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Posted by on Jul 28, 2014 | 10 comments

A Response to “Women Against Feminism”

Note: This article is being re-shared in light of Peter Leithart’s recent claim that “Feminism is gender Arianism” in his April 8, 2015 First Things article. I find Leithart’s claim suffering from the same error as the WAF approach: claiming a universal and singularly identifiable “feminism.”

feminist_takeover

A couple weeks ago, the Tumblr blog Women Against Feminism (WAF) showed up via Buzzfeed on my Facebook timeline. I clicked the link to find myself scrolling through images of women holding up signs stating various reasons why they are not feminists. These reasons can be grouped in a number of categories, most notably:

I am not a feminist because…

  • I like men and the attention I receive from them.
  • I am not a victim and do not like to live in the fear that I am one.
  • my present situation is already one of equality.
  • I do not like being belittled for being a housewife/stay-at-home-mom.
  • I do not need (angry, bitter, man-hating) women to speak for me.
  • I hold to traditional family values.

Despite finding myself on the more ‘conservative’ end than many of peers on this subject, this blog got under my skin not because I am some “raging,” man-hating feminist. Rather, this blog got under my skin because I believe it so poorly represents the most important and most needed contributions of feminism. Of course, I recognize that feminists come in all shapes—including those who might better fit some of the feminist caricatures presented on WAF. I also recognize, though, that there is still a real need for the feminist impulse in our relationships, work/church environments and academic discourse.

WAF has provided a stage for a very important and relevant issue to be treated as a radical ideology, which then necessitates that it must be thrown out. I should not be surprised at the polemical way that feminism is treated considering that our society, particularly our online culture, finds its home in polemical debate. My concern and anger with this treatment of feminism is that there is an ignorance of the issues at hand and a plethora of rhetoric and haphazard opinion. Again, I should not be surprised by this. But, honestly I am.

The obvious does need to be stated: I am a woman in a male-dominated doctoral program studying in a male-dominated field. I experience firsthand the need for the female voice to be present and held up within a largely male conversation. According to WAF, because of this very feminist impulse I must also be advocating for a hatred of men, a judgment of stay-at-home moms everywhere, and a desire to mask my femininity—all of which I find suspect.

Worse, though, is that according to WAF there is no male-dominated power structure at hand in our society. Patriarchy is not real. Equality among sexes is already realized. But…

Less than 100 years ago, the right for women to vote in the US was non-existent. Today, 20% of the US Congress is female. Ten years ago, the female representation in Congress was just under 14% and less than half (6%) of that a decade earlier. And obviously the numbers get smaller the further back we look. I use these percentages because they spotlight the most obvious place of power in American society–and, of course, there are a myriad of other examples of gender inequality in society. It is only in recent years that a number of notably powerful women have become a regular occurrence. To argue that equality is already a present reality simply ignores where power tends to reside.

And yet, more than anything, the greatest discomfort I find in this blog feed is the argument that to recognize the victimization of women undercuts empowering them. I have written a post already on the reality of being a woman and a potential victim. But, to say that women do not continue to be victims of sexual violence in our own society (and around the world—India is a prime example of this) is actually dangerous. To me, it is like insisting that you do not need to wear a seat belt because you and everyone you know is a good driver. To recognize the victimhood of women is not to make excuse for weakness or deny empowerment, but to look at the world with open eyes and recognize the real and present dangers.

Feminism, like most ideologies and movements, comes in many shapes and sizes. Some of those shapes and sizes are angry or seemingly obnoxious. But to throw the entirety of feminism out of the window because some forms of it rub you the wrong way is foolish. If you think feminism is only for women and/or men-hating women, then let me insist that you are mistaken. My own account of feminism recognizes the importance of feminism for men and women— in fact, Lance dealt with this in his own post a few months back. If you do not like the way feminism has been articulated, then articulate it better. Do research, ask questions, but please do not throw it out.

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Rachel

Studying theology, baking bread, enjoying the company of a handsome bearded man and two adorable pit puppies.

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  • Ian Ironwood

    Sounds like y’all need to do a better job policing just what feminism is.

    #WomenAgainstFeminism reflects the perspective of a strong plurality, if not the majority, of popular opinion on the ideology. While you might think feminism is about equality, and can likely quote dictionary definitions ad nauseum, the fact is that feminism as it has presented itself in our culture is anti-male, anti-marriage, and anti-masculinity. It is not the ideology or the ideals that these women take issue with, necessarily, it is the behavior of feminists. Trying to call them out for being young, stupid, or entitled essentially validates their opinion of the movement, and considering many of these women possess advanced degrees or have otherwise distinguished themselves, it does a disservice to both them and to the ideals of feminism.

    And that’s the point. The hypocrisy behind a movement whose stated goal is equality, which then practices an ideology that demonizes male sexuality, masculinity, motherhood, and marriage on a daily basis has become blatantly apparent, even to your daughters.

    It’s not the dictionary definition that they object to. It’s the behavior of feminists in the advancement of feminism. The bitter irony here, of course, is that they are merely saying what many of us have been saying for years, but y’all only listened to them because they’re women.

    • “Trying to call them out for being young, stupid, or entitled essentially validates their opinion of the movement…”

      Ian, I am not sure I understand your critique fully. Is the “them” in the above quote those who are in-line with WAF? Or, are you saying that the “them” in the quote are feminists themselves?

      Also, just to note. I am unsure that your accusation that I do not understand what feminism is seems a bit unfair. I make note of the more radical feminists of which you seem to find issue. I also note, though, that not all feminists are of this sort and I would argue that the majority of feminists are not these hardliners. If you think I am mistaken, please back up your claim with some evidence. I spend my days in a setting literally surrounded by feminists, male and female, and none of them fit into your description of a radical, demonizining of males, motherhood and marriage, feminist camp. That is, to claim that my argument and representation of the reality of feminism is based on a dictionary definition and not feminism in the real world is unfair. I am a feminist. I am married to a feminist. I have a sister who is a feminist. The majority of my friends and professors are feminists–many of whom are also men or mothers and married. This is far beyond a dictionary understanding, wouldn’t you say?

      • Ian Ironwood

        The “them” I referred to was the women of WAF.

        While your individual experience with feminists, male and female, within their own culture may suggest that they are all calm, reasonable, rational people, when feminism intersects with non-feminist culture the results are quite different. Feminists, in aggregate, have created a culture that is anti-male, even in its gentler forms. It has encouraged entitlement and social dysfunction in our young women and brutalized our young men. Using inherently misandrist terms like “Rape Culture”, “Patriarchy”, and “Objectification” to demonize male sexuality and masculine culture in order for it to be more effective at supporting feminist issues has injured countless boys and men. And feminist support for hypergamy and serial monogamy has eroded the vital strength of the family in mainstream culture.

        Feminism may have made many strides for some women, but it has left a trail of metaphorical bodies in its wake a mile long. This is feminism as it’s actually practiced, not intellectual feminism or ideological feminism. This is the harvest of gender identity, what happens when feminism imposes a gender-based frame on the world. Hitting the highlights and trying to gloss over the profound responsibility feminism holds for the damage it has done merely validates the WAF position: feminism holds little regard for opinions that are not in lock step with its own ideology.

  • daboys1215 .

    What feminists say feminism is and what feminists do are not the same thing.
    You love talking about 100 years ago. Look at the calendar. This is 2014 not 1914. Stop living in the past. Oh but you need to do so to keep the perception that women are victims.

    Feminism = Women are perpetual victims

    #womenagainstfeminism

    • Alexander Arden

      The same could be said about bigotry. Civil Rights= minorities are perpetual victims. Perhaps these terms continue to have relevance because they are true. If you really want to end feminism then seek to make things equal. Treat men and woman the same, give them the same opportunities; if you begin to criticize the elevated masculine ideal as much as you criticize feminism then maybe I’ll listen to you when you seek to end feminism.
      We still live in a society where women are elevated more for their procreative abilities and beauty than their brains. Where women gets paid less then men for doing the same job. Where there is a definitive difference between the way we treat a sexually active man and a sexually active woman (just look at television’s portrayal of men and women). I agree, it is 2014, we should stop living in the past, we should start treating women as equals!

      • Ian Ironwood

        We also live in a society where only men get signed up for the draft, have 90+% of the most dangerous jobs, die sooner, get punished longer and more harshly for the same crimes, and are regularly denied entrance to domestic abuse shelters.

        If feminism were about equality, we’d hear a hell of a lot more about that . . . but it’s only about women’s “equality”, which comes out as privilege more times than not. Pretending feminism is all about rainbows, sisterhood, and equality when it has been demonizing men and male sexuality for forty years is intellectually dishonest.

      • Alexander Arden

        Ian, because you run a blog where you celebrate the joys of pornography, I highly doubt we will agree on these issues. I imagine our perspectives on sexuality, enjoyment, and women and their role in society (and sexual relationships), as well as the role of men in society (and sexual relationships), could not be farther apart.

        Nevertheless, a couple things in response. You seem to be using the fact that we, as men, die sooner, have more dangerous jobs, etc. to legitimize your claim that women should be treated as inferior, that they should shut up and let feminism die. You seem to be saying that men, because they have a more difficult life, should be able to deny women certain things because we, as men deserve it. Perhaps I’m wrong in my assumptions, if so, forgive me. But, if I am right then the basis of your argument is women should know their place, which is to support and please the man in their life. This does not seem to me to be a loving perspective on women, nor a good perspective on relationships in general. But, as I stated earlier, I doubt we will be able to come to any agreement about the role of women and men in society, relationships, and sexuality.

        Secondly, there is a reason why men are regularly denied entrance to domestic abuse shelters, even if they are being abused. It is because they more often are the abusers. Even if they are not, a shelter is a place where women need to feel safe and the presence of a man, even if they are not the abuser, can be detrimental to the healing of women and children who have been abused. If you know of any man who is being abused, then many of these shelters will help the man and provide him safe haven at another shelter in the area.

      • Ian Ironwood

        On the contrary, I never said women should be treated as inferior. That’s the claim that feminists make about anti-feminists, and it’s just not true. Nor is my argument that “women should know their place”.

        Your statistics about men and abuse are WAY off base (no doubt using pro-feminists statistics) and your apologizing for the blatant misandry of feminists confirms that yes, we will agree to disagree. Feminism has used overt and covert misandry to steamroll men in the name of “equality” long enough. The fact that these women have seen the same thing that men have seen for the last forty years – and that feminists only listen when it’s women saying it, no matter how brutally they savage them for their dissent – pretty much validates the issues that WAF have with feminism.

        My issue isn’t about a woman’s “proper place”; my issue is with the intellectual dishonesty of considering feminism about equality when it is demonstrably NOT.

        Lastly, my site does not celebrate the joys of pornography. It celebrates the joys of marriage. Pornography is just my day job.

  • A.A. Grudem

    Ian,
    Here are the statistics I am using. I am sorry if the American Bar Association is too feminist for you. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/resources/statistics.html

    As to the issue of intellectual dishonesty, you claim on your blog that, “objectification is as important to male sexuality as emotional context is to female sexuality.” Really? You want to say that I need to dominate a woman, to create a false image in my mind of her, I need to lessen her being, her individualism, in order to love her? Perhaps I misunderstand you when you say this. Perhaps this is not what you mean. But from your blog it is fairly obvious that this is what you wish to promote.

    Your praise of the Alpha Male, and your diminishment of empowered females as needy and unresponsive to male virility sets up a dichotomy of good females (women who respond positively to your message of male dominance) vs. bad females (women who refuse to be seduced by your strong masculinity). What is in common between these two is you. You become the most important person, and really the only person who matters, in the relationship because their identity, good vs. bad, is based on how they treat you. In these types of relationships you seek to glorify yourself, your identity, your misogyny, over and against any type of independence of a woman. Of course you will never agree to any of the feminist movement because it demeans your identity as a strong male figure who discovers himself through objectification and domination. So, in the end, I am less likely to object to your claims about feminism than I am to object to your claims about being a man. If this makes me a feminist I am incredibly happy to take on that term.

    • You have woefully misread and misrepresented my position by the projection of your own narrow understanding of gender politics. I invite you to read the rest of my blog and reconsider your argument.

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