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Why "Women Against Feminism" Isn't Just About Internal Misogyny
I’m a die-hard feminist, and I agree with almost everything on the 'Women Against Feminism' Facebook page. Well, everything after the “I don’t need feminism because…” cut. I do need feminism – a lot. Strangely, I think that most of the contributors, who post selfies with signs that explain why they “don’t need feminism,” express concerns that are often inadvertently feminist in nature. So, why aren’t they feminists?
First, let’s address the signs. From the goldmine, there are a few standouts. One pouty-lipped blonde writes, “I’m not a pussy – I have one,” which is as concise an argument against objectification as I’ve ever heard. She also says that she “likes being called a ‘sexy bitch,’” to which I offer my hearty applause. Rock on sister! Don’t let the man shame you for your sexuality! Her final bullet point, “I don’t think women are better than men – I just like fucking them better than men,” is basically a case against straw lesbianism. Thank you, blonde anti-feminist, for connecting the dots so that I don’t have to.
Another submitter, who covers her face with a notebook, writes, “I want my children to respect women and men,” which brings salty tears of joy to my judgmental eyes. Why are you covering your face, dear one? Your eyebrows are perfect, and I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments. I hope that my children will learn to respect other human beings as well. I wish it so much that I can feel my raisin heart breaking.
Finally, a third contributor specifies that she doesn’t need “3rd Wave Feminism” - ah, a scholar. She explains that she is “not a victim.” She also doesn’t “want other girls to be victims.” Yeah, fuck rape culture! Down with the patriarchy and its outdated notions of docile femininity! She continues with, “I refuse to be forced into a mould,” which hits close to home. I, like most women, know what it’s like to fall short of expectations, be they societal or interpersonal. I respect your pursuit of singularity and difference, new friend. It’s hard sometimes, but keep going.
Okay, jokes aside; I can’t be the only one who finds these criticisms ironically and unintentionally feminist, right? On the one hand, yes, I understand that these women are just blaming perceived societal failures on straw feminism, rather than the patriarchal structures that actually dictate social norms. However, even without my sarcastic commentary, their criticisms fit easily into larger feminist conversations. How is that not obvious to the contributors? They’re adults. They probably vote and pay cell phone bills. I’ve looked through their pictures, and none of them boast visible head injuries. Do we really just chalk it all up to internal misogyny?
Some of it, yes. Women Against Feminism is part of a much larger (and older) framework that suggests women must adhere to correct practices - i.e. dress appropriately, conduct themselves respectfully, maintain acceptable sexual habits, etc. – for men to respect them. There’s a racial component here as well. Be a white woman, or, if that’s not feasible, be as white as possible. By adapting to these patriarchal preferences, women maintain status. In an article for The Guardian, Jessica Valenti explains how “anti-feminism organizing is based on a deep hypocrisy of selfishness – an ideology built to assure conservative women that as long as they are doing just fine, other women will make do.” While women never truly inherit power under patriarchy, they can brush up against it through the willful distain of other, less appropriate, women.
Hence, Women Against Feminism provides a space for women to secure placement in the opinions of men and patriarchy by separating themselves from women and women’s culture. One woman complains that, “women elsewhere have infinitely worse rights.” Another says, ”I have a job with fair wages. I can vote. I can choose how to live my life.” These women, as Valenti explains, are ‘doing just fine.’ It’s the other women – ya know, the ones in Africa or Southeast Asia or something – who really suffer.
To anti-feminists, feminists who criticize patriarchy are not only whiners, but also insurgents who threaten the position of all women under men. “Feminists are the reason that people look down on women,” laments one teenage contributor. She’s not alone either. Many contributors stress that they are individuals, separate from other women and women-centric movements. Indeed, they emphasize that they “don’t need feminism” because they are individuals.
Ergo, these anti-feminists envision feminism as the oppressive structure that interrupts the clearly defined and inherently rational rules that dictate the ways in which we live with men. Women Against Feminism thereby communicates a common fear of women under patriarchy, which stipulates that not only must individual women adhere to societal obligations, but that any rebellion from individual women threatens the position of all. Play by the rules, and you alone can glimpse power, but if others fall out of line, then you will all suffer.
So, these women don’t hate feminism; they’re afraid of feminism. It’s a rebellious, women-centric movement that stresses female unity over individual seclusion and obedience. It’s everything that women under patriarchy are taught to fear at the cost of their own success and that of women in general.
I sympathize with Women Against Feminism, in part, because I remember that fear. It takes tremendous bravery to abandon patriarchy, and then to cast oneself into the no-man’s land of critical discourse. Feminism, despite its achievements, doesn’t offer a fully formed alternative to patriarchy. Women who enter into the feminist discourse aren’t suddenly free of rape culture, domestic violence, workplace sexism, micro-aggressions or the like. Feminism doesn’t promise, “hey, just come live over here in Themyscira with Wonder Woman and the rest of the Amazons.” Yes, we’re all working towards the feminist utopia, but we aren't there yet. So, feminism invites women to cast themselves out of patriarchy, the only structure they’ve ever known, into what – a conversation?
I’m not a perfect feminist. I was particularly imperfect when, at the age of nineteen, I began cautiously approaching feminist spaces. I still said shitty things like, “strippers aren’t respectable women” and “I’m a feminist, not a feminazi.” I was still “one of the guys,” and I wanted people to know it. (Because “women are just so much drama, ya know?”). However, other feminists – those who had been in the game a lot longer – kindly and even politely called me into the discourse rather than out of it. They guided me from a position of obtrusive ignorance and inadvertently active oppression to one that genuinely valued other women and, quite surprisingly, did not devalue men. In short, I owe my current happiness with feminism to the feminists who tolerated my annoying anti-feminism.
So, where are those feminists today? I see them less and less. I think their absence stems from an unfortunate trend in contemporary feminism, one that begs its members to attack the temporary ignorance of those undergoing the process of reeducation. Now, when feminists invite women to abandon their position within patriarchy, they also ridicule their initial lack of ideological purity. In an article for Briarpatch Magazine, Asam Ahmed discusses one of the chief failures of progressive culture, which is its tendency “to publically name instances or patterns of oppressive behavior and language use by others.” While criticism is important, these progressive activisms – feminism included – view “the act of calling out” as “an end in itself.” It thereby becomes a “public performance” that allows progressives to demonstrate “how pure their policies are.” Hence, more experienced feminists often showcase their superior activism at the cost of new or potential feminists, which then drives them to positions of anti-feminism.
I acknowledge that Women Against Feminism undermines the legitimacy of our cause, but I urge feminists to view them as a voice within feminism, rather than an antagonistic force outside of it. If feminism really is a conversation, rather than a structure that forcibly accommodates women’s subjectivities into a singular, unyielding dogma, then let’s talk. These anti-feminists, who convey feminist concerns, resist feminism because feminists deny them space to question, criticize and withstand feminist ideas, especially from a position of safety within patriarchy. Women Against Feminism, despite their resistance, will likely need feminism someday, if they don’t already. Rather than jeering, let's treat them as reinforcements in the goddamn conquering army.
#Real #Feminism #WomenAganistFeminism #Pity #FearOfFeminism
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