I don’t want to be a feminist.
I don’t want to use the term.
I don’t want the term to even exist.
But you can’t always get what you want.
Feminism shouldn’t exist. It’s preposterous that in our age, we would need a movement whose purpose is fostering equality and respect between the sexes. Can there really be anyone today who would stand in the way of women having equality with men?
Which is why, with great reluctance (and, frankly, annoyance) I must continue to be burdened with the label of ‘Feminist.’
The world I want to live in is a world where the sex of an individual represents nothing more than a biological distinction. Much as race, eye color and height represent a biological distinction. I don’t want to live in a world where we foolishly ignore what makes each gender distinct. Of course there are differences. I just don’t want those differences to be exploited.
Women aren’t better than men, but that’s never what true feminism has been about.
Women should be held to the same standard as men. Women are capable of wronging others. Women are capable of selfishness. Women are capable of evil. Women are, after all, human beings. Just like men. Not more than men, not less than men. Just like men. I don’t want to live in a world where women are held to a different standard than men.
But I do live in that world.
And such a world corrupts even the best of intentions.
I live in a world of reactionaries. In an attempt to battle misogyny, sexism, gender inequality and rampant physical, mental and emotional abuse, there are those who would advocate a type of extreme feminism that condones battling fire with fire. I understand the motivation behind this philosophy. You could call it the “If you can’t beat ’em…” philosophy.
I hate that philosophy.
In high school, I read and abhorred Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I recognized where Chopin was coming from, but the underlying message, that a woman must assert her self-reliance by behaving as reprehensibly as her male counterpart, bothered me. It struck me as a Cold War mentality: If they hurt us, we’ll retaliate.
I don’t believe feminism wins by lowering itself to the standards of the basest among us. It wins by elevating everyone, male and female alike, to a higher standard.
If only it were that simple.
At times, being a feminist is like being in a battle where the enemy doesn’t adhere to the laws of war. When the adversary seemingly has no regard for basic human decency, it’s tempting to get down in the mud. Make no mistake, feminists have made missteps, just as all movements do. But those missteps would never have occurred if feminism didn’t need to exist. And it does.
Feminism should be an obsolete movement. In a nation where same-sex marriage is on the verge of being the rule, not the exception, and we can have a black president, the idea that we would still need a movement that fights for gender equality is mind blowing.
I don’t want to be a feminist. But I will be one as long as women aren’t paid precisely the same as male counterparts for the same work. I will be as long as all-male panels make decisions concerning women’s health. I will be as long as women are only allowed to be sluts or virgins. I will be as long as women have more to fear on a dark street than I do.
I will be as long as ignorant ‘activists’ like the Men’s Rights Movement exists. If only such groups didn’t antagonize feminists but rather sought to find common ground, they would solve the concerns of women and men alike. Men and women aren’t enemies.
I want to live in a world where a person is held accountable for their actions, not for their gender.
I want to live in a world where being a woman isn’t the first strike.
I want to live in a world where a young girl knows she has the same opportunities that I had when I was a boy.
I don’t want to live in a world where being a straight male makes me feel the need to apologize.
I want to live in a world where I don’t have to be a feminist.
But until then…
5 thoughts on “I Don’t Want To Be A Feminist.”
1. I am so happy I found your blog. I stop everything to read your posts as soon as they land in my inbox. Thank you for sharing your thoughts the way you do.
2. You said both “Women should be held to the same standard as men.” and also “[Feminism] wins by elevating everyone, male and female alike, to a higher standard.”
Aren’t these statements contradictory? To the first statement, I ask: why should everyone be held to the man’s standard? Why is the man’s standard the default?
This is a common but erroneous reaction to the feminist movement–to “lift women up” to where all the men are. This is also inherently sexist.
3. There are various Men’s Rights Movements, and I don’t think it’s fair to lump them all together as “ignorant.” I think a serious discussion is needed around giving men the options we give (theoretically or practically, but that’s beside the point) to women. Women have the option to be strong or to cry. Men don’t. Women are less stigmatized than men for staying home with children (or just the house). Men are called wusses (or much worse) for being the pacifiers and communicators in work or other situations.
As a sister to three brothers, this is something I’m quite passionate about.
The feminist movement gave women a script: No one can tell you to do what you don’t want to do. You can do whatever you want. You deserve as much pay as men do. You can make choices. The list goes on.
Men got lost in the shuffle. No one gave them a script. They are men raised by men who told them not to cry, who told them they are not real men if they can’t provide for their families, and, some, who told them not to do women’s work, and these same men are trying to date women wanting sensitive men who hold the door and who maybe even pay but who let her support herself if she so chooses, who don’t objectify women, who don’t stereotype women, and who also simultaneously understand a woman’s vulnerability and frustrations in a man’s world, etc.
I really think a dialog around men’s “rights” (slash men’s place in society in general) is needed. Maybe a Men’s Rights Movement will help with that.
1. Hi Sarah, thank you for your thoughts. I’m glad you’re a reader and I hope to keep providing posts worth your time.
No, these are not contradictory. I’m not saying that women should be held to the standard of men. I’m saying a standard should be set, and it should be set high, and whatever that standard is, men and women should both be held to it. My first sentence is stating that women shouldn’t be expected to live up to a higher standard then men, and my second statement is saying, “But the equal standard they are both held to should be higher than it currently is.”
3. You are right that there are various Men’s Rights Movements and they do not all fall under the MRA title (which is who I meant). You are also right that men are raised with hard messages and sometimes impossible ideas of what constitutes ‘manhood.’ Believe me, no one needs to tell me that, I lived under the spectre of not being a ‘real man’ for a long time.
But I disagree that that issue constitutes any oppression of men’s “rights.” Feminism is partially about earning equal rights, that is true. (Equal to who? Men.) But feminism, at least since the second wave, but especially in the third wave, has been about creating a more inclusive and less restrictive idea of gender and “normal” sexual identity. I am largely a feminist because those goals coincide with my other big cause, LGBT rights. Just as girls shouldn’t be shoehorned into an ideal of femininity that doesn’t fit every girl, boys shouldn’t be shoehorned into an ideal of masculinity. One can achieve equal rights for women but fail to break down rigid gender walls. They are two causes very much intertwined, but they are not the same.
Men aren’t at risk of losing any ‘rights.’ Our right to work, to live how we want, to control our own bodies and dictate our own lives is not at risk. MRA’s see a world where women have more rights as a threat to theirs, and that is ignorant and repressive. I don’t believe having a strident fight back and forth about Men’s Rights versus Women’s Rights helps. Instead, the dialogue should be about Human Rights.
Again, this is why I don’t want to have to be a feminist. I would rather all my energy could be focused on the issue of raising the standard of all humans, equally, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or sexual identity. But as long as women continue to be systematically oppressed, subjugated or belittled, I will be a feminist.
Thank you for your comment, I’m glad to keep the conversation going. I hope you will share this post if you think others will be receptive.
Ah these are great thoughts. As an American, I feel like everything inevitably is about “rights;” however, as you said, earning equal rights is indeed only a part of feminism. It is at least as much about a rejection of (many) existing norms of gender and sexuality.
One men’s “right” that does perhaps need a defense as a result of these sometimes unfair gender norms is that of child custody (as well as alimony, but that’s a whole other issue, http://ideas.time.com/2013/05/16/the-de-gendering-of-divorce-wives-pay-ex-husbands-alimony-too/)–if women are the nurturing ones and the child rightfully belongs with them, what of those hurting men who are not attributed the feelings and ability to “care” that their ex-wives are?
I do agree that some of the norms of rights, especially when it comes to marriage and divorce, really need to be reconsidered in light of the dramatic changes we’ve seen in society. I actually think that same-sex marriage will help bring about that change. You can’t very well give automatic rights to the mother if there are two mothers, or no mothers. As society expands its ideas of what constitutes a family and what can be deemed a “normal” male or female role, such matters like child custody will hopefully come under new consideration.
As a man, I don’t feel like I lack for rights, and certainly not just because women are gaining more. However, I do believe it is necessary to be vigilant against the possibility of over-compensating and that we should never lose focus that the point is about Equal Rights, not raising women above men.
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