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Happy International Women’s Day!

I am a feminist.  And once upon a time, I believed – as Sarah Bunting states in her legendary essay Yes You Are – that anyone who believed and supported equality of the sexes was also feminist, regardless of whether they chose to identify as such.

I love Bunting’s piece. Yes You Are helped to bring my own feminist convictions into to focus. I still reference it on a regular basis. But I have stopped telling people “Yes, you are.” As much as I yearn for feminist allies, I’ve decided it’s not my place to foist that word on anyone.  I’m not the identity police. People have a right to define themselves and define beliefs as they wish.

So if you’re someone who believes in equality of the sexes but you don’t want to call yourself feminist, I’m down with that. But do me a solid – if you find yourself explaining why you’re not a feminist, could you please, please, PRETTY please avoid saying the following:

5. “Feminist just don’t like men and want to take all of their rights away.”

Maybe you’ve met someone who identify as feminist and hates men. But trust me – that’s just an unfortunate coincidence. I hang out with men often. I’m married to one. I’m the mother of a man-in-the-making. I dig dudes quite a lot, thank you.

In fact, one of the unfortunate side effects of patriarchy, like any form of oppression, is that it actually restricts men in many ways. Men are discouraged from certain forms of emotional expression, particularly those that signal vulnerability like fear or sadness. Men are often seen as secondary caregivers for young children – their own or other peoples. There is a remarkable dearth of men in early childhood education.

Because of patriarchy straight dudes are very limited in terms of “acceptable” gender expression and sexual activity. And queer men definitely get the shit end of the patriarchy stick.

So no, not trying to take away any guy’s rights.  I’m a feminist because I would like to see men, women and all people share the full spectrum of rights and freedoms.

4. “I believe in equal rights. But Feminism isn’t the same things as believing in equal rights.”

Except it totally is.

The word feminism may sound a bit like women/females with a superiority complex. But that’s not it. It’s called that because it focuses on establishing the rights and interests of women/not men as equal to men…something that historically, we haven’t had.

3. “Feminists say they believe in sexual freedom but that’s just an excuse for most of them to act like sluts.”

I happen to think that women don’t need an “excuse” to be slutty. I’m pretty neutral on promiscuity and personally I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about it. But let’s suppose for argument’s sake that you do. You have a right to your opinion on this one so I can agree to disagree.

But I straight up call foul on the notion that ’cause I like to kick’ it third wave I’m getting my sex on all over town. Do I strive to be sex-positive? Yep. Do I believe that a woman has a right to establish her own sexual boundaries? Word. But those boundaries can be anything from celibacy to sex work. As a feminist, I believe they are hers to define and negotiate just as my sexual boundaries are my own.

Unless I’m getting it on with you, you can’t pressume to know anything about my sex life based on the word feminist.

2. “Feminists are against marriage and traditional family structures.”

We are? Damnit! What am I supposed to do with this straight guy I married and the kid we have?

1. “I’m not a feminist because I don’t need it. I know I’m equal.”

I’m glad you know that. You’re absolutely right and you absolutely are.

But with all due respect, not everyone knows what we know.  Not everyone accepts that you deserve equal pay for equal work. Not everyone believes that you have an equal right to physical safety and agency over your own body. Not everyone supports your equal participation in government, law-making and political activism.

Maybe you’re lucky. Maybe you live a life where you have full licence to exercise your equal rights. Maybe you have the luxury of taking them for granted. A lot of women – most women aren’t that lucky.

You know you’re equal. I know you are and I know I am. But I’m a feminist because I think it’s about more than you or I. Until everyone accepts that we are all equal, there’s more work to be done. And you don’t have to call yourself a feminist, to do it. But when you say “I’m not a feminist because…” and then cite reasons like the ones I’ve mentioned, you’re implying that that’s what feminism is about, that that is what *I’m* about.

I don’t have a right to tell you how you must name your beliefs. It’s not fair. It’s not my place. But in return, I ask that you not define “feminism” a word I’ve chosen for myself, as a destructive, unenlightened exclusive gambit for female domination. Because, to put it Bunting-esque bluntly:

No, it’s not.

Comments

  1. Jenn says:

    Excellent!! Especially 3 and 5.

    • nadinethornhill says:

      Thanks, Jenn.

      I’m especially befuddled when I here numbers 3 and 5 coming from the same person. You think feminists hate men AND we’re looking for an excuse to have as many of them in our vaginas as possible?

      Huh?

  2. Debbie says:

    Can I print this for my students??! I had a Grade 12 (!?!?) tell me last week that she couldn’t be a feminist because then no guy would ever marry her. Sigh. She also thought that women couldn’t be cops because shooting a gun made them too masculine! Has she ever heard of Sarah Palin? 😉

    • nadinethornhill says:

      Print away. :-)

      I’m a feminist AND I’m married. To a GUY no less. Of course I managed this unlikely feat by sneaking through Matrimonial Feminism Incompatibility loopholes, namely the one where I didn’t call myself a feminist until AFTER I was married.

      The Man of Mans came home from work all, “Hi honey, what did you do today” and I was like, “STARTED IDENTIFYING AS A FEMINIST!” And you know what? He was cool about it. Turns out dude had been respecting women all along!

      The moral of the story: Become a post-marriage feminist. Or you know, marry someone who respects you.

  3. Amy says:

    I’m still totally confused about how I ended up in the nuclear family. I was sure I was a feminist.

    • nadinethornhill says:

      Nuclear family! Dear GOD! Next thing you’ll be telling me that your traditional family structure is a “valid” feminist option because that’s what you “wanted”, so you “chose” it. Then you’ll probably say that as a woman you are “capable of assesing your own needs” and “exercising agency in your own life”.

      Sigh. If you were really feminist, you’d be using it as an excuse to laid. A lot.

  4. allison says:

    I’m a stay-at-home MOM for Christ’s sake. And a feminist.

  5. mudwizard says:

    Love this!

    • nadinethornhill says:

      Thank you and welcome to my adorkable realm! I hope you keep reading and commenting. :-)

  6. A-to-the-freakin-Men!

  7. Amen and hallelujah! I just discovered your blog last weekend through a Sexy, Strong, and Stylish podcast, and I spent hours reading through all your archives. A good time was had by all.

    • nadinethornhill says:

      Wow! I’m thrilled and honoured that you spent that much time hanging out around here. I hope you keep reading and enjoying.

      Isn’t Strong, Sexy and Stylish the BEST? One of my favourite podcasts ever.

  8. Rachel says:

    Awesome post, As always :)

  9. Brie says:

    Big time feminist, right here! Loved the article!

  10. liberalcynic says:

    When people say, “Feminism isn’t the same as equal rights!”, you can’t respond with your opinion. Please give polling evidence or some study which shows that a majority of feminists want equal rights, and not more rights.

    As for “Feminists just want to take men’s right away”, that’s not true. But in the zeal to protect women, they ask for laws and protections that aren’t available to men. Lots of men get beaten by wives or sexually harassed but are too afraid to come forward for fear of being marginalized. Your blog is well written.

    Incidentally, I wrote a post called Five things feminists need to stop saying Would love your opinion.

    • nadinethornhill says:

      Thanks for your response and the link to your post. I’ll be sure to check it out.

      When people say, “Feminism isn’t the same as equal rights”, I’m not responding with my opinion. I’m responding with the definition found in Webster’s dictionary:

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism

      And in the Oxford Dictionary:

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism

      And Encyclopedia Britannica:

      http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/724633/feminism

      As for polls or academic studies I don’t know of any body that has sought to quantify the opinions of feminists. But if you could clarify what you mean what you say “more rights”, who knows – we might just find something.

      In Canada laws prohibiting spousal abuse and sexual assault are gender neutral. It’s true that men and boys are also survivors of physical/sexual abuse, although in a majority of cases the perpetrator is also male. Nonetheless, women do occasionally assault men. And I do believe that those men face very specific challenges in reporting for the very reasons you mentioned.

      However, I also think that the derision and shaming these men experience has it’s roots in misogyny. It’s relies on the theory that women are “weak” and men are “strong” and so that any man who has been physically dominated by a woman is especially “weak”, thereby adding an extra layer of shame to a male survivor’s experience.

      Furthermore, we socialize women to be sexually passive and men to be sexually aggressive. This is crappy for all involved. But the misogyny thing crops back in because our society shames the shit out of men who exhibit traits or behaviours that have been labelled “feminine”. Women are shamed for being raped because of how they dressed, where they were, who they associated with. Men are shamed for being raped because rape is something that happens to women.

      So I absolutely agree that gender inequality and misogyny don’t just effect women. Ultimately it’s sadpants for everyone, which is exactly why I’m a feminist.

      • liberalcynic says:

        Well, the definitions you cited do begin with the desire for equal rights for both sexes, but they suggest favoring feminine interests for this equalization:

        Merriam Webster’s Dictionary: 2. organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

        Oxford dictionary: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

        Britannica encyclopedia: Although largely originating in the West, feminism is manifested worldwide and is represented by various institutions committed to activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.

        This basically suggests that women have been screwed all the while, and equal rights for both sexes means favoring women for some time. That’s what I meant by more rights. Like rights in sexual harassment laws (he said, she said, she wins) and family court etc.

        Also, while women get hurt more in domestic violence, they initiate it more often. Men are typically physically stronger, which means women will sport more bruises after a fight, but that proves nothing. There is no imperative on the stronger person to use less/no force when a stronger person attacks them.

        Actually the roots of male derision do not lie in misogyny. In Warren Farrell’s ‘The Myth of Male Power,’ he explains how desensitizing men from a young age makes them more prepared to die to save women. That’s why men are trained to hide feelings, show no weaknesses etc. It is rooted in the belief that men are expendable and the protection of women for survival of the tribe is paramount.

        Gender inequality affects everyone. But feminism doesn’t seem to me like the answer. Instead of identifying as men and women, we must respect individuality more.

        • nadinethornhill says:

          Gender inequality affects everyone. But feminism doesn’t seem to me like the answer. Instead of identifying as men and women, we must respect individuality more

          I agree that gender inequality affects everyone. I also believe that their are many paths to a more equitable and just society. If you embrace individualism over feminism, I have absolutely no problem with that.

          Individualism and feminism are both complex with flaws in their execution. However, I believe at their core that both frameworks are about fairness. (I believe the same of other philosophies such as Anti-Oppression and Egalitarianism). I like that.

          My point in writing this entry wasn’t to say that feminism is all-awesome, all the time or that no feminist has ever made a mistake or engaged in shitty, counterproductive behaviour. I have been shitty and counterproductive on more than one occasion. My point is that statements along the lines of “I’m not feminist, because feminists are [insert negative impression] here,” is a broad generalization and that sucks.

          It sucks for exactly the same reasons some of the generalizations you’ve highlighed in your post suck. Saying one gender is categorially more evolved than the others is bullshit. Saying that one gender is smarter or more equipped to “lead” humanity is bullshit. And yes, there are definitely people who identify as feminists who support those notions. But I don’t buy any of that. A lot of other feminist I know don’t buy into that. I don’t think it’s fair to assume that I do.

          It’s tantamount to me saying, “Yes, I believe in the value of the individual, that individual human needs are deeply important – but I don’t indentify as an individualist, because I’m not an anarchist*.” It implies that all individualists support anarchy and that if I identify as such, I *must* support it as well. Which is a big, heaping dose of falsesauce.

          All this to say, critique individuals in their practice of a philosophy for sure but don’t assume that every practionner behave or believes in the same way.

          *Also? I actually think as a philosophy anarchy has some validity. I was just using that as an example.

  11. Thalia says:

    I loved this post! Before identifying as a feminist, I had arguments with people who said some of these exact things – I defended feminism even as I wasn’t sure I would identify as one. Having gone through a university education, being in grad school now, I am much more aware of what feminism is and what it isn’t (for me). 5, 4, and 3 resonated most specifically because the debate around feminism is often the idea that feminism has let women become sexually promiscuous and devalue themselves rather than empowered them… *sigh*

    Thanks for writing this ;->