To me, being a feminist doesn’t feel like an option. It doesn’t feel like something I chose to ‘pick up’ in my youth. Feminism feels essential, a part of me. I struggle to comprehend how another woman can look at a movement that promotes her success and happiness and see that as an unattractive ideology. I don’t understand how a woman’s reaction to sisters fighting for greater rights and opportunities is to tear them down. Yet, you tell me you are against feminism. The “female anti-feminists.” Some of you still push back on the movement to preserve traditional gender roles, but many of you resent feminism for very different reasons. You reject feminism today because you ‘believe in equality.’ Because you ‘are not victims or complainers.’ Because ‘women already have equal rights.’ Because you ‘earn [your] success rather than feel entitled to it.’
You and your fellow female anti-feminists believe women either face no obstacles, or that these obstacles are simply a part of life. You say that feminism demonizes men and encourages women to see themselves as victims. You reject the movement because you don’t believe that North American women today are oppressed or have limited rights and opportunities. You insist the patriarchy doesn’t exist and there is no rape culture.
All of this pains me. It pains me that women see other women as victims, man haters, complainers, attackers, etc. It pains me that women see feminism as a divisive and oppressive movement.
When men oppose feminism, I am upset, but never surprised. I understand the desire to cling to a paradigm that caters to you. But when women are against women, it stings. It stays with me all day. It feels not just like a misguided mistake but a blatant betrayal.
Your sisters are out there fighting for you, facing opposition and putting their bodies on the line, while you are fighting against them. Despite successes achieved by feminists in North America, the sad truth is that we must also hold our ground against women like you. It’s exhausting and incredibly disheartening.
What troubles me most, is how off the mark you are. While some of you believe that life is peachy keen or ‘difficulties’ are simply part of life, many of you recognize that there are issues affecting all genders. You recognize domestic violence and sexual assault remain pervasive and that getting proper parental leave can be difficult. But you suggest that a ‘movement truly concerned with equality’ would advocate for men as well.
It pains me that you see the movement as one that exaggerates the oppression of women, ignores problems men endure, shuts down any opposition, and vilifies men. I am sad that you see something detrimental out of something that I find so uplifting.
But my personal concern doesn’t really matter. What matters is your rejection of feminism. And your rejection is selfish and/or hypocritical and/or misguided.
It is selfish because you are ignoring, actively or otherwise, the realities for so many other women. Are you in a successful career of your choice? Do you have a partner who treats you as an equal? Do you feel safe in your neighbourhood? If yes, great. I am genuinely happy (and indeed very excited) that your life is good. But you cannot deny that other women may not live such a wonderful existence. You have to know that some women experience domestic violence, perhaps every day. You can’t ignore that many women are consistently catcalled. You can’t pretend that women of colour are not mistreated just because of their skin tone. To say #IDontNeedFeminismBecause is to say, “I don’t need it because my life is good and I don’t care that other women are struggling.” This is a selfish response.
Your rejection of the movement is also hypocritical. For all of you that reject feminism because your life is good, you endure no persecution or oppression and you believe you have all the same rights and opportunities as men… how do you think we achieved this? Feminism! Feminists marched through the streets so you could vote, feminists entered professional programs as the only women to break down barriers for you, and feminists protested coverture so you were more than a man’s property. To reject feminism because you don’t need it, is to reject the movement that got you such a great life in the first place.
Lastly, your rejection of the movement is misguided. You argue that feminism is irrelevant because we have achieved our vote, our scholastic achievements and our place in the workplace. I argue that this is a narrow, overly simplistic perspective. First, not all women have such a great life. Just go ask women of colour, trans women or immigrant women. Second, although we have had our successes, this does not mean we do not still have our failures in society. We have debilitating abortion laws in Texas, paternalistic and patriarchal rulings like Hobby Lobby, and horrific sexual assault statistics. How can you say that things are A-OK for women?
You need to know that federal and state/provincial laws that treat women unfairly. You have to learn the difference between formal equality and substantive equality. You must listen to the lived experiences of women who face overt oppression. Before you speak out, you need to do your homework and you need to keep an open mind.
However upsetting it is to me, it’s your right to believe what you want to believe. But I ask you to consider the disservice you do to all marginalized people by rejecting feminism. Before you proclaim your opposition to feminism on Twitter or Tumblr or the campus quad, ask yourself these questions:
- Do all women have equal rights and opportunities around the world?
- Is my lived experience the exact same as every other woman’s?
- Do white women and black women live in the same reality? Trans women? Gay women? Disabled women? Immigrant women?
- Should my success necessitate the dismantling of a movement that advocates for the success of other people?
To reject feminism is to ignore the sacrifices of your foremothers, to denounce the work of your sisters, and to deny everyone a better future. As Margaret Cho said, “To deny feminism is to deny your own existence.”