I believe in equality, but I’m not a feminist. I’m an empowered woman, but not a feminist. Women and men should both have rights, but seriously? Feminism is stupid and antiquated. The goals of feminism have been accomplished, what’s the big deal? Feminism is causing high divorce rates. It’s depressing women and de-motivating men. Why can’t we just get along?? I’m so mad! I hate feminists these days! They are so selfish and deluded and they get angry about everything! I swear, they need to just shut up and relax!
I read these complaints nearly every day I’m on the internet, and certainly every day I blog. You would have to be living under a rock not to see it. For every feminist talking it seems like there are a dozen anti-feminists screaming at them.
I completely understand why so many people hate feminism these days. Feminism sucks now, because generally it means looking at the world and seeing a big fat problem nearly everywhere you turn. Nobody enjoys that. This might come as a surprise, but feminists aren’t having a grand ole’ time. They’re not self-indulgent like people seem to think, or only concerned about whining and asking for more; they have made the difficult choice to accept and live with awful truths and dedicate themselves to fighting an almost impenetrable force.
A day on which I wake up and think, “Fuckin’ yeah!! Today I get to fight the patriarchy! Wooo hoooo!” is a very special day. Days like that are nice. But that’s not every day. Usually I think, “Ugh. Fuck the damn world. I have to fight the patriarchy. This sucks.” Because it’s hard, and I’d rather live in a perfect world and not have to worry about it. So I completely identify with the temptation to deny the thing exists.
Feminism has always faced serious opposition; it’s never been easy. During the women’s suffrage movement, men certainly weren’t jumping up and down about it. They were all, “get out of our voting booths and stop making a stink!” But look at what happened. They passed women’s suffrage because it became too hard to ignore. The law was obvious and staring them in the face. You can only see inequality written on paper and turn the other cheek for so long before you have to admit it’s right there in front of you.
That’s the main difference between historical feminism (which people usually support) and today’s feminism (which people usually reject). The first wave of feminism (1848-1920) focused mostly on getting women the right to vote and the right to own property, among a myriad of other legalities. The second wave (1960’s-80’s) focused on abortion rights, coverture, and giving housewives the option of leaving the kitchen, among other social agendas. The way we remember these movements is that they worked mostly on concrete problems with finite solutions. Most of them had start and end dates. Feminists could look at their to-do list and see the light at the end of the tunnel burning brighter with every rally and protest they held. Success had a name and a face, and you could high-five it after bursting through the finish line.
Now look at the words modern feminists use all the time: patriarchy, male entitlement, rape culture, social scripts, expectations. What the hell are those? Compare these concepts with words like suffrage, abortion, and employment, and they might as well be dust blowing in the wind, or sand washing into the ocean, or rain falling from the sky. What do they mean? How do we fix it? What is there to be done? Hell if I know. Feminists today (i.e. Third Wave feminists) have to first defend the existence of the problems they fight.
Hating on feminism makes a lot of sense. It’s much more comfortable to look at a terrifying concept like “patriarchy” and laugh as if it’s ridiculous; to hear horrifying talk about “rape culture” and brush it off as radical; to talk about “male entitlement” by casting it aside as extremism. It’s even tempting to get mad at feminists for having these terrible ideas in the first place. People and movements are much easier to hate than concepts and patterns. You can see people and shake your fist; you can discredit movements and place blame. Concepts and patterns will always slip through your grasp.
Being a feminist in the 21st century is hard. It means being offered either a box of cupcakes or an apple and always choosing the apple, because you know deep down that it’s healthier and will make you feel better in the long-term, even though right now all you really want is that delicious looking chocolate icing with the rainbow sprinkles and the gooey candy on top. Yum, yum, “women are already equal to men.” Mmmmm mmmm, “feminism is over; we made it.” It tastes good. It feels good. I like it. Sometimes I just want to curl up on the couch with a cupcake and say, “Hey, guys! You’re awesome! Sorry for the misunderstanding! I know it seemed like I was mad, but I’m not anymore, so you can stop throwing things!”
But I know that I can’t. Talking about patriarchy and social scripts might be hard, especially because it brings up extremely uncomfortable and sometimes horrifying truths about the world and about ourselves, but I know that if I reject and deny them, they will only get worse. Bringing feminist analysis into daily life can be so frustrating and stressful, because it means taking the energy to think about things a little harder. It also means recognizing how deeply ingrained the problems are and taking some kind of responsibility for my contribution to their continuing. It’s easy to feel hopeless, helpless, and depressed. Sometimes I leave my Women’s Studies class with a knot of anger in my stomach that I could really do without.
But I also realize that recognizing and talking about these things doesn’t have to diminish the joy and pleasure we take from experiences, if we don’t let it. Being conscientious and drawing difficult issues out into the open when we see them can become a habit as normal as any other. And it can help us feel confident and optimistic that we are helping the cause, rather than hurting it. Just think: if we talk about these issues enough that everybody becomes conscientious, then we will eventually have fewer and fewer issues we need to talk about, and in the long-term, all of our lives will be easier and more painless.
That is the goal of 21st century feminism, the “third wave,” and that is why it’s worth the struggle and the pain. Some feminists may go about things in an unproductive way, but try to separate the people from the cause. Resistance to such elusive problems will always manifest in unpredictable and inconsistent ways, by nature, but that does not make the intentions any less sound. Resist the urge to hate on feminism, and you will indirectly help eradicate the problems feminists hate.
- I Don’t Want To End Rape Culture. I Want To DESTROY It. (dumbsainthood.wordpress.com)
- Occupying Feminism (makemeasammich.org)
- The F Word (bluestockingsmag.com)
- Can Feminists Be Feminine? What Feminism Means to Me (positively-smitten.com)