Wednesday, 6 August 2014

In Response to 'Women Against Feminism'

As you might already know, there has been a lot of hype recently about a tumblr blog called 'Women Against Feminism' - a page dedicated to women submitting pictures of themselves with a message that states why they feel that they don't need feminism. Many of the women talk about equality and that no gender is superior, which is true and something that I completely agree with, but those messages start how all the others do: with the words "I don't need feminism because..". If the mainstream assumption of what feminism actually is was accurate, some of those submissions would be making good points.

Feminism seems to have become a bit of a dirty word in society. The false stigma attached can cause an instant blocking or recoiling effect in someone when the word comes up in conversation. A common misconception is that feminism means the belief in female 
superiority; that feminists hate men, oppress men, believe they are inferior. I'm not saying there aren't feminists who believe that, who fit the bad stereotypes. But in every belief, you will find people who are radicals and extremists, people who misinterpreted the roots of the labels they gave themselves. I hate sexism - from and towards both men and women, and I get equally outraged at misandry as I do misogyny. I know that men have issues thanks to sexism too, and I even think that some feminists (who got the wrong idea) are the reason for some of it.

Feminism is essentially the endorsement of women's rights. One definition, from the Oxford Dictionary, is: "the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes." An excellent summary, but it's still only skeletal. As a feminist, I can take the bones of it and elaborate on that in my own way; building, adding, shaping with my own experiences and observations. This may seem odd, but I think it's important to not base your idea of feminism off feminists. A feminist is someone who supports feminism, but being a feminist does not come with a rulebook. 'Feminist' is a label that anyone can claim; you don't have to have any special experiences, no biological, professional or academic qualifications. Anyone can call themselves a feminist. Anyone can be a feminist. But one individual feminist does not define feminism as a whole and thus does not represent all feminists.  

This was one of my main problems with 'Women Against Feminism': the misunderstanding and misuse of the word 'feminism'. Something that also struck me was how oblivious they were to the fact that feminism is a part of the reason they can vote, get an education, have the job of their choice and be paid the same amount as men in the same field (although that still isn't always the case), decide if and when they want a family...among many other things. It's great that these women can say "I do not feel oppressed" - that's really, really fantastic, but it's also thanks to the feminists (both male and female) of the past who fought for women's rights.

We still need feminism - globally. It seemed so ignorant to me that (most of) the Women Against Feminism started their statements with "I" - how incredibly inconsiderate to shun something doing so much good and helping so many people just because
they don't feel they need it. Even if I never had any reason to feel like I needed feminism, it doesn't mean I shouldn't be a feminist and it doesn't mean other women don't need it. Because they do.

In some countries women aren't allowed to drive, women don't get education, they can't wear what they want, they are forced into marriage when they are children, women are victims of femicide, acid throwing and rape every day. We need feminism even in (
comparatively) developed countries. Feminism is needed all around the world, and while it is, there will be feminists fighting for women's rights and making change, regardless of stereotypes, jokes and pages like 'Women Against Feminism' trying to bring them down.

Feminism is something I am very passionate about - it is just one specific part of my beliefs in equality and human rights. I will probably write more on this subject in the future and elaborate on what feminism means to me, why I'm a feminist, etc. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post. Also, if you're interested, Confused Cats Against Feminism is an excellent parody of 'Women Against Feminism'.


Ivana Split said...

wonderfully written! I think you sum it all up nicely. I do agree with you that this blog can be seen as a sort of paradox.

The problem with feminism as with any other word is that it can me manipulated into new meanings(someone one said that for succesful comunication we would have to invent a mathematical language of some sort but I think our language(s) serve(s) us just fine by being as complicated as we are).

However, feminism does seem to become more than it originally was. At some point, there came this idea that we should mimic man and that women should improve themselves by trying to be more like man. This idea I think has been the source of frustration for many and I think most people (rightfully or not) associate it with feminism.

One more is not exactly true that feminism gave women the chance to work. It had to do with the development of industry, the first and the second world war and so on. There were quite a few factors there, but surely those first women who sought out the basic rights for our gender deserve to be praised. Women have always worked. It is being paid and having the choice to choose that was the problem....and it still is.

Let's focus on the western world beacuse the right for women in many countries are sadly still non existent...For most women, work is not something that they choose to do. It is something that they MUST do. Most mothers can't afford to be stay at home mum's and that is just sad. If they have to go to work (usually paid miserably) what kind of choice is that?

I think what we need is postfeminism of some sort that will examine the problems the women face today. I do understand why some feel the need to say ' I'm not a feminist.' It's a complex issue.

Rosalind said...

This was a brilliant piece of writing, Willow. Really summarizes a lot of the complex issues - great response, particularly to the use of language surrounding feminism.