as it still dominates in many parts of the world, and the occasional excesses of Kate Millett or Germaine Greer still have very little dogmatic power by comparison. Other dogmas, though, might mean taking gender equality to a very heavily-legislated extreme too much at the expense of individual freedom, or taking women’s freedom from male dominance to such an extreme (ignoring values of care) that they break off all relations with men and reproduce asexually.

    There’s always a danger that the Middle Way is assumed to the be ‘middle of the road’, which also means that it might be assumed to be’ just common sense’ and therefore unnecessary. In relation to feminism, though, I think it can lead us to some quite radical conclusions without recourse to dogmas that absolutise one sort of basic value at the expense of the others. Separating out the justifiable values from the dogmas, even if the justifiable values turn out to be quite radical and not ‘middle way’ at all in popular consciousness, seems to me to be what might help such arguments become more convincing to all in the long run. We are only ever persuaded by what impacts on our experience, and simply asserting or denying absolutisations just creates conflict.

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