A response to IWANTEDWINGS: why feminism isn’t enough.

I came across this post recently, “A Response To Women Against Feminism”, read it, read it again, and loved it. {It was very deserving of it’s Freshly Pressed status}. In a nutshell, the author IWANTEDWINGS points out that it’s easy for the average woman born and educated in a highly developed Western country to reject the idea of feminism. Concepts such as “slut shaming” and an oppressive patriarchy bear no relevance to women who have a college or university degree, a well paying job, and the freedom to live their lives however they choose. They don’t hate men and think feminism is about being unfeminine. The post is well researched, well written, and articulates so many thoughts I share but would never be able to express anywhere near as well. It was written in response to groups called Women Against Feminism on Facebook and Tumblr . Now I’m not here to argue the case for feminism because that’s a very long discussion for another post {maybe}, but it seems ironic that the very reason women are able to reject the idea of feminism is because it has, in many ways, done it’s job.

But here’s where things begin to get grey.

Like so many things, in theory, feminism is a fantastic ideal. It’s not about hating men, burning bras, having hairy armpits, or waving protest signs. Feminism is, quite simply, the idea that men and women are deserving of equal rights. Accepting of our differences, but not using them as an excuse to deny basic privileges. When we stop for a moment to remember that there were times when women were not allowed to vote, get an education, or own property, it is safe to assume that we can all agree things needed to change. Feminism made many of those changes happen. The irony in seeing women hold up their “I don’t need feminism because…” signs, in which they proclaim about being the breadwinner, being independent, being equal to their partner, is that they fail to realise that the only reason they have the luxury of holding those signs up at all is simply because of the time and place they were born.

The first wave feminists and suffragettes fought for our basic rights long ago, and we have, without doubt, come a long way. But nowhere near far enough. And it’s no longer just about feminism. The fact that there are still, right now, young girls and women in today’s world being denied an education, being sold into child slavery, prostitution, and marriage, having their genitals mutilated, being raped and abused the world over isn’t a feminist issue. It’s a human rights issue that concerns every citizen of the planet.

But what about our sons? Is it okay for a young boy to be kidnapped and transformed into a child soldier, wielding a semi automatic weapon almost as heavy as he is? To be stalked by sexual predators? To be told time and time again to toughen up, act like a man, don’t dare cry? Isn’t all of that just as damaging to our sons as similar abuse is to our daughters? Who’s out there fighting for the young men of the world?

What about the pregnant woman being bullied by her specialist into a surgical delivery that isn’t medically warranted? How is it that as soon as men entered the birthing space {once reserved for midwives, sisters, and mothers}, we saw the dawn of intervention filled births that have slowly but surely stripped us of our confidence in the abilities of our bodies to safely birth our babies without a white-coated male wielding metal instruments? Why are the women who fight for our birthing rights dismissed as crazy/unsafe/extremist hippies?

Feminism just isn’t enough because somewhere along the way the only feminist who started to matter was white and single. No feminist was going to fight for pregnancy and birthing rights, they were fighting to unchain themselves from the whole idea of being barefoot and pregnant. Mothers rights didn’t matter because they didn’t want to be mothers, they were fighting for legal abortion and birth control instead. Girls and women in far flung and distant parts of the world were someone else’s fight.

Do I reject feminism? No, not at all. Oppression is still rife, inequality is, sadly, still common, and skewed representations of women and womanhood abound everywhere you look. But as someone with three sons I can’t fail to see the other side. I can raise my sons to think like  feminists, to be respectful of women, to be decent people, but that doesn’t mean that their feelings don’t matter. I’m fully aware that I get to call myself a feminist simply because of a fluke of chance which saw me born here and now and not in another time or place.

In an age where we have a twenty-four hour non-stop news cycle and endless ways of instant communication and sharing, we know more than ever before. In a Western country a woman has the right to call herself whatever she wants, to define herself however she chooses, to make choices that are hers alone. But, as IWANTEDWINGS stated, what about the others? And it’s here that we need more than just feminism, because it’s not just other women and girls somewhere else in the world, it’s the boys and young men too. It’s parents who fight every day just to keep their children safe.

It’s about people, not gender.

It’s about the right to a life free of persecution and abuse, regardless of anything else.

It’s not about feminism or patriarchy, it’s just basic human rights.

  1. Those woman holding up the “I Don’t Need Feminism” signs are morons who do not understand what feminism is. You don’t need it? Good for you, what about woman across the globe who are oppressed by men? Besides, I’d like to ask those woman “You’re the bread winner huh? Do you get paid the same salary as a man would for you job? Have you ever been the victim of verbal or physical sexual harassment or assault? Have you heard of victim blaming in which young woman are at the very least hassled or criticized for being drunk and then being raped as if being drunk is the crime or it’s their fault they were raped, have you seen the article about the high school in Chicago that banned leggings for young woman students because it’s too distracting for the boys?” I have to stop now or I’ll fill up the entire comment section on these anti-feminism woman. Human rights are violated all over the world and we do need to raise our young men to be feminists & be proud of that & I hope someday the world is in a place where we can just say we’re for equal human rights because it matters and like you said the feelings of men of matter too but across the board they’re not underprivileged the way woman still are and so we’re just not ready. Transwoman are fighting just to be recognized and respected as woman, they neeeeeed feminism and we need to stand behind them.
    It’s so maddening to me when I hear quotes from celebrities that say something like “I’m not a feminist I love men too much!”. Um, I love men too, but I want the same rights as men, I want that for all woman but that doesn’t mean I wanted to be treated like a man either, and that concept seems to be too confusing for so many starlets.

    GREAT post!! and honestly even if some woman feel they are doing pretty okay and “don’t need feminism” there’s loads of sexism and misogyny on tv, in articles, in advertisements, in households and at the workplace they’re just not realizing how to recognize it and why it’s damaging to society and women.

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    1. Yes yes yes and yes. I could have written a whole post on the we don’t need feminism idiots. It’s maddening that people are unable to see beyond themselves. And the whole, we don’t hate men, argh!

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      1. Or people who think feminists can’t be stay at home Moms or enjoy housework or cooking. We can stay at home or we can be strippers or lawyers or cashiers or teachers or we can even stay at home when we don’t have kids if our partner/wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend whatever makes enough $ for us both & we agree to that lifestyle, we’re still feminists.

        Anyway I’ve had it with these people, they remind me of the people in the US who think racism doesn’t exist anymore. To that argument I say “Trayvon Martin”.

        Excellent once again, can’t praise you enough for your post!

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        1. Thanks Susan, and you’re so right, it’s about the power to be anything.

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  2. Yes! It’s about human rights – and about people, regardless of gender, having the choice to control their own bodies and lives. You hit the nail on the head. Feminism has become defined by a stereotype and that’s what people reject or fight against. The ideal if feminism and what it really stood for is a different matter.

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    1. So true. As much as I admire some if the ideas and women involved, feminisms biggest problems are the stereotypes.

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  3. Reblogged this on iwantedwings and commented:
    The debate continues! An interesting and well-written response to my own response to Women Against Feminism at http://iwantedwings.wordpress.com (Thanks ana74x!)

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  4. Yes, I had many similar thoughts after reading the post. I don’t really consider myself a feminist, as much as I consider myself a humanist. That being said, sadly, more women than men are being oppressed throughout the world. We should be advocates for all of their rights.

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  5. Thank you for all your posts. All excellent, all true.

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  6. Women against feminism are making the (self) critiques of feminism that the feminist movement should have made long ago. You don’t want feminism to be defined by the man hating radicals? Then YOU must call them out. It isn’t enough to say “that’s not really feminism” to non-feminists when they bring up the radicals, you must say “that’s not really feminism” to the radicals themselves. In the last week or so, I’ve seen way more feminist ire directed toward “women against feminism” than I have ever seen directed toward the man-hating “all PIV sex is rape” crowd.

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  7. “It’s about people, not gender. It’s about the right to a life free of persecution and abuse, regardless of anything else. It’s not about feminism or patriarchy, it’s just basic human rights.” Yes 🙂 You know, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if we aren’t all talking about the same thing, but using different words. I would definitely describe myself as a feminist, and I believe that our work is not done, here in the privileged west or elsewhere where life is truly terrible for women. However, perhaps as the issues we face have become more subtle, perhaps the movement needs to evolve. It is human rights, it is equality, it is about the world and its structures working for everyone. I don’t think anyone can disagree with everyone caring for all people, regardless of their gender, age, culture, beliefs or whatever.

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    1. I think you hit the nail on the head. The movement has evolved over the years, and needs to do so once again. I’m starting to wonder if I should think if myself as a humanist rather than feminist? But then equal rights and sexism are still issues…

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      1. mmm yes. I think we are all humanists – how can we not be? But you know, i think we come here with special jobs to do, and special interests that direct us to this work. There are peopl who are passionate about the environment, refugees, honesty in the media, disbaled children – you name it. If rights for women and girls get us passionate, then that’s probably a signpost, you know? We can’t do everything, and just because we fight for one thing, doesn’t mean that we are not aware of and doing what we can for other issues.

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        1. very true, and well said.

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  8. This is so perfect. And that post is amazing, and every word is exactly right. It makes me kind of sad to see those women with those signs, with this idea of “I don’t need it, so why should anyone?” We live in a relative bubble as western white women, and won’t ever see a lot of the worst struggles and atrocities women face around the world, every day. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to care. “Not me, not my problem” doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Not to mention the fact that I find it really hard to believe that all of those women have never experienced inequality, harassment, or any of the other lovely things we have to deal with, even in our safe bubble. Though we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. Great post, and thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks Victoria!

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  9. Whothehell Cares August 2, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Whatever feminism once was, it has evolved into a toxic cauldron of misandry.

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  10. Well-written post, thank you. It sounds to me like you’re hinting at intersectionality, which is a concept that embraces feminism as well as all other attitudes that oppress. Handily summed up here:
    http://miriamdobson.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/intersectionality-a-fun-guide/
    And, for the avoidance of doubt, I’m a feminist and a man. At the same time. And I don’t hate men either. 😉

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  11. Love the balance and nuance you bring to the argument. Cheers – your newest fan.

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    1. Thank you so much. It seems to be a black and white issue for a lot of people, but there’s always grey, I’m afraid.

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