September 2, 2011

  • Why I Stopped Calling Myself A Feminist

    The trouble with turning 50, is that while life seems to go by in a blink,there are a hell of a lot of them in five decades. You start to get fuzzy about small details, and things tend to blend into each other. You know you did things…but can forget exactly why. It was like that for me and feminism.  I never stopped believing in equality…I never stopped hoping there would be a way to abolish the double standards. One day, I woke up and there were more girls in college than boys…and suddenly I started reading about how depressed  young men are because they feel they can’t compete with the girls. And of course…”feminism” got the blame.


    I remember when I just stopped identifying myself as a feminist—not because I lost my faith in it, but because I was simply exhausted  by being fought about it. Overly smug males would explain that feminism had destroyed the American Family…ignoring the impact of the Playboy mentality on the same culture. Hugh Hefner made a cult following by telling men that Single Life was groovy. long before the “bra burners” showed up. Playboy was being published for almost a decade longer than Ms. Magazine…but no…that didn’t change anything, right?

    Even among feminists, I found myself fighting.  There was a small faction that were certain they knew how feminists were “supposed” to think. Any deviation made you a gender traitor, and friend of the “enemy”.  I didn’t reject the patriarchal culture and standards so someone ELSE could tell me how to think. act, or believe. Andrea Dworkin never spoke for me, or many others…but she was controversial, and colorful, and could be counted upon to say things like “All penetration is rape.” So viola…after a decade, the work of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Shulamith Firestone…all the pioneers was lost to infighting and fear of being branded a dyke.

    The Dyke part didn’t really bother me. I knew who I was sexually, and if people wanted to think something else, I couldn’t stop them. But the arguments—the insistence that there was ONLY one way to think? That’s when I stopped calling myself a feminist. I held out as long as I could…but in the end I was as angry and disgusted with the “sisters” as I had been with the “fathers”. Worse…there were huge numbers of women who thought all the battles had been won. That no further action was needed. The Equal Rights Amendment languished…and instead of Equality we got Octomom, Kate Gosselin, and Girls Gone Wild.

         We used to think that “leg shaving” was sexist. Now our daughters remove their pubic hair to be stylish. People are turning their young daughters INTO Barbies, instead of just playing with them . Women are putting toddlers into Booty Shorts, and think it’s cute. We still don’t make the same money as men for the same labor, and no matter WHAT Time magazine says, we still end up doing most of the drudge work. Young women (painfully young) are not only having sex, but are having babies as a result. The MTV show, 16 and Pregnant  features an endless stream of young girls who somehow believe that having their baby will end up with marriage and stability…when 80 percent of the young dads leave their children’s lives.

           Women like Michelle Bachmann trash feminism at every turn…yet without it, she would probably never have seen Congress…much less had a shot at the White House. 

            Instead of better, safer methods of birth control, we have fewer options than ever…but end up catching the blame if we get pregnant. And of course, the same forces that are trying to make abortion illegal again, irrationally oppose birth control.  They snarl about how women “should keep their legs closed”, but not a peep about men abstaining. Sauce for the Goose, I always say…but that’s heresy too.

             I’m tired of fighting other people about how I am “supposed to think”.  But I find the current world a sad place to be a woman…

Comments (52)

  • I bow down to your mucho wisdom and carisma on this issue! :D

    I have to say that I have NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER identified with a feminist. I have actually always told others that I am an ANTI-feminist but perhaps for some of the MANY reasons that you listed here… A lot of the things in the last two/three paragraphs speak WORLDS about how I feel on the feminism issue.

    I DO believe that women should get paid the same as men, AND that they should be allowed to vote, AND use condoms and bc if they want… But see, I don’t believe that these things make me a feminist. I believe that they make me someone who wants to see women and men living on the same terms…

    I think that a lot of the women who shout and cry feminism are a bit backward in their thinking… Most of the feminists that I know ( and I know quite a few) are the shock same women who say, “I DON’T NEED A MANNNN!!!” but then boo hiss every single time one leaves because they won’t “marry” the man, because “HECK” they can “take care of themselves… and THEY DON’T NEED THEM” O_o… then these same women say, “We want to be respected!” and go and get behind playboy, the porn industry etc…

    How is a woman ever to be respected if they are continually taking their clothes off to “PLEASE MEN”… (this makes me even MORE angry knowing how the porn idustry works and how it is essentially one of the last LEGAL forms of slavery in the world) – but hey, no one will listen to me OR the women who’ve come out of that horrible life.

    I think there’s something WAY off in the feminist thinking (as a whole) not that wanting equality is bad… but that most of the feminists that I meet don’t seem to TRULY want equality… what they REALLY want to do is tell men that they are actually “BETTER” than them… this is not equality, this is going the opposite way. If they don’t outright say it, they suggest it by how they speak. I actually had a feminist tell me, “No job was ever better because a penis was running it… in fact, in a few cases it would have been better if they’d cut it off…” … if a MAN said something similar about a woman, that man would be called a “misogynist/woman hater…” and dispised… That’s how hateful a comment like that looks… Referring to a man as a “penis” and “cutting it off”

    And at the same time (as you have so eloquently said here) women seem to be getting more and more vulnerable… not less and stronger.

    GREAT post.

  • I might also add that since I have refused to associate myself with feminism, I have been told by large groups that I like to be “dominated by a dictator” who “probably whips me at night…” >_>

  • I support Equalism. The right of all men and women to be equal to one another and sharing the pie making responsibilities.

    This post is full of epic win and truth. <3

  • @LKJSlain - Shh, stop telling people about us.

  • @RazielV - huhhhh? hahaha

  • @LKJSlain - Tonight’s safety word is “brownies”.

  • I’ve never considered myself a feminist (though funny enough people from high school though I was one and were shocked to find out I am now married).  But I am all about equality.  The current feminist movement makes me feel completely alienated as a woman. I don’t want to be a part of their group think.  I’m very independent and I don’t appreciate being put down for being more egalitarian.

  • @firetyger - What’s amusing is that most feminists are SHOCKED (and I mean FLOORED) to find out that I am NOT a feminst… then they insist that I AM one because I believe that people should be paid the same ammount and be allowed to vote *yawn* … I honestly believe that we would have come to those conclusions as a country WITHOUT feminism… I honestly don’t think that men are THAT mean spiritted that they wouldn’t have eventually voted those things in WITHOUT that bra burning and hate. :P

  • @LKJSlain - lol, yeah.  It sure is funny, isn’t it? 

  • The only thing I have to comment is this – People should be equal, not women over men.  As soon as you start saying one life has more value than another, you’ve lost me.  I’m for fighting for equal rights, that is it.  Most feminists I have known have been more concerned with women being in a place of superiority than equality.

    As for “Instead of better, safer methods of birth control, we have fewer options than ever…but end up catching the blame if we get pregnant.” – There are not fewer safer methods of birth control.  I am pretty sure Plan B and the various forms of pills and shots and IUDs and diaphragms and condoms and female condoms, etc etc are actually better AND safer than they were in the feminist high times.  

  • i’ve always considered myself a feminist.   our media has turned it into a dirty word meaning man hating lesbian, but it’s simply false.   i don’t think there’s anything incompatible with me loving men, being submissive, and being a feminist.   I’m not getting a degree to prove i don’t need a man, i’m doing it because i want to.   I’m not letting a guy tie me up in bed because i think he has the right to, I ask for it because i like it.

    feminism doesn’t mean acting or thinking a certain way, except believing that women should have the same choices and opportunities as men.   what they do with those choices and opportunities is their own business

    great post

  • I will always be an unaoplogetic feminist.

  • This is a great post. I’ve never considered myself a feminist but sometimes I think that some people might while other times I find my self being sexist as well :/ I’m no extremist, I’m moderate. I have seen so many people see being a feminist as a negative but they don’t look at the negative that is there that tried to make the feminist movement stronger… although you see groups going and targeting wrong areas but I guess it happens. I hope equality happens and that both men and women have the choice to either stay home parent or work if they are married and have kids. 

  • @DivaJyoti - Same here, though I do disagree with the more radical elements of the movement. I don’t believe we’re better, but equal. We just have to keep going until the world finally catches up. It’s getting there, but oh, so slowly.

  • thank you for championing women and their struggles. great writing. i have always considered myself a feminist. always been proud of it. but for a long time, in my teens and early adulthood, i was confused as to what made a feminist, what feminism was supposed to accomplish. admittedly there are days the very concept of it still overwhelms me. while there is the movement–herculean and fluid and organic–there is reality, also herculean and fluid and organic–where we struggle with the economy, childcare, poverty, marriage even.  how is women’s reality supposed to accomodate feminism? this is what i’ve asked the cosmos and the feminist  icons for a long time.

  • and i abhor today’s brands of feminism that, when deconstructed, really espouse sexism. confusion abound

  • Both my fiance and I have repeatedly stated that we are anti-feminist for many of the reasons you’ve stated here. Your post struck a chord with both of us, and we completely agree with what you have to say.

    Feminism at its roots had a sense of nobility in its intentions. But as has been mentioned in other comments (and in your post), it’s taken several steps backward and has become little more than a self-righteous title to justify sexism and inaction. 
    Brilliant post!

  • i love this post and believe me i could write a book for a comment. i believe strongly in the necessity for feminism to have existed. i have believed this since i was in elementary school. i was the only male in my colleges first ever feminist class. i also became painfully aware of some of the downsides because although i was fully on the side of women’s rights i was sometimes treated in a knee-jerk fashion as the enemy, out of hand, simply because i looked like one of them. i still understood this.

    you mention how women have dropped the ball on this, perhaps having gone backwards, i agree and men, if i can call them that because so many still behave like little frat boys as evidenced by so many top blogs on xanga have not matured. i did live in a culture where the positive effects of feminism could be clearly seen in both men and women. sadly it was not the U.S. Obama did push through legislation that gives women the right and the legal backing to be paid equally for equal work. not many are aware of this and frankly i was surprised when i heard about it because i assumed that was legislated decades ago. 

    yes, i’ve always been a feminist but not one lumped in with every take on it and definitely not a man who can be lumped together with all other men as some of the more “militant” feminists have tended to do. 

  • AMAZING POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My heart is with you on this post so very very much!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The last couple of paragraphs I resonate with the most and I wish I could rec this a million times.  Amazing!

  • @SasGal - Maybe it’s not fewer, but some places are making it incredibly  hard for women to attain these things. At least, that’s how I took it.

  • In the United States, the attack on women has been full force. It’s becoming harder and harder for women to attain the health care they NEED and DESERVE. It’s such a shame that people think that’s how things should be..

  • Dykes are very rrowrrr.  And so are drag queens.

  • I studied theoretical feminism; the philosophical engine that powered the social movements was trite and late to the game in terms of post modern philosophy. It was really a piece of trash like structuralism or marxist theory–and only re-used every other shitty bromide that the post moderns recycled a million times.

    “Feminism” is too heavy a term and cannot be considered a package deal. I’d never call anyone here, not even you, a feminist without explicit qualification. The idea that women and men deserve the same rights and privileges does not constitute a belief or even a coherent movement–it is only a facet of a larger system supporting a rational society. There’s never been a pure social movement for such a thing.

    Thus, it is perfectly fair to conclude that the feminism of women around your age and older was a joke and accomplished little of its original aims.

  • @LKJSlain - 

    I appreciate the props…but you see I AM a feminist.
    I had to fend off lecherous bosses when I was 20, and was told that it “came with the territory”.
    If I wanted to be successful, I had to learn to overlook it, or evade it.
    I had to put up with endless shit…because I was a woman, and it was allowed.
    “Boys will be boys” never goes away.

    I am the mother of a brilliant young woman, and I’d like to think it will be easier for her…but I’m not sure it will be.

  • @tjordanm - 

    You’re entitled to your opinion.
    But I’m not large on “feminist theory”.
    Strange…once the political climate was such that a difference of opinion could be had without the sneering condescension.

    But that was once…not now.

    Men have also benefited from feminism, like it or not.
    Based on your post, I don’t expect you to acknowledge that, of course.

  • @galadrial - I wasn’t denying that you were a feminist, I was suggesting that even though you and I might call ourselves different things, our desires are mostly the same (As are our thoughts on the flaws with both sides of the thinking)

  • i saw one thing that was accomplished when i worked for a wall street corporation. conversation about politics, religion and sex was strictly forbidden in the workplace and even sexual innuendo could be reported and would be taken seriously by human resources. examples of forbidden behavior given in new employee orientations included things like massaging someones shoulders as this could be taken as a sign of favoritism and perhaps also sexual innuendo. it wasn’t that corporations suddenly got a heart that they did this. it was the bottom line, an all out effort to avoid expensive lawsuits. for example if the religious or political affiliation of a boss was known and an employee of the same affiliation was given preference in a raise or promotion this could be perceived by others as favoritism. that feminism or the women’s liberation movement raised awareness and the bar and gave women the drive to fight back through the justice system forced the hand of corporations.  

  • @galadrial - I only remember about 3 US presidencies, but I’ve read enough history to know that differences to opinion before today were met with worse than condescension. Either way, I didn’t intend condescension or even disagreement–we seem to be of the same opinion on most of this stuff. The only thing we differ on is that the cultural changes of America that lead to better respect for women weren’t accomplished through any visible movement. The visible movement of “feminism” always had too many schisms and were only an ineffectual offshoot of a bigger political-philosophical trend unrelated to equality for women…it accomplished relatively nothing.

    And the disagreement about labels…like I said, “feminism” is too broad–it would mean something to one person and something else entirely to another person. There are popular forms of feminism which really were destructive to “family life.” There are forms of feminism which aren’t harmful to anyone and seek only equality–a lot of people mean that when they say they are feminist. I believe in that. But I’d hardly consider myself a feminist or a major support of women’s “rights”–I think a woman who does my job as well as I do should be paid as much as I do. I think they should be taken seriously for political jobs, etc. The cause for my belief in that has nothing to do with 20th or 19th century feminism. It isn’t significant enough of a sentiment to be given a name when you consider the broader context of what is necessary for such equality to arise.

  • @tjordanm - good Lord dude, a lecture from a non-professor on theoretical feminism well over the heads of most xangans (was that intentional? so that you could get away with making no sense)  - followed by a slam to boot?  WTF I usually like you fine but I have to say that was one bitchy little comment.

    I’d never call anyone here, not even you, a feminist without explicit qualification.

    OMG A BRAND NEW PARADIGM from a boy kid on Xanga.  Too bad it doesn’t make a lick of sense.

  • @LKJSlain - Did you actually read her post? Just wondrin

  • I have never been a feminist but I have always believed in being equal when it comes to jobs and pay I have never thought that a husbands credit score should be also mine …This is a very good blog thanks for sharing your thoughts

  • I have always thought all people should be thought of as equal until they have a chance to prove themselves. Being raised in an extremely dysfunctional family, all I ever wanted to be was a housewife. That didn’t mean I thought a woman’s “place” was in the kitchen. At the same time, I have yet to see a study that says anything other than the very best situation for children is to be raised by their mother and not in a daycare. I HATED when I was thrust into the workforce and had to leave the raising of my children to baby-sitters, and only got to see them on my time off on weekends. During my non working periods, I was attacked by the hard core feminists, and decided early on I never wanted to be in their camp. I was treated as if I was somehow less intelligent because I actually WANTED to stay home and raise my own children myself. As if I had been brainwashed and thought I needed a man to think for me. And there was always the silly notion that I was really lazy, or just couldn’t actually handle a real job like the grown-up women they were. And then there was their attitude towards men! Some of these women actually had sons too. I was shocked. I never could understand why it was that equality was supposed actually mean superior. Still don’t. But that gets used in many other equality issues as well. 

  • @mtngirlsouth - 

    I appreciate your quandary.

    I too, worked when my child was young, despite wishing to be with her. But I should note that most of the criticism I hit did not come from women who considered themselves feminists…not in the least. They backed away from the name and the notion like a vampire form garlic. I worked part time, nights and weekends to assure that my daughter always had access to at least one of her parents.The Career Parents (male or female) found this quaint, but also assumed that it meant I was “not working”.

    When my daughter was in school, and both my husband and I worked, I was the one they called when she got sick…despite the fact that he worked five minutes form the school, and I was a 40 minute drive away. They asked for both parents contact information. Mine was in a different area code…his was the same as theirs…made no difference.  I got the call. I didn’t mind getting my child, but I had to wonder why it was assumed that the “mom” was the one who had to do it. A few times, they let her languish in the nurse’s office for hours when I could not get there…and NEVER called her father. This was as recently as four years ago. So it doesn’t take a quantum leap to assume the attitude at work here.  Men’s work= important. Women’s work…not so much.

  • @LKJSlain - Sorry about that.

    Bottom line…I’ve lived a life where people have tried to explain the “evils” of feminism to me, while ignoring the greater social evils that made it necessary.

    I chose to have a child in a traditional relationship.
    I chose to accept a lesser financial status so I could care for my child myself.
    But I chose to do it. I didn’t do so because I lacked options, or didn’t know another way.

    I grew up in a world that insisted I needed to be married and a mother, without thought, or consideration.
    Feminism allowed me to choose, after thought and contemplation, if I wanted to do either.

    I was not interested in  male bashing, castration, or minimizing anyone. I just never understood why the idea of equal rights was so threatening to so many people.

  • @DivaJyoti - 

    Well, if you like me just fine, that must mean you read my comments, and that means you must know I only have first hand knowledge of things :) And that I know exactly what I am talking about. If I say I won’t call anyone a feminist with further qualification, it just means I will specify the TYPE of feminist. In this and most commenter’s cases, I would label them naive or simplistic feminists. Would you feel better if I wrote a post on the subject that isn’t as compact and easier to grasp for you?

  • @DivaJyoti - Yup. I read the entire thing. It was great.

  • @galadrial - I agree and I am glad that you see that way, that there are bigger social issues out there (which is one of the main things I’m getting at.)

    I do have a question though…

    Don’t you think that you would have been able to choose these things “without” a label called “feminism” … ? I am just wondering. I mean, I choose certain things for myself but it doesn’t really mean that I have to have a title associated with it.

  • @tjordanm - lol, when I said I like you just fine that means I like you OK. YOU however, cannot have, as you say, ”first hand” knowledge of these topics, unless you’re acually a female.  I didn’t think you were, what do I know?

  • @LKJSlain - well good, glad you enjoyed it.  It was def. an interesting blog.

  • @DivaJyoti - Yeah, If you read my last comment to her, you might better understand where I was going with what I said. haha. :)

  • @DivaJyoti - 

    Examine my comments more closely, I didn’t attempt to speak of female experience. I talked only about the historical and philosophical context of feminism. And I was correct.

  • @tjordanm - whatever ok you have firsthand knowledge if you say so.

  • @LKJSlain - Hell no.

    You miss a few cogent points of the last 30 years.
    Women did not get access to credit without a male relative or husband signing for them.
    They could not access birth control without the same.
    We were rarely considered for non “pink collar jobs”, regardless of competence.

    My daughter’s grandmother was one of the first women accepted to be a WAC in World War Two.
    She had the highest security clearance a woman was allowed, used her GI benefits to get not one of TWO degrees after the war, and outranked her future husband…but couldn’t get work in the private sector that wasn’t approved for “girls”.

    That was 1945.
    I think feminism brought some things into focus that we would still be frittering about.
    And if you think I’m wrong, may I remind that Mississippi did not bother to ratify votes fro women until 1987? 
    So no…I don’t think a lot of the change would have happened naturally.

  • Frustrations aside, what I commented on in this piece is similar to the contention that comes in any group. There will always be a fanatical faction, intent on telling others what they should think, or how they should act. I’ve got friends from all walks of life,ranging from Christians (large C) to members of the LGBT community.  In every group there are those who remain convinced that the only way things can change is THEIR way.

    I’ve watched my friends struggle with people who thought they were not “Christian” enough. Not Gay enough. The Bi-racial are trapped between two worlds…neither one thinks they are “enough” to be accepted.

    So this is not unique to feminism. I just finally wrote down what I have felt for 30 years, but never could quite put to words. I thank you all for your replies, and the food for thought. We’ve come a long way from the day when people (including my own father) thought nothing of saying “College? That’s WASTED on girls…they are just going to get married, and have babies.” I have some friends who are Log Cabin Republicans. I love them dearly, and don;’t understand how they can align themselves with a group that wants them either dead, or in the closet….but that’s not my choice to make. They have been living together was partners for more than 25 years, and are the most committed couple I know…but they think liberals are nuts, and don’t want to be pigeonholed into voting for them by their sexual preference. I get that. I balked at the idea that because I counted myself as a feminist, and Sarah Palin had breasts, I was supposed to vote for HER.

    I do hope for a day when groups of all kinds can learn to stop the in-fighting. We are all worthy, and human…and that is all that should matter.

  • I am a feminist and proud to be… but not hard core. I think we are going backwards…Our female entertainers could once show their talent without showing every body part go go with it and then some. Putting young females in danger of being used in so many ways is frightening for the future of womankind…we are more than “body parts in an expresso picture!!”

    I remember being horrified a few years back watching three year olds instead of playing tea party and dolls, writhing in line with each other to a Brittany Spears number. But what’s to stop it…it’s in every part of our culture as if it’s as natural as breathing.

  • @galadrial - well said again. 

  • @galadrial - On the other side… If they didn’t do that until 1987, then one could argue that feminism (in that case) didn’t really do anything to help it either… *shrug*

    I believe that yes, you very much COULD have chosen what you chose without the title of feminism. Heck, in the BIBLICAL days some women decided “not to marry” and “to have children outside of wedlock,” etc… You can chose whatever you want. It doesn’t always mean that you’re going to be loved. But that’s life.

    But again, what I was originally saying was that I agreed with you that the problem was bigger than feminism, etc…

    But whatever. If you’re more focused on what feminism is or isn’t, then I suppose that it’s best that I leave now. HAHA…

    Of course, the TITLE of this blog was why I stopped calling myself a feminist.

  • @LKJSlain - K…you assume ANY change would actually happen if it was not called for?

    Do you also think Segregation would have happened “naturally”?
    I am betting the answer would be no.

    When Feminism happened in the late 60′s, early 70′s, women were still being paid less, and were largely dependent on husbands or male relatives for their identities  and lives. You could only get credit if a “male” signed. That might not impress you, but it happened in my lifetime. I also recall when a “girl” going to college raised eyebrows. Now, gender isn’t relevant…just grades.

    So you are entitled to believe it did not matter…but the road you walk down was blazed by others…and i hope you never know how much it was needed. If you do, we have lost ground…and that would be tragic.

  • @galadrial - I didn’t say if it wasn’t called for, I said without the stamp of feminism.

    I do not believe as people that we would have continued to leave women in those positions. 

    And quite frankly, sorry to say, I AM one of those women who honestly would have been fine without it. :) Trust me.  

    Heh, in fact, as I look out over the years and history, I see many FINE women who were totally fine and looked up to WITHOUT feminism. :)

    I don’t see anything wrong with y’all, equality is great, but I don’t believe that (especially where it’s gone) was needed.

  • @LKJSlain - And i wonder how many of those “fine” women you would even know of…had it not existed.

    I will not argue the point. It was a different time.
    You didn’t live through it, so you can assume that everything would have been just dandy had a bunch of women not gotten uppity about things.

    I will hope for your sake, and my own daughters that we never go back to the time that made feminism needful.
    You wouldn’t like it. At all.

  • @galadrial - I think I would have taken care of myself. :)

    Have a good day.

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