Trigger warning: discussion of rape in marriage, drunk rape.
I’m not really into Twitter. Hashtag revolutions pass me by. So I didn’t hear about #womenagainst feminism until a friend posted Jezebel’s satirical response to the hashtag. I read it, I laughed, cried a little on the inside, and I was about to share it, but I paused.
The article is clearly aimed at people who do know what feminism is about, and understand why a lot of the #womenagainstfeminism tweets don’t actually make sense. But in that sense it’s preaching to the choir. So I decided to deconstruct it a little, and do some educating about what feminism really is on about.
This whole thing reminds me of Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, when he says “I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding.” Well, feminism has its faults, but they are not what I have seen in #womenagainstfeminism.
The greatest fault I see in feminism, as demonstrated by this hashtag, is that feminism’s PR team leaves a lot to be desired. The feminist movement, has been consistently misrepresented since its inception. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, it is obviously not a centralised institution, with an actual PR team. It’s a scattering of people who definitely don’t agree on every point. And I would say a lot of people who are working towards the movement do so without labelling themselves as such. Anyone can stand up and call themselves a feminist, saying a bunch of things that other self-labelled feminists don’t agree with. The second reason for feminism’s misrepresentation is that it presents a challenge to the status quo, and so people fight to shut it up. This is done by spreading stories about all feminists being hairy bra-burning  man-haters.
I don’t think that every woman – or for that matter every man – is morally required to identify as a feminist. I am not even sure if I do – I no longer wear the t-shirt in the photo (I used it in a quilt). I identify with feminism, but wouldn’t label myself as such, mostly because it means different things to so many people, which is exactly what we’re talking about here.
But not identifying as a feminist or with feminism is VERY different to being actively against the movement. Something that disturbed me was that some of the tweets equated not needing feminism with being against feminism. That’s cool if you haven’t experienced sexism in a way that’s made your life worse. But being against feminism because you don’t see its relevance in your life is kind of like being against wheelchair ramps because you don’t use a wheelchair.
If you’re against something, you should have some good reasons for it. Like I’m against homophobia because it causes a lot of suffering. I’m against the current system for dealing with unemployed people accessing Newstart, because it’s utterly unhelpful and serves to make already down-and-out people feel even crappier. I’m against chicken-flavoured shapes because they don’t taste anything like chicken and why would I eat them when I could be eating barbeque or pizza shapes (which also taste nothing like their referent, but shhhh).
If you are going to be against feminism, pick a good reason. Like the fact that from its inception, feminism has been a very classist and racist movement. Mostly rich, white women were like “Hey why don’t we have as much power as the white men? Hey why can’t we work too? Hang on a sec things are actually pretty crappy” while the women of colour were like “der” and the working class women were like “bitch I’ve been working for generations!”
bell hooks writes that the question “Why can’t women be equal to men?” begs the further question, “Which men are these — white men?”
Author Alice Walker came up with the term “womanism”, because “feminism” is too steeped in white women business. And many women of colour associate with this term.
I can understand being against feminism based on grounds of class or race. And if you have other objections to feminism that aren’t totally at odds with what feminism is about, I’d love to hear you out. Just don’t be against feminism based on untrue assumptions.
So now I’m going to respond to some things the #womenagainstfeminism said, in the interest of education. I tried to find some of the original tweets, but by the time I caught on, the movement had got meta, and it was mostly people talking about people talking about #womenagainstfeminism. So I’m going to just use the tweets that were quoted in the Jezebel article as my source.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re living in a hella destructive and violent world, in which the patriarchy is a far stronger force than feminism. One instance where the feminist movement hasn’t resulted in more destruction and violence? How about family violence? Men beating their wives used to be widely accepted, or if not, then at least considered a “personal” matter. In the 1980s, the feminist movement brought about legislation making it illegal for a husband to hit or rape his wife. That sounds pretty anti-violent to me.
There is so much going on in this post. Firstly, to address it directly, the “choice” to be a stay-at-home mother is something you get from feminism. Pre-feminism, motherhood wasn’t a choice. You might say, you can choose not to have sex, but see above re laws on rape in marriage. And anyone, most people expect to have sex at some point in marriage, hopefully not by force. So basically, if you were married, you were extremely likely to become a mother, and being a stay-at-home mother was an obligation, also not a choice.
One of the misinterpretations of feminism is that it means being equal to men, which has then gone on to mean, being ‘like men’. So we got the big shoulder pads and ‘career women’ of the 1980s. The problem with this kind of feminism is someone needs to look after the children. And if women are taking on ‘men’s roles’ in the work world but men’s lifestyles aren’t changing, then childcare gets outsourced, which goes back to issues of class. Who can afford childcare? Nannies and childcare centres are hella expensive.
Some nights I lie awake stressing about this issue. Because I want to have kids, but I want to have a ‘career’ too . From my perspective, childcare shouldn’t be something that is worked out by a mother on her own, or even just within a nuclear family. Children are our future and we should all take some responsibility in caring for them. But that’s just my wild idealism (wildealism? #TLO #portmanteau) coming through.
I’m against vilifying women for their choice to stay at home/work when they have kids. But TBH I’m pretty sure usually it is the women who cop flak on that issue, not so much their working husbands. Not saying it doesn’t happen, just probably not as much.
For more on structuring society around work/family balance, check out this great TED talk.
And let’s just consider the issue of “responsible”. Obviously there is another person involved, let’s assume this person is a man. Is he drunk or sober? If he is drunk, does that make him less or more responsible? If sober, less or more responsible? And what is he responsible for?
Just some questions that hopefully unravel the implicit double standard in this tweet.
That’s all for today. I’m freaking exhausted. I’ve been trying to finish this blog post for about two weeks. I have resolved to write more about feminism in the future, since it’s clear that not everyone understands about issues that I take for granted. Also, if you want to read a really great response to #womenagainstfeminism, check out Rachel Held Evans’ take.
1. Bra-burning is an urban myth, and not an actual thing that ever happened. I mean, I’m not saying no woman ever burned her bra, but it is not a Thing per se.