Once upon a time, another feminist blogger said something mean to me and like the mature adult I am, I complained about it to my friends on Facebook. Most people responded with the typical “oh, how mean, poor baby,” and so on. However, one childhood friend (who I believe often rebels for the sole sake of rebelling against things) said something akin to “Forget her, you’re the good kind of feminist.”
Fairly recently, I was reunited with a dear friend from college, who assured me that her new husband “likes me because I’m not one of those feminazis”* but he doesn’t like feminists because of the radical, anti-man feminism he looks up online.
With all of the proud claims of anti-feminism by both celebrities and regular folks these days, such as Why We Don’t Need Feminism tumblr or Shailene Woodley announcing to the world that she is not a feminist, I feel like I ought to take a moment to address why I feel the “Glinda the Good Feminist” badge I have somehow been awarded is extremely problematic. From what I’ve read, there appears to be three solid, tangible reasons why people have decided that Feminism is abhorrent, sexist, or what have you:
1. Feminism is being incorrectly defined…again
My very first thought, honestly, is a quote from the aptly titled film A Good Woman: “You’ve been buying idle gossip. You should get a refund.”**
When it comes to a LOT of the anti-feminists of Tumblr and the young Shailene Woodley, a great deal of the anti-feminism sentiment comes from the message of apparent anti-male, pro-matriarchal message they believe that feminism is attempting to sell. THIS IS NOT WHAT FEMINISM IS. Feminism is, at its most simple definition, simply equality between the genders (I no longer like to say “between men and women” because that strikes me as too hetero-normative). Yes, the root of the word is “fem” which implies “female” which makes it sound like it’s all about women’s power and hating on men, but look at the origins – feminism comes from taking women and removing them from the floor where they were being stepped on. What you’re doing is confusing feminism with misandry.
“I’m an equalist, not a feminist.” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that. My response is always as such – “Great! I’m glad you are an equalist, and that moniker is excellent when describing your thoughts towards society as a whole, but why is it that when talking about and focusing on specifically women, ‘feminist’ is still a dirty word to you?”
Either “I don’t know,” or “Because we shouldn’t focus on specifically women at any given time,” is usually the sentiment expressed.
“Because people don’t like feminists and I want to be liked,” is always my sneaking suspicion.
Feminism is NOT anti-equalism. It’s merely a specific facet of equalism that we are focusing on at the moment. Being a feminist doesn’t make you automatically anti-man or anti-gay or anti-POC or what have you. It’s not a catch-all for one’s entire political and social view. Equalism is the tree trunk, and feminism is one of the branches. Saying “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist,” is like saying “I’m not a Coloradan, I’m an American.” Well, I’m an American, too, buddy, but I happen to be talking about states, not countries.
We have come a LONG way, but we still have some work to do. I feel like I’ve said this a million times, but here goes once more –
Feminism is not about taking power away from men. It is about ensuring equality between genders.
A lot of people I’ve found on this anti-feminist tumblr are also staking the claim that men and women have already achieved equality, so feminism is pointless and just out to stir trouble. Well, I can point this out – women still are paid less than men. My god, in the past people have literally died trying to ensure an eight-hour workday. Workers’ rights are not a joke, and are not to be ignored. Furthermore, women are still victims of sex-trafficking, women are still taught not to walk alone at night, or not to get too drunk, or not to dress to provocatively…if you honestly believe that women, as a whole, across the globe, are not still facing disadvantages then you are deluding yourself.
Many women simply say that they don’t need or believe in feminism because they have never experienced sexism. Well, most likely there are one of two reasons that’s the case: 1. You are reaping the benefits of feminists who paved the way for you, like Susan B Anthony or 2. You are so used to gender inequality that you honestly don’t notice it anymore. The latter I think is incredibly important for anti-feminist men, who feel that their rights are being stripped by the “feminist agenda” when in truth they are simply startled by the leveling of the playing field. To which I usually respond with “Sir, let me take away 20% of your pay and start regulating your sperm and see if you get a little militant.“
I this this video nicely illustrates my point:
HOWEVER, I understand that in spite of all this, there are still people whose knee-jerk reaction is to cry out “but what about the feminists that hate men? This one time, I…” and I would like to interject with a “YES, I know, which brings me to my next point…”
2. You are confusing the outliers with the mode
I’m not going to pretend there aren’t radical, anti-male, “down-with-men-women-take-over-the-world,” so-called feminists out there…just like I don’t imagine my readers will attempt to deny the existence of anti-woman, chauvinist, rape apologists lurking in dark corners. Just like there are radical, problematic, or even dangerous factions of Christians, Muslims, Jews, white people, black people, Republicans, Democrats, environmentalists…the list goes on and on. What’s happening is that people are taking the extremists and making the movement all about the them, which corrupts what the goal is. Yes, there are extreme “anti-man and anti-whoever disagrees with them” feminists, but that does NOT mean that is what all feminists are like or that is what feminism is about. I think that’s common sense!
What if I said that all Muslims are terrorists?
What if I said that all Christians are homophobic and hateful like these guys?
What if I said that all environmentalists were either drug addicts or eco-terrorists?
What if I said that all black and/or African-American people were criminals?
What if I said that all men are sexist? Huh? What would you do if I said that ALL MEN are sexist?
So, just because you met an unpleasant person once who was also a feminist, or you read a radical, anti-male feminist forum, it doesn’t mean that you have feminism all figured out. I believe that most people are intelligent enough to understand that. Then why do people still make these wild assumptions?
I think my boyfriend summed it up best, with regards to my friend’s husband who reads radical, enraging things online: he is seeking out righteous indignation.
I remember my first semester at college when our RA talked to us about the partying situation. “If you go looking for a party,” she said, “you’ll find one. But if you don’t go looking for a party, you won’t find it.” I feel that this applies here as well. I have been an avid feminist blogger, reading articles, books and talking to like-minded people for years, and I have never by chance encountered an anti-male, pro-matriarchy feminist. I had to actually go looking for them. Why would you go actively looking for this? Perhaps because, on some level, you crave the righteous indignation. Also, being able to dismiss feminists as misguided and sexist is probably a great way of absolving yourself from any self-assigned guilt you have as a man. It’s not easy feeling like you’re walking around wearing devil horns when you feel like you’ve done nothing wrong. For example, being the only white and non-Indian person in an American Indian studies class, and learning about all the horrible things white people have done. Guilt is a strong emotion, and it doesn’t feel good to be villainized. I can understand why someone would want to de-legitimize someone’s point when the feeling of accusation grows too great.
Which brings me to my last point…
3. The need for intersectionalism
This is the only argument against feminism as we know it that I feel has any solid reason. Intersectionalism in feminism is, I believe, an incredibly important thing that needs to be more mainstream because it fixes a lot of problems that mainstream feminism does, indeed, have. Intersectionalism will, if correctly defined and correctly understood, bring acknowledgement and representation to women of color, gay women, transgender women, disabled women, sex workers, and many, many factions of women that tend to get swept under the rug in the wake of mainstream feminism which is friendliest to white, straight, ciswomen.
If your argument against feminism is in regards to its lack of intersectionalism, I absolutely agree with you, which is why I’ve started this intersectionalist approach to feminism that I have touched upon in previous posts. I have been doing a lot of research of race and feminism, which is the first hurdle of intersectionalism I want to embrace. With one step at a time, I hope to understand and help others understand the unique experience that so many individuals who cannot be easily “defined.”
I’m sure one of two things will happen here – either this post will go largely ignored or I will be flooded with righteously indignant comments about how feminists are the problem and that each particular reader has been nothing but a martyr who fought back his or her entire life. But the dialogue needs to start, becuase with this hateful and incorrect definition of feminism consistently being spewed like feces at the proverbial fan, things for us are not going to change and equality will not be achieved.
To sum up: If you do not want to identify as a feminist because you don’t like labels or something, then that’s fine, it’s your prerogative. However, please do not denounce something, try to explain it, or throw embittered judgement about it without understanding what you’re talking about. If you don’t want to identify as feminist because you don’t think men and women should have equal rights, you have big problems. If you don’t want to identify as feminist because you think the monolith of feminism is bad, please re-read.
“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”
-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
*Because wanting gender equality is apparently exactly the same as mass genocide and invading Poland.
**Which is based of the Oscar Wilde play Lady Windermere’s Fan, has ScarJo and Helen Hunt, I highly recommend.