Yeah. It’s going to be one of those posts. And it’s going to be long winded, so buckle in–I promise to get to the juicy stuff eventually. I am a woman (a black, working class, atheistic woman, to drive home the point of my utter tokenism), and I am not a feminist. Frankly, I find it irritating when people insist that I am. And since not being a feminist is something looked down upon, I decided to make this post to further explain my reasoning. I’m laying down my cards, so to speak, providing the different point of view that liberals such as myself love so much to bring to the table.
I’m not unrelenting in this belief–if any feminist wants to provide counterpoints, I will be liable to listen to you with an open mind. I won’t be contrary for the sake of being contrary, or argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. If you think you can convince me otherwise, give it a shot. If you can support your beliefs and give logical reasons for why I should think that way too, I may change my mind. Who knows?
To begin with, I thought it would be prudent to go over the commonly assumed reasons that one would not be a feminist and briefly discuss why those don’t apply. It’s easy to assume that they apply to all non-feminists by default (no doubt they apply to some, but let’s not generalize) so I felt the need to address them before I went any further into this particular conversation. So here we go . . .
1.) I’m against women’s rights.
I don’t hear many people say this directly, but it seems to be implied in a lot of arguments that people who aren’t feminists just don’t think deep down that women should have equal rights as men, that they’re inherently biased against gender equality. That is not the case. Women should have equal rights, no question.
2.) I think feminism is a dirty word and don’t want to be judged by people.
I live and work in academia. Feminism may be a dirty word in some places, but it’s the Holy Grail once you get into the majorly leftist college scene. Not being a feminist gets you dirty looks in my environment, so you can bet that I’m not making this claim just because feminism isn’t cool and I don’t want people to judge me.
3.) I just don’t understand what it is and what it entails.
Feminism is the belief that women should be equal to men economically, socially, and politically. There are subsections of it, but that’s the main definition. I’ve been to workshops, conferences, and lectures. I’ve taken gender studies. I was a staunch feminist for many years and attended those types of events fervently and frequently. I know what feminism is, and I know what feminists are trying to do. I just don’t agree. Not agreeing is not commensurate with being under-informed or ignorant.
4.) I’m not a feminist because I like men.
While I don’t see this as a particularly damnable reason in of itself–incredibly simple and black and white in its thinking, maybe, but not the nail in the coffin–this is not one of my reasons. I do like men, though. Most of my close friends are men, and as far as drama goes, guys get into it but I personally find it to be of a more tolerable sort.
5.) I’m just a MRA who hates feminism on principle.
I’m not an MRA, actually. I can sympathize with plenty of MRM points and think the demonization that movement gets isn’t entirely fair, but I think the Men’s Right’s Movement and feminism are two sides of the same coin with ironically mutual faults that turn me off of both of them. At least people are more than happy to point out when MRAs mess up, unlike how feminism is regarded.
7.) I don’t believe that sexism against women exists and/or don’t think it’s a problem.
Sexism exist. I have experienced it myself. Women in past eras were treated badly, a lot of the time for sexist reasons. There are still people who are sexist now, and they’re assholes, and some of them have more power than others. And fighting for women’s rights is a commendable task. I just don’t agree with how feminists go about addressing these things.
Now that the list of common misconceptions is out of the way, let’s get on to my actual line of reasoning, shall we?
I am not a feminist. Something that feminists like to tell me when I make that claim is “If you believe in gender equality you are feminist by default whether you acknowledge it or not.” That is my first issue. That line of reasoning is fairly accepted. They say it a lot, so they must think that it’s a good point. But step back for a minute and apply that to any other belief and you’ll see how insulting that is to say to someone, especially to someone who outright states “I’m know I’m not X.” Maybe if I was unsure about how my beliefs would be labeled, that claim would be helpful and informative. But it’s otherwise just rude. It’s like Opera Winfrey telling her self proclaimed atheist guest “You’re not an atheist because you’re in awe, and that means you meet my personal qualifications of being defined as religious.” It’s a presumptuous thing to do. But when feminists apply their label to people who overtly don’t want it based upon arbitrary qualifications, it’s considered the point to end all points. It seems more like a way to fabricate a world where most people agree with you even if that’s not necessarily the case.
I should state here that this is not a matter of definitions. That above argument doesn’t work because we do not live in an ideal world where dictionary definitions and textbook mission statements define how something actually is. If that was the case, Communism would be the best thing ever and my old high school’s Key Club would have actually done volunteer work. A good mission statement does not a good movement make. Feminism has an awesome mission statement, and for a while it worked out just fine and accomplished some pretty good, progressive things. That’s not how it is anymore, though, not in my opinion at least. If feminism did what feminists say feminism does, I’d be all for it. But feminism as a real world movement has flaws that people aren’t even willing to address. If they did address their faults, I’d be more likely to take the movement seriously. But, like I said, feminism is the Holy Grail, and you do not question the Holy Grail.
Mainstream Western feminism seems very fond of spreading skewed or downright incorrect information and misrepresenting situations just to make it’s point. Their rape statistics are notoriously inconsistent and all over the place, to the point where it just seems like they pick whatever will hit ’em where it hurts the most. Their usage of statistics in general would make anyone who has taken one Intro Stat course scream: they make inappropriate comparisons, leave out other information that would paint a fuller picture, state causality where none can be legitimately established, and exaggerate underwhelming data. The initial gender wage gap study was incredibly biased and inaccurate and proven wrong almost immediately and consistently proven wrong even now, but that’s still something everyone points to as a True Fact of Sexism. They make it seem like domestic violence is a strictly gendered issue with their questionable “___ in ___ women will be a victim of domestic violence” ads when it’s almost split right down the middle gender-wise. They take international statistics that include undeveloped third world countries and genuinely sexist/patriarchal countries and make it seem like the statistic applies to the Western world specifically for shock value. That method is obviously very questionable and makes it seem like feminists can’t make their points without skewing the data somehow.
Then there’s the victimology of it all. I can see what you’re going to say now–you’re going to compare me to Fox News complaining about how there’s a war on Christmas, and you’re going to say I’m taking authority away from women by making it seem like they have nothing to complain about and that anything negative they have to say is just them being wet blankets with a victim complex. I’ve heard it already, but let me explain. Sexism exists, and that is bad. I would never assume that any of the women discussing the sexism that they’ve experienced are lying about any of it. But it seems like feminists engage in “therapeutic alienation” (I stole the term from John McWhorter) a lot of the time. That is, a legitimate and terrible hurt was done to women as a group in the past and that psychological scar is still present, so that hurt manifests itself even in situations where the outside stimulus wouldn’t logically call for such a deep-felt emotional reaction. In my opinion, that alienation is why some women act like asshole cat-callers on the street (men who probably have sad, working class existences and low self esteem and whom no one would envy) are harassers of the highest order and the scum of the earth. It’s why some women insists that society has it out for them and is built to oppress them at every turn even when they’re successful, comfortably middle class academics in positions of power. It’s why #YesAllWomen exists, perpetuating the idea that all women are constantly afraid to leave their home less they be swarmed by men like zombies in a Romero movie. It’s why “innocent until proven guilty” when applied to rape cases is deemed as victim blaming. I’m not saying that sexism doesn’t exist. It absolutely does. But it has to be dealt with realistically, not treated with reactionary rhetoric that decries the fact that the world isn’t perfect and that women still have problems. Claiming that the very world is out to get you because you’re a woman in 21st century America who has to deal with gender-related annoyances sometimes helps no one and accomplishes nothing, and it diminishes actual examples of sexism that legitimately should be treated with such gravity. It’s incredibly unproductive to just point out how some people you come across are assholes to you, and use that as your reason for why society needs to change.
The main reason that I’m not a feminist, though, is that the movement is just so damn inconsistent in both its actions and its rhetoric. It’d be like being in comic book club that only read comics sometimes because manga exists too and constantly flip flops on whether it thinks Frank Miller is the worst thing ever (he is, btdubs). So here are some of my questions and reasons for having them:
1.) Why does the patriarchy matter so much? It disadvantages women, but according to feminists it disadvantages men as well. In short, it hurts everyone. I get the patriarchy leading to the mistreatment of women, but why would a patriarchy directly disadvantage men? Not just tangentially as the logical outcome of discrimination but directly like with prisons, murder, suicide, homelessness, and child care laws. Wouldn’t any patriarchy worth its salt avoid that? And in the Western world women aren’t directly held back from doing whatever they want. They may get some social push back, but it’s not legal or deemed acceptable or even normal at this point in time. A boss telling his female employee to show more skin if she wants a promotion doesn’t get a slap on the wrist, he gets a harassment lawsuit; and parents who want their daughter to get married instead of focus on her job are seen as well meaning but behind the times. So if the patriarchy even exists in the Western world, isn’t it doing a really shitty job now?
2.) Does the movement help men or not? Yeah, “the patriarchy hurts men too” and everything, but aside from just mentioning it I don’t see feminists actually doing anything. They kind of just say that helping women helps men too, but that’s a cop out. You can’t claim that you help both genders equally and then focus on one of them and say focusing on one helps the other by default. What are you actually doing? Feminists mention that conceptions of rape hurt male rape victims, but they don’t really do much besides just mention it–as opposed to the charity drives and activist campaigns all dedicated to female rape survivors or focusing solely on male-on-female rape statistics. They say that domestic violence against men is bad, but they raise money to make shelters specifically for women domestic violence victims, focus on women in any campaigns they do, and hardly even mention that men make up almost half of domestic violence cases. They raise money for female-centric diseases like breast cancer but hardly ever focus on illnesses that affect men more or affect the genders equally. I’m not saying that fighting for only women’s rights is bad. You pick your battles; you can’t care about everything at once. I get it. But many feminists insist that they work to help both genders, and that really does not seem like the case. I understand trying to be more inclusive, but lying about what you do isn’t going to get you anywhere.
3.) How much do you care about the job gap? Feminists are quick to complain about the lack of women politicians, scientists, and CEOs, but how far does that yearning for equal gender representation actually go? I don’t see many people complaining about the gender discrepancies in job fields where women are dominant–insurance, psychology/psychiatry, modeling, many subsections of medicine, nursing, child care, social work, accounting, academia, etc. I also don’t see many people complaining about the shitty job fields that are male dominated. Would the world benefit from having more females doing backbreaking physical labor, factory work, janitorial work, garbage disposal, wild animal control, sewage cleaning, or security jobs? Would it benefit from having more male models and English majors? But, at the same time, they’re quick to point out the shitty jobs that more women have. Feminism seems like the annoying overbearing mom that wants to brag about her daughters to her hairdresser, so she passive aggressively pressures them into being doctors and lawyers because those are the impressive jobs. The only benefit I can see from wanting to even out gender demographics is that it makes people feel good.
4) Is human sexuality good or bad? Is the woman who knows she’s sexy and decides to make money off of that by being a model being objectified, or is she taking control of her own life like all women should be able to? Are scantily clad women inherently sexualized, or is there nothing inherently sexual about exposed breasts and a short skirt? Are prostitutes being taken advantage of, or are they owning their sexuality? This legitimately confuses me. Magazine ads are bad because the women in them are objectified, but what about male models (who get paid waaaaaayyyyy less than female models, by the way) who are objectified just as much? Isn’t that disrespecting that model’s agency to choose what she does with her own body and who gets to look at it and enjoy its aesthetic appeal? Not to mention that the ads so often complained about are in media consumed mainly by other women and gay guys. A women wanting to wear a busty outfit because it makes her boobs look good is fine, but a man noticing her boobs afterwards is being a sexist pig who only likes her for her body. A woman being sexually aggressive is proud and strong and unashamed about liking sex in this prudish virgin/whore culture, but if a guy said the same things that “sexually aggressive” woman say, he’d be deemed a creeper. It oftentimes just seems like sexuality is good when it’s a woman, but as soon as a man gets involved he’s inevitably going to be deemed sexist for some reason at some point. I don’t want to see it that way. It’s not like there aren’t people out there who only see women as moving eye candy that say things that can be ignored, but that double standard is how it so often comes across.
So there you have it. What is said and what is done in the feminist movement seem to be two very disconnected things. And I’d, once again, be more liable to take it seriously if people just acknowledged that disconnect, but many people insist that it doesn’t exist and that feminism is totes consistent. Lady Moses went up to the mountaintop and spoke to the confusingly androgynous god of gender equality and she came back down with feminism, and there’s no questioning that. And this is mainstream ideology. It’s not like I’m looking at obscure sites for subgroups of feminists who deviate from the norm–this is what feminists say pretty consistently all around in mainstream appearances and campaigns, and it doesn’t add up to me.
I try to be realistic, and that is why I can’t be a feminist. If I went to Saudi Arabia or some place like that, I would call myself a feminist because places like that could use the kind of feminism that the Western world once had. But here and now? No. Feminism has turned into a movement that has a legitimate point to make every now and again but seems preoccupied with being emotional and nonconstructive. It seems preoccupied with moaning and wondering when, oh when, the men will finally understand what we have to go through as women, all while going through minimal effort to actually achieve that understanding and denying how far women have truly come over the years in favor of impassioned rhetoric about how much is still sucks to have a vagina and live in America. Any “dialogues” it has to “build understanding” are one-sided talks where the feminists say what they want to say and everyone else can nod sympathetically, questioning nothing that is said to any great extent and basking in how enlightened they are to the social issues of today or otherwise being deemed as an unfortunate embarrassment of a someone who “just doesn’t get it.”
Feminism, in the end of the day, doesn’t seem like something interested in answering questions or solving problems. It seems like something that makes claims–only some of which are supported by reality–and expects people to just agree. It seems driven by whatever emotion feminists are widely feeling at the time, dependent upon pre-established paradigms that are questionable under scrutiny, subject to individual opinion over objective analysis, and just generally reactionary and nonconstructive, with people being more concerned with making sure everyone else knows how hard they have it and making them feel bad as opposed to doing much about it. That’s in bold because it’s a summary.
So I’ll stand alongside the feminists with the picket signs decrying our abysmal abortion policies and support with them the politicians that want to teach actual sex education. But don’t expect me to join up with the movement afterwards just because we agree on a few things.