“Stefanie is a real feminist.”
I hear this quite a lot from my readers, who, of course, intend it as a statement of praise. I am a strong supporter of women’s rights. I always have been, and I always will be. I support a woman’s right not to suffer under Sharia law. I promote and celebrate motherhood in a climate where it is seen as lesser. I add my voice to the political discourse as a young millenial woman. I promote the rights of unborn women to exist. And, yeah, sometimes I tell the hard truth about women and where we stand in society that you won’t hear from a feminist.
I also happen to think being a woman is pretty kickass and I feel pretty blessed that God made me one. I get to create life, sustain life, give birth, and keep said life alive with my body even after birth by breastfeeding. I know it’s just biology and all, but so were Jean Grey’s powers in the X-Men franchise. So, basically, I’m still a superhero.
When people call me a real feminist, I know that they intend to celebrate me because women are human beings and deserve equality under the law, and I live by that view. I totally take it as a compliment and I am thankful for the intention.
Please, please, stop calling me a real feminist.
My understanding of feminism has shaped a lot about my overall political views, from fiscal to social. It is something I write about often, because I actually agree with Women’s Studies majors: gender and how the genders (all two of them, by the way) interact is a hugely important and far-reaching topic.
I like to think I know quite a lot about feminism – both historical feminism and today’s feminism. I have written before about why I believe trusting historical feminism when today’s feminism is so logically untenable is a mistake. But it’s always a hard topic to delve into. Saying “I oppose feminism both historically and today” opens a can of worms. “But women couldn’t vote! Without feminists you couldn’t speak at all! Women were oppressed!”
Like most things regarding feminism, the view of historical feminism is based mostly on half truths, and often on flat-out lies, a few examples of which I discuss in the article I linked above. The rewriting of feminist history (and the “herstory” (kidding) of women in general is so deep and so convoluted, it would take me a book-length work to really present a case for why feminism has always sucked, and, unsurprisingly, still sucks now. Hmm, there’s a thought. Maybe one day I will. Buy my book!
So I won’t make that case today. I’ll make a simpler one.
Feminism is not women’s rights. Being a feminist does not necessarily mean you support women’s rights, and, more importantly, being for women’s rights does not mean you are a feminist.
Now, I know that dictionaries are only a starting point, and actions are more important, but bear with me. Wikipedia says this about feminism:
“Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define and advance political, economic, personal, and social rights for women.”
Now, contrast this with the definition of “women’s rights” I got from the first result on Google.
“Women’s rights. Rights that promote a position of legal and social equality of women with men.”
A few things stand out to me in our first example. “Political movements” “ideologies” and “advance rights for women”
I think there’s one word that is key, and that word is ideology.
When I make any argument about a feminist position, I tend to be met with the No True Scotsman fallacy and “informed” that “Not All Feminists Are Like That”. Of course, this is a very lazy argument, but unfortunately for many it is effective.
So I’ll simplify. When I use the word “feminist”, I mean a person who follows a basic ideology.
- Women were/are oppressed by men, historically and/or today
- Society was set up (whether by men or by nature) to benefit men at the expense of women
Now that I have captured I’d estimate around 99% of feminists (and if you don’t fall into this ideological group but wish to un-poison the word feminism, more power to you. Good luck.) in my net, I’ll continue.
When you call me a feminist, whether you intend to or not, you are placing me in this group of people who believe in a specific ideology.
Remember that definition above for “women’s rights”? When I say I support women’s rights, I am able to focus on issues vs. ideological bickering. And in my view, issues based movements are just better. A movement to end female genital mutilation? Sign me up. A movement for women to vote in countries where they cannot (Yes, there have been relatively recent examples in the Islamic world)? Hell yes.
This applies to other things as well. A movement to combat instances of police brutality? Sure! A movement wherein all cops are privileged and hate black people (hint hint)? No. A movement to support gay people being allowed to legally sleep with whoever they want without criminal charges? Of course. A movement wherein all non-trans people are part of the heteronormative cisgender fascist hierarchy to oppress queer people? STOP.
Give me an issue I believe in, especially one where certain people are being denied rights, and I will stand passionately with you.
Align me with an ideology that makes assumptions about the people involved in said issues as arbitrarily defined identity classes? No. Freaking. Thank you.
It helps that I don’t believe in the feminist idea of patriarchy theory in the first place. I believe in evolutionary psychology and biology, and that patriarchy as a system was the best use of human resources in a time long before modern technology which allowed for equality. Was it a perfect system? No. Did it “oppress” all women and favor all men? Absolutely not. I refer to this unassuming video often, but it really is worth the watch if you wish to understand why I don’t believe women were ever an oppressed class.
Some individual women were oppressed. Some individual men were oppressors. The inverse is also true. And on those specific issues, such as women having the vote, women had every right to demand that right being granted to them equally.
That could have, and in my view should have, been done as an issues-based movement instead of as the start of an ideological political cult.
I support women’s rights without exception. I am not a “real feminist”. I am not a feminist at all.