I’ve had this post percolating for a few weeks, but a few things have distracted me from writing it, but finally, here it is.
Some weeks ago I began to notice the whole ‘Women Against Feminism’ thing taking off. As someone happy to be called a feminist at first I thought it was a joke. But it kept on going. There were all kinds of things popping up.
There’s even a whole Facebook page devoted to ‘Women Against Feminism’ with over 20,000 likers. It’s full of pictures with women holding up signs saying things like ‘I don’t need feminism because feminism is not just about equality, it relies on the assumption that women have it worse – I think women have it better.’ and ‘I don’t need feminism because I just don’t. It should be my choice! What I choose to label myself. Stop forcing your feminist label on me. If feminists are fighting for women to have choices why are they shaming me for rejecting their label?’ and ‘I am done with feminism because I have equality and my own voice.’
There’s a twitter hashtag (#womenagainstfeminism) and pinterest sites, tumblr stuff and whole blog posts, and now I’m writing another one.
I suppose what’s saddened me most is that there are so many young women holding those signs up. I might add that most of those young women appear to be from first world countries. (I may be wrong – feel free to correct me.) But in a week here in Australia when it was reported that the pay gap between genders is now the worst in twenty years, I was wondering why they thought abandoning feminism was appropriate.
My thoughts run in two directions.
Firstly, there are some extremist views amongst the more mainstream feminist views. Simply put, feminism is about equality. It’s not about hating men, but it is about speaking up when inequality occurs and addressing the root causes of it. Sometimes it does mean pointing out that misogyny is at work. Sometimes it means addressing patriarchy, and it nearly always means that the status quo is challenged. However there are without doubt some extremists who hate men, and they should be challenged when they attempt to spread their extremist views. Feminism is most definitely NOT about hating men. It’s about having the same opportunities.
Secondly, somewhere along the line we’ve mixed feminism up with sex. It isn’t and never has been all about sex. To some extent feminism has been about reproductive freedom – the ability to choose when to have a child, or even not to bear children, but it’s not about being overtly sexy in appearance or demeanour, or even the converse of not being sexy in appearance or demeanour – it’s about choice. Some women have abandoned feminism because of these things. Feminism is about equality and choice not sex.
I think what riled me up most of all when I looked at a lot of those placards, was the ranting about choice. I’ll say it again. Feminism is about choice. I’m almost fifty. I grew up as a teenager in the seventies and eighties, when the freedom for a woman to choose to have a career was still new. My own mother had to resign from her job just because she was getting married (1964) – she had no choice about being a working married woman, and she was paid much less than a man in the same job BECAUSE she was a woman. She had no choice.
I do not take the opportunities I’ve had for granted. I am thankful for the bra-burning, ranting feminists of the sixties and seventies who gave me the opportunity of education and a career. They fought for the opportunities that some of these placard holding women take for granted. I am thankful for the feminists who allowed me the vote, so that we have women in politics. I am thankful that I could trail blaze as a female volunteer fire fighter and cliff rescuer so that other women would not feel intimidated but could choose to follow their dreams and make a difference. I am grateful for choice.
I suppose I’ve said ‘I’ a lot in this post, but I’m not unhappy with that. Feminism allows me to speak, write and work as I choose. It has also allowed me to be a stay at home Mum for some years when our children were small, while still allowing me to volunteer in traditionally male emergency service roles.
Even now, feminism motivates me to campaign against the objectification of women, children, and men wherever it occurs. It motivates me to speak out against injustice and poverty because feminism is about equality. It motivates me when I write female characters in my stories, and it motivates me when I write male ones. My novels have themes of equality – not themes of misogyny or misandry and I suspect I’ll never write weak degraded female characters because of feministic influences in my own life, and for that I’m grateful.
In summation, I’m disappointed. Disappointed that women who have choice denigrate those who continue to fight for their choice. Disappointed that they ignore the women who still don’t have choice or equality, and disappointed that they fail to understand what feminism is about. Feminists like normal human beings will not always all agree about everything, but it’s extremely short sighted to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ if you like. Particularly when you’re ranting about choice.
I’ll leave you with a link to a youtube video of Kitty Flanagan discussing this subject. She says it fabulously.