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Why I’m Not A Feminist (& It’s Okay If You Are)

April 8, 2012

The thing about having a kid in crew is that you spend A LOT of time standing around at regattas while your kid is doing nothing worth  watching. Rigging boats, loading and unloading boats, de-rigging boats, cleaning boats. Which means you spend a lot of time talking to other parents. Sometimes that really sucks, which is why I usually bring a book. Very rarely, it’s awesome. Like when a brilliant woman you don’t know engages in hours of conversation about meaty subjects, and doesn’t shut down when you say something that makes her hair stand on end and clearly hits her in her core.

Like when you say, “I’m not a feminist.” And mean it.

I’m used to this reaction – shock, then horror, then anger, then the insistence that if I just REALLY understood feminism, I would call myself a feminist. What I’m not accustomed to is the open exploration this allowed, with defenses down, that actually helped me clarify my reasons for not calling myself a feminist.

I’m going to call the woman Catherine, because it’s my middle name, and although I feel a kinship with the name, I do not identify myself that way, so it seems appropriate.

Catherine and I had both heard all the arguments before…

She felt that by not calling myself a feminist I was somehow not acknowledging the accomplishments of the feminists before me who fought for my rights.  That could not be further from the truth.

My right to NOT call myself a feminist was fought for and won by countless people before me who have identified themselves as such. They fought for my rights as a woman in a time when, historically, women had no rights. I am very clear that my rights were fought for, and I am grateful for them.

In my mind, appreciating and using the power given me by the feminists before me is not that different from using the power given me by scientists who unpacked the mysteries of nutrition, health and fitness. I am not a nutritionist, but because of the work they have done, I am able to make decisions that profoundly impact the health and well-being of myself and my loved-ones. Further, I live by example and try very hard to help others see how making different decisions might improve their lives as well. I am a living example of the power of their work. And I don’t need to be  called a nutritionist to validate their efforts. I simply have to be strong, healthy, autonomous, make good decisions that others can observe and benefit from. It is a lifestyle, not a label.

So too with feminism. I celebrate they work that was done to get us here. I promote the ideas, the people, the freedom that I have as a woman to decide how I live. This also is a lifestyle, not a label.

Indeed, the fight for freedom has, as is almost always the case, left camps quite divided. Not over whether or not the rights won were deserved, but about what it means for everyone “else.” And it is that “else” that gives me pause. I don’t think there can or should be an “else.”

But many people feel that when anyone demands attention for the rights of one group of people, it will threaten others. As if human rights are a zero sum game. They are not, and I’ll get back to that idea in a bit. But the stirrings of my dissent from the word – not the ideals – for me start there.

Because I have the luxury of freedom that was fought for me, I do not want to squander it letting anyone else feel that their freedoms are at risk. I will, because I can, stand strong that, as many feminists say, women’s rights are human rights. As such, I simply stand at the tail end of that sentiment. I stand with human rights. Mine, yours and theirs.

Catherine had heard this before, of course. And she didn’t like it any more, out in the sun on the banks of a lollygagging river, any more than any other time she had heard it. It was as if I had told her that I simply did not believe the ideas in her holy book, and I thought she was wrong.

But that’s not it.

I stand there because that is, I believe, the core issue. And until we understand that we cannot deny any human their basic rights, for any reason, we have not come far enough. Because of the work of feminists before me, we have women running countries and companies and communities. I believe that we owe it to ourselves, and everyone else, to take this movement to the next level, rather than sticking with the original battle we had to fight. Or the original doctrines we used to do so.

By the time I came of age, found my voice and my power, feminism seemed like a very focused, very scripted, very old set of ideas that people were clinging to and using as a label – a seal of approval – more than as a fluid set of ideas to apply to an ever-changing set of obstacles we face.

Either you were or you weren’t a feminist. If you were, these were the things you had to say, do and believe. If you weren’t you were the enemy. She asked, as many have, who I was referring to when I said that. And I answered, as I always have, that it is a sense I have. That in watching many of the battles waged by feminists, I sensed some hypocrisy, blame, and anger as they fought for “their position,” unable to look further out from their own perspective that THIS is what freedom and strength looks like. Whatever THIS is.  It didn’t resonate for me. It wasn’t how I felt and I didn’t want to pretend otherwise.

It felt like a religion to me. One that I couldn’t just take part in without question. It felt like it required me to give up my “self” in order to be one of “them.”

I can’t put my finger on it much more than that, but I do know that it is a feeling that many people I know, both men and women share.  It is a feeling that shuts people down, rather than opening them up and inviting them in.

She assured me, as others before her have, that feminism is a big tent. There is room for everyone under it.

I wanted to believe her, as I always have. But I simply have had too many experiences to the contrary. Times when I have spoken my mind, or friends of mine have spoken their mind, and gotten a feminist tongue-lashing, in some cases very publicly.

The most current and public example I could come up with was when my friend Hugo was the subject of vile and violent feminist vitriol when he wrote about details from his past, which included a violent and drug-fueled relationship with a woman. Hugo has been, for years, one of the most outspoken feminists I know. He has a brutal past, which left him wise beyond his years and well beyond the narrow perspective of a privileged white male. His story is one that COULD have been looked at as a cautionary tale about mental-health, addiction, learning, growing and embracing higher meaning. Instead, the feminist blogosphere called for the removal of his writing from a number of sites, and that the title of feminist be stripped from him.

The irony was that it was Hugo, a privileged white male with a history of drugs and violence, who came closest to making me comfortable with the moniker of “feminist.” I thought, “if there’s room for him, there’s room for me.”

When it turned out that there was NOT room for him, it was clear that there is not room for me. Or if there was, it was not space that I wanted to occupy. I do not, EVER, want to side with the angry people who ostracize others while turning a blind eye to their accomplishments and their humanity. I won’t do it. (It is not lost on me that Hugo will probably be the first person to chime in and tell me I am wrong, and that I should be a feminist.)

So as Catherine tells me that it’s a big tent, I am not sure that I believe her. But even if it is, it is not an inviting one.

And besides, how big would that tent have to be? In order for it to accomplish anything, it would have to openly invite everyone on this planet. In which case, erecting a tent is pointless. One doesn’t need a tent to protect us from the world we want to change, we need a world that can openly and freely spread and germinate our ideas.

Do we need a tent simply so that someone can say they built it? And claim membership under it? So that we can keep people out? How does that work?

I’m just too lazy, I tell Catherine. I’m lazy in that I don’t want to learn the rules, apply for membership, do everything right. But it’s much more than that.

I think that spreading these ideas is the most vital task that any of us have – whether we call ourselves feminists or not. And the simple truth is that her magical tent is not big enough to hold everyone, and not everyone wants to be under it.

I don’t want to be a messiah, I want to be a missionary. I want to work with the non-believers, in quiet and subtle ways.

Because, like it or not, for a lot of people, the word “feminist” has a really negative implication that causes them to put their defenses up.  Once their defenses are up, it takes A LOT of work to get them down. To convince people that you’re not angry at them, you’re not out to hurt them or deny them their rights. That even though they have perceived a threat, there is not really any threat at all.

The word, just the word, has become something alarming. So why would I use it if I know it’s going to make my job harder? Maybe it’s sneaky and duplicitous, but if I can do the same work, achieve the same goals and open more minds without using the word, that’s what I’m going to do. If  “denying my feminist roots” helps me achieve the feminist agenda, I’m totally willing to do that.

The point that Catherine then made is the one that took me the longest to digest, and ultimately refute, for myself. Circling back to the idea that feminism has become a religion, filled with dogma and also misconceptions, she asked if people had both a right and a responsibility to declare their religion in order to help eliminate misconceptions. Indeed, if the Westborough Baptist Church and Rick Santorum have made a horrifying mockery of Christianity, don’t all the “good” Christians out there have a responsibility to stand up and defend the ideals they hold true – to defend them against the dogma?

That one hit hard. She is, in so many ways, absolutely right. Maybe what the feminist movement needs is a wider variety of people to stand up and identify themselves as feminists. To say that there is room for me and Hugo and strippers and housewives and men and all the other people who feel they have been marginalized by the movement. Maybe it is people like me who are the problem.

And then I remembered a conversation I often had with a friend of mine who is a minister. He used to jokingly call me the best Christian he knows. And I would always remind him that I do not believe in Christ or organized religion in any way shape or form. But that I do what I do simply because it is right. It is right to be honest, compassionate, generous, helpful and to serve others as I would serve myself.

“You’re a good Christian,” he would always reply. “I am a good human,” I would always respond.

It was always friendly, but I always stood my ground.  Because being good is not an idea that belongs to Christians alone. The idea of being good is larger than any religion. It predates Christ and organized churches. Each and every human on this planet has an obligation to treat the planet, and every creature on it, with respect. Not because a church told you to, but because it is the right thing to do.

I am not Christian. I am not a feminist.

This is not a land grab in which the victor claims the moral high-ground. No one group needs to hold the title of “protector of all that is good.” The need to take credit for the behavior others – whether in a congratulatory or a coercive manner – is precisely the thing that starts wars. It is why many of the world’s religions, which have many of the same values, fight with each other. It is why our political parties war with each other for victory rather than serving the needs of the people – which are damned close to universal. They all want the biggest tent, with the most people who they can call their own. My way or the highway.

I choose my way. And the high road.

Yes, it’s okay if you call yourself a feminist, a Christian, a Jew or anything else. You have that right. If you feel that it gives you strength and support to work tirelessly for human justice, then you do it. I will support you, because you are human, and I believe our goals are the same. No matter what we call ourselves.

But I can’t do it. I don’t identify that way. I identify as human more than I identify as a woman, or even an American. And thanks to freedom fighters who came before me, I have the right to say that.

If you are fighting for human rights, I am with you. If you are fighting for women’s rights, then I am with you. Because they are human rights.

I am not a feminist, I am a humanist. I believe in human rights, for all humans. I will fight for women’s rights, because women are humans. I will fight for gay rights, because gay people are humans. I will fight for children’s rights, because children are humans. I will fight for the rights of  any race, religion, creed, sexual orientation or age, because they are all human. You get the picture.

I may not have a big tent, but I have a whole lot of humans to work for. And with. No matter what we call ourselves.

32 Comments leave one →
  1. Alyssa Royse permalink
    April 8, 2012 4:21 pm

    As expected, many Facebook comment threads are suggesting that I simply do not understand feminism, or that I am choosing to promote the fallacy that there is no institutionalized sexism. My amalgamated response on those comments:

    I don’t call myself a humanist because I don’t “get” the feminist movement, or even that I don’t support it. I am neither stupid nor selfish. I don’t call myself a feminist because i do not believe in separating and promoting the rights of one group of humans as different from the rights of any other humans.

    I do not see how the rights of women are different than the rights of any other human being. So if we are fighting for the rights of women, why do we not “simply” fight for all human rights?

    To me, it is not as simple as saying that “they already have them,” which they do not. Gay people? Poor people? People of other races? Why do we not fight to define and protect ALL human rights?

    If Loving v. Virginia had been about the rights of all adult humans to marry, then we would not have to now fight so hard for the rights of gay people to marry. It is not, after all, a race right, but a human right. The rights of one group of people are not different from the rights of another group of people. That’s all I’m saying. And if one says, “I can’t fight for your rights, because I’m fighting for mine,” then we have all already lost.

    I agree that sexism exists and needs not to. But it doesn’t exist because we are women, it exists because we are humans whose rights have been denied us. I believe that it is more productive to define human rights in hard terms. It is then far easier to show where the problems are. These are the rights, and these are the people who do not have them….. Therefore, their human rights are being violated and that needs to change.

    I am not saying that sexism does not exist, and I would not use humanism to hide problems. But rather to make them even easier to see and harder to deny.

  2. ibrosey permalink
    April 8, 2012 4:35 pm

    Thank you, Alyssa. You have said for general consumption what I have been excoriated for saying privately since high school, when I first heard that without a vagina I could forget about stepping into the tent. Actually, I never heard it put that politely. 😉 (Nicest rebuke, late 20s, from a very dear friend, “You’re a caring guy, but you’re a guy.”)

    Not as extemporaneously eloquent as you, I find, suddenly, there’s a page I can point people to, where there is an explanation of humanist which suits me to a T, and a take on the Feminist zeitgeist that is spot on.

    Thanks, again, crew mom, and thank you for all the ways you get me to stop and listen and think. Thanks a lot!

  3. calibra permalink
    April 8, 2012 4:52 pm

    While I politely disagree with you about this topic, I completely support your right to declare yourself not a feminist, Alyssa. I choose to use the word feminist to apply to myself, not just because I believe that the agenda of most feminists matches well with my own, but because the word feminist HAS become such a dirty word. Much like queer or dyke, I want the word feminist to be reclaimed and owned as something that defines strength and awesomeness. I must model what I want it to become.

    Every time you say you aren’t a feminist I have been curious about your statement. You mention it in blog posts sometimes. This post helps me understand, and I appreciate you writing it. I think that feminist is just a tiny subcategory of all that you believe in, a microcosm of the rights and agenda you feel you should fight for. Under this definition I would consider you to be a feminist, but not just a feminist. I also consider you to be a deeply reflective, passionate activist for all human rights. Those terms, to me, are not mutually exclusive.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    April 8, 2012 7:32 pm

    Even as a self-professed feminist, I found this very thought-provoking and a lot of really great points. Thank you for sharing it. 🙂

  5. April 8, 2012 10:14 pm

    This was very thought-provoking to me, and sheds light on why many good people don’t want to call themselves “the f-word.” I completely agree that women’s rights are human rights, and feminism and humanism mean pretty much the same thing to me. I just wish we had never needed the term “feminism” (or any sort of activism). Unfortunately, women are marginalized to this day, so I feel the need to wear the label, even though I may not be welcomed under the “tent” due to my work in the sex industry. I’m more than what I label myself as, though, just as everyone is more than any label.

    So I will wear the feminist label and balance it out by being a stripper so that I don’t come off as intimidating, and you will plant feminist seeds in people’s minds while being unassuming by not calling yourself a feminist, and together we will change the world! Bwahaha. Good plan, yes?

  6. Alyssa Royse permalink
    April 8, 2012 10:16 pm

    Yes, that is a fantastic plan. We’ll all do it our own way, and we’ll get it done.

  7. April 9, 2012 4:13 pm

    Wow! Well articulated, Alyssa! I guess I don’t understand the need to argue over a label. Fight for what you believe in. Different “labels” can be fighting for the same thing. As you point out in politics and religion, for example, fighting over whose label is better or more right or more righteous misses the whole point. Love this post! Thanks!

  8. Kara permalink
    April 11, 2012 1:16 am

    It seems to me that you forget that you are a woman in the first place, living in men’s world. You are not black, you are not gay, you are a woman. May be living one day while acknowledging this would help you to understand what this is all about.

  9. Alyssa Royse permalink
    April 11, 2012 5:15 am

    How is it that you think that I forget that I am a woman or don’t acknowledge that I’m a woman? Fine to disagree with me, but that is a hell of a statement.

  10. sam permalink
    April 16, 2012 3:22 pm

    the irony is so amazing. Alyssa,You talked of a big tent, Of maturing, …….and here come the negitive My way or the hyway comments. Your blog shows where the male/female human rights movement will hopefully go. Thanks

  11. May 12, 2012 3:36 pm

    Nah, I just don’t call myself a feminist because I know the term feminist is a sweeping, misrepresentative, quite male-supremecist originated label. In that language is laced with sexism. Suggests women are innately feminine, different etc. It’s the *label* that separates women’s human rights from other human rights, not the movement at all, which does in fact strive for all human rights. And that’s also why I don’t use it, cos it doesn’t fit.

    Sure, people have tried to reclaim it and fine, but the writer has played right into the hands of the divide-and-rule game, by going “my friend Hugo was the subject of vile and violent feminist vitriol”. I’m pretty sure they were just people who reacted angrily because they couldn’t whitewash the fact that he had obviously done things that hurt a lot of people, namely women. (Not condoning any abuse he may have got.)

    I think the very misunderstanding that sex workers and previously abusive men aren’t welcome in the human right’s movement termed ‘feminism’ is ironically down to the label itself. It has worked in you viewing these people as some sort of mindhive ‘feminist’ borg – when the whole women’s and human rights movement is made up of many different viewpoints.

    In short, AAAGHHHH LABELS. 😦

  12. May 12, 2012 3:42 pm

    *definitely not equating sex work with being an abuser, whoops, sorry – nothing wrong with being a sex worker – something wrong with taking advantage of one though, or their poverty so you can get off…

  13. May 24, 2012 3:42 am

    What a brilliant well thought out response. I previously didn’t call myself a feminist, then I adopted the label, blogged about it, got a load of guff from feminists about how I wasn’t a proper one, blogged about it some more and then it is something I am still pondering in my blog. So yeah I think I am a humanist instead and if anyone queries will just point them over here and say “what she said”. Phew!

  14. May 25, 2012 5:13 am

    Your article was linked to in another discussion on feminism. I’ve been thinking for a while that it’s filling the hole left by the absence of religion for some people. We want (perhaps need) a simple intellectual structure, and we like a cause – a reason to fight and live.

    As I said in that discussion, there are also “articles of faith”. This idea that men and women are more or less the same, think the same, and want the same things. Released from “social conditioning” they will want to do the same jobs and roles. There are many more ideas like this

    These are a kind of credo. If you question them, people get annoyed – but in fact there’s no good evidence for any of them. A lot of feminism feels like slogans and rhetoric and social pressure to join the cause

    Sounds like politics as well as religion doesn’t it? There’s a reason for that.

    In any case the intellectual basis of feminist thought is not strong – so then feminist are wont to say that the intellectual standards I’m applying are a “tool of the patriarchy” designed to “control women”….

    Intellectual, scientific and scholarly standards are a tool of the patriarchy? If we need to believe that to get one set of people into power rather than another, then we’re in trouble

  15. Larry Rosenthal permalink
    May 26, 2012 4:42 pm

    I’m with you, Henry. When slogans – second generation slogans, at that – take the place of discourse a cause, a party or a religion has outlived any useful purpose it may once have served.

  16. May 31, 2012 10:42 am

    You must be so privileged.
    I’m not. I see every day that the straight white men of the world have considerably more “human rights” than I do. So do I want them under my tent? No. There was a time I’d have given a shit what the Hugos of the world think and even defended them. But after so many years of watching them gleefully say one thing and do another I could give a rat’s ass what a man thinks anymore. I don’t accept that men can be feminists. And if they are then they know to shut the fuck up and mind their own beeswax because it’s most often the beeswax of men that screws us up.
    I don’t care what label you want stick on me, I don’t have to honor your definitions or anyone else’s but I know one thing, I am interested in promoting my rights not those of the privileged men I see taking from others. If that makes me a feminist and not a humanist, fine.
    In the end I’m not surprised that a woman who starts her post talking about regattas doesn’t feel the need to call herself a feminist. You probably don’t deal with what most of the world’s women do so why would you care in the same way? It’s way more pc to call yourself being for human rights and you don’t get picked on by the men around you. Ahhh, to be so safe.

  17. Laura permalink
    June 6, 2012 10:18 pm

    I think this type of response is exactly what turns people off about feminism. In my opinion, feminism is not women vs men. It is about fighting to create equal rights for all and acknowledging power difference between genders and the privilege we assign to certain groups of people over others. Men can absolutely be feminists. You can’t have a movement that strives for equality between two (or more) groups of people without including representatives from both groups. I could get into the non-binary nature of gender, which further complicates this issue, but I won’t. The point is, feminism IS a broad umbrella. Some people will be extremist, as with any group, but that does not represent the group as a whole. Some people will disagree with how you interpret the definition of feminism (as I do with the response above) and hey, that is ok too. I don’t understand how anyone could think we are past feminism or that it is unnecessary. Just yesterday a law that could have ensured equal pay for equal work was shot down. The United States is one of three countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity (much less paternity) leave for any length of time. Feminism expands the definition of what it can mean to be a woman, but also what it can mean to be a man, and says it’s okay if you’re somewhere in-between. I could ramble on forever, but I’ll stop myself and end with this quote, which I love:

    “Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions … for safety on the streets … for child care, for social welfare … for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the laws. If someone says ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist,’ I ask ‘Why? What’s your problem?’ -Dale Spender

  18. Anonymous permalink
    June 20, 2012 12:04 am

    As a man who has been repeatedly scorned by feminists for stating the same points as you, thank you. Humanism>feminism.

  19. Anonymous permalink
    August 19, 2012 8:01 am

    So you also reject being called “female” and “human,” right? Because those terms are based on your anatomy, obviously.

  20. Alyssa Royse permalink
    August 19, 2012 1:58 pm

    But neither of those suggest that I must think a certain way, believe certain things, do certain things based solely on said anatomy.

  21. Tuesday permalink
    August 27, 2012 2:54 pm

    “Feminism has […] practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, […] for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the laws. If someone says ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist,’ I ask ‘Why? What’s your problem?'”

    Hmmm, where to start? How about that I’m the survivor of violent sexual assault, but the ‘women’s movement’ has made darn sure that there are no rape crisis centres or SA support services for me (funded or not), no recognition for my assault; it has even co-opted (not merely reformed) the law and public policy to ensure that the very legal language and policy directives denies my reality (and the truth). But it’s not just my own past that has been denied and repressed, it’s also the pain and suffering of my brothers (my literal, not figurative brothers). My abuser was my own – man, I hate to use that word to describe her – mother. She also did her best to turn my brothers into sex offenders, but I was her main target. Surprise – that’s pretty common (both situations), as is sexual assault of children by females. Against males and females almost equally, btw.

    Ever ask yourself what happens to all those assaulted people who don’t fit within the male-on-female, or lesbian female-on-female categories of ‘acceptable’ abuse?

    And here it comes, the inevitable chorus of “but MOST SA is committed by men, so your case is the exception that proves the rule” (despite a stunning lack of real evidence and a profound unwillingness (to the point of hostility) to even examine whether this may just possibly be a false assumption). If you use the conviction rate, you’re absolutely correct. If, on the other hand, you go by victim reports the gendered rates of pedophilia is as high as 62% female perpetrated.

    Or the other standard response: that SA by women is less harmful, less violent, less {insert dismissive comparison criteria here} than assault by males. Never mind the evidence that women tend to assault much younger children, and are MORE inclined to use sadism and extreme violence/torture. Women kill young children through physical abuse in much greater numbers than men; what makes us think that any SA they commit would be any less violent? So, what does feminist theory say about that?

    Oh right: it was men who made them do it. They were abused themselves as children (interesting, when was the last time we asked whether that applied to male perpetrators?); they were ‘compliant victims of men (even when they commit the assaults on their own, and heaven forbid anyone should ask if in a duo the woman could possibly be the orchestrator); they’re acting out their powerlessness from living in a patriarchal society that’s encouraged by men; etc…

    So, … How does feminist theory explain the documented (and alarmingly high) percentage of sexual assault by women in the background of male rapists and serial killers? Why do we never hear about that? Don’t believe it? Go research it yourself (although you’ll have to dig – our culture doesn’t like to disclose things like that). Go read about, for instance, the frequent baths (combined with humiliation) that Gary Ridgeway had to endure into adolescence by his mother. Or go look at the background of Robert Pickton (he watched his mother kill a neighbour child). I could go on…

    Try reading them from a new perspective, and ask yourself (if you can be brave enough to consider the possibility) what the indicators of SA of boys (or girls) by females might look like: in news articles, crime reports, etc…
    The thing that burns my butt more than anything else is that all of this has been known in select feminist circles for ages, and there are published papers by feminist scholars/authors/activists actively encouraging its suppression, so as not to hurt ‘the cause’.

    IMO, the best thing we could do to prevent violence against women, is to treat women as EQUALS and EQUALLY prosecute violence BY women.

    The day feminism adopts that as their policy is the day I’ll consider identifying myself as a feminist again. Even with all the vagaries of language ( good discussion btw re: ‘feminism can mean whatever we want it to mean’), I never see that the definition of feminism includes the ‘belief’ that women are equally capable of violence and should be held equally responsible and prosecuted. Funny, that. Not so much funny haha as laugh to keep yourself from crying…

    Feminism has “practiced no cruelties”? Just ask a victim of violent SA who is told, by the very service providers that moan and wail and rage about their own victimization, that their abuse isn’t recognized or valid and that there are no services for them, how that feels. Think it isn’t so? I’ve attempted to use (and in the past did use) various women’s assault services for years. When I lie and say that a man assaulted me services are there in abundance. If I dare to even infer that I was assaulted by a female it’s amazing how quickly you become ‘the enemy’.

    Sorry for all the vitriol. I normally keep it firmly in check. But ignorant comments like “feminism has committed no cruelties”, and questions like “What’s your problem?” provide a provocation (if not a valid reason) for venting some of it.

  22. Kristen permalink
    August 27, 2012 3:08 pm

    I am saddened to hear that your sexual assault has been demeaned and lessened, Tuesday. As someone who calls herself a feminist, I know that SA happens to both men and women, and that it’s not just men perpetrating it. In fact, I do feel that both men AND women should be in control of themselves.

    Our society perpetuates the belief that women should be vengeful for their wrongs in ways I also don’t support. Listen to the radio – you’ll hear songs like Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows” or Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” which I find completely appalling. Why should it be unacceptable for a man to destroy property or hit a woman but it’s ok for a woman to do the same if her man cheats on her? It shouldn’t.

    So know that there are those of us out there who support you and who care, and who disagree that men are the only ones who need to be held accountable for their violent actions.

  23. Laura permalink
    August 27, 2012 3:43 pm

    Saying that feminism has committed no cruelties is in no way saying that women have committed no cruelties, nor is it saying that men are responsible for all the misdeeds of women. Unfortunately we live in a society where power-based violence is perpetuated regardless of gender, and I am so truly sorry that you experienced abuse in a relationship that should be built on love and trust. I do not subscribe to a feminism that ignores less prominent victims in any sense or refuses to acknowledge their existence, and that is not what I intended my initial comment to communicate. I think that the experiences you have had based on your SA with various ‘support’ groups and organizations (I use quotation marks because obviously they did not do their job) is in direct opposition to what my brand of feminism entails. That is, they seem to be vilifying men more than recognizing the gendered expectations in our society for men and women that damage all of us. Women are not perfect, and men are not evil. I dislike applying generalized stereotypes to large groups, because the truth is, there are often many more differences among groups of people than there are between them. A woman can be stronger than a man. A woman can be more violent than a man. A man can be more emotional than a woman. A man can be weaker than a woman. These are much more helpful discourses than: ‘Men are stronger than women’, or ‘Women are more emotionally unstable than men.” I’m getting off topic and I haven’t organized my thoughts into paragraphs nicely like you did, but I want to end this way: I think SA is atrocious, regardless of the sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, or religion of either the perpetrator or the victim. Violence is violence is violence, and it’s not okay in any shape or form. I am infuriated that you have experienced such discrimination and rejection from people who should be trying to help you. They do not represent the feminism I believe in, and I think (and hope) many others would agree.

  24. Tuesday permalink
    August 27, 2012 3:50 pm

    My apologies – my vitriol wasn’t intended to be directed to your comment (most of which I was OK with) but to the quote you included, coming on the heels of Jenni Watson’s extremely insensitive and prejudicial comment.

    I might suggest though, that the quote you’ve included tends to belie the neutral and inclusive stance you took. Taken on its own your comment is fair, reasonable and balanced. That quote, however, I consider to be more in the Jenni Watson camp of inflammatory and self-interested dogma.

    To Jenni’s stunningly narcissistic and prejudicial comment, I offer the following from:
    “Privilege? What privilege?”:
    The LA Times:

  25. Tuesday permalink
    August 27, 2012 4:17 pm

    Hi Laura (and thank you too, Kristen),
    I immediately posted an apology for directing all that vitriol your way. However, it includes links and is stuck awaiting moderation. I should have been more judicious and counted to 10 before I posted; the vitriol was based on the quote you included coming on the heels of Jenni’s comment – not your comment itself which was balanced and reasonable. I should have made that clear.

    Thank you to both of you for your kind responses. If only I had ever received even a smidgeon of that from any of the women’s services organizations. If I could ask anything of either of you, it would be to raise this issue and challenge any so-called ‘feminists’ who ascribe to the misguided theories Laura mentions. There really are no survivor services at all, but loads of approbation for daring to raise this issue. It’s almost impossible for survivors to do so; it will take the efforts and kindness of moderate feminists if we are to see any change at all.

    I had it lucky in some ways: I could lie and say that I was abused by men and at least get some services (although you can only stomach that for so long). My brothers otoh, and most male survivors of females, have nowhere at all to go, and if they did would probably be labeled (or at least questioned) as perpetrators, not victims.

    Re: feminism being “cruel”: my mother was an avowed and dedicated feminist. Many female SA’s wear the mask of radical feminism; much as some male pedophiles wear the mask of decent law-abiding Scout Leader (for instance). She had orchestrated things (I won’t go into details) so that if my father were to report her HE would have been the person believed to be the abuser. He had no way to handle this psychologically, and nowhere to go legally, so he worked long hours away from home. However, he didn’t leave until we were out of the house; I believe this is the only reason I’m still alive.

    It will take true feminists calling out the unacceptable behaviour of vengeful pseudo-feminists (and btw, I agree with what Kristen wrote about that) before we can take back ‘feminism’ and stop it from being used as a bludgeon against others.

  26. Jasmine permalink
    October 27, 2012 12:46 am

    grrrrr that’s not what humanism means, humanism is secularism, it has nothing to do with gender

  27. Sandy permalink
    November 5, 2012 7:58 am

    Yeah, humanism means something else, but here the word ‘humanist’ has been used for a person who supports human rights, just the way ‘feminist’ is used for a person who supports women’s rights.

  28. katie permalink
    November 6, 2012 8:12 pm

    If one sees the issues that women face as one not just including, but only consisting of ‘rights’ and if one doesn’t find rights-based discourse limited and problematic, then subsuming women’s issues under the banner of human rights makes sense.
    However there is no lack or argumentation about why rights-based discourse is limited. And the feminist movement has been focusing on cultural and social constructions of gender (rather than just the need for equal rights under the law) for decades.
    I am not against people not being feminist, and sometimes struggle as to how I identify myself. I didn’t find this article very helpful though. I felt that this approach used a narrow, rights-based discourse approach that is only really relevant to liberal feminism, which only forms a small part of feminism.

  29. kase permalink
    November 14, 2012 7:52 am

    Thank you. You hit on exactly my issue with this article. I often find that criticisms of feminism are too focused on second-wave, rights-based feminism, and ignore the diverse ideas and accomplishments of the third wave. Though really, even if you do narrowly focus only on “rights”, assuming a humanist label is broad and vague, and I’m not sure how far an approach like that will get you. Sure, most of us can agree that everyone should be treated equally. But if we don’t narrow the discussion down to people who aren’t being treated equally, it’s just a vague platitude.

    In any case, the third wave of feminism has opened the movement up to so many radical ideas about constructions of gender. Sure, there are some people who I consider to be leftovers from the rights-based feminism of the 1970’s. I believe it was necessary in the past for women to be fighting to enter the “man’s world”. These women were often directly at odds with men, and as a result were often not too fond of men, or of women who didn’t support the cause. This approach got us to where we are today, and I am grateful to those women even if I do not agree with their ideals (the issue being that I am looking at their ideals from the current world’s perspective). The rest of the way (and here is where I roll my eyes at post-feminists who say we’ve accomplished everything and feminism is no longer necessary) needs to be a more inclusive approach that examines why and how we view gender as a culture.

  30. February 20, 2014 12:11 am

    Interesting. I don’t agree. My daughter was asked who in a uni class of 100 would define themselves as a feminist. Can you believe she was the only one to put her hand up? The other women in the hall came up with comments like, “Feminists are ugly girls who can’t get boyfriends,” and “Why bother with all that stuff when we are all equal anyway?” On the other side, young men are developing an annoying tendency to learn macho behaviour from the internet on sites with names like Bro Rules. A lot of the advice they are feeding themselves seems to come from etiquette manuals that would not have been out of place on the Titanic. Excuse me for thinking this is completely sucky. But then I am still a little hooked on a feminist girlfriend I had as a teenager!

  31. Annie permalink
    November 19, 2016 6:55 am

    I’m largely put off by third wave feminism.


  1. The Women In My Life | Charlie Glickman | Adult Sexuality Education & Sex-Positivity

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