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.