I’ve been reading a lot about the “Women Against Feminism” movement, which has created a huge stir in the social media world recently. One of the most striking aspects of this phenomenon can be found on Tumblr, where women of all ages can be seen presenting lists of reasons that they are either against feminism or have no need for it. A lot of women support this, and that is both confusing and heartbreaking to me.
A lot of the reasons to be found on Tumblr read like this:
I don’t need feminism because I don’t have to push men down to feel equal to them.
I don’t want to associate myself with insane women who spend their time disrespecting others to defend what they think is right by throwing the word ‘RAPE’ in the air.
I don’t need feminism because I don’t see men as the enemy and I value their opinion.
I don’t need feminism because I don’t think all men are rapists even though I have been raped/abused.
I don’t need feminism because my best friend is a guy!
And it goes on and on. From what I understand, “Women Against Feminism” is primarily about a specific group of women whose understanding of feminism is offensive to other women. These women apparently treat all men as enemies, want all women to be treated as victims, and bully their fellow women who don’t agree with those standards. I can get onboard with that. That seems like a really shitty way to behave and think about the world.
What I’m failing to understand is when and how it was decided that to be against these behaviors is equivalent to being against the very notion of feminism. If you’re against feminism, you are against “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Saying you don’t need feminism means SO much more than not respecting the way some women voice their opinions about gender inequality.
You should absolutely be against women who group all men into the category of rapists, monsters, and enemies. You should absolutely be against women who treat you poorly if your values don’t line up with theirs. You should absolutely be against women who don’t see the merit in a man’s opinion simply because he is a man. That is all really unfair and ignorant behavior.
But why are so many women making the leap from this kind of behavior to feminism in general? Why should it be assumed that because I’m a feminist, I hate men? Why should it be assumed that because I’m a feminist, I constantly see myself as a victim? Why should it be assumed that because I’m a feminist, I treat the word “rape” lightly? There’s no need to pigeonhole me that way.
I identify as a feminist because of its actual definition, not because the behavior and beliefs of other feminists represent my own values. I live in the United States, where I enjoy a lot of freedoms that are not afforded to women in other parts of the world, and I still encounter situations in which I am treated with disrespect because of my sex. I promote working toward creating an environment in which that doesn’t happen. I advocate for equality between men and women, and therefore I am a feminist. I don’t believe that the women protesting feminism are protesting that belief. I don’t think all of this hate is really aimed toward those of us who simply want women to be treated with respect and dignity. But the term “Women Against Feminism” certainly makes it seem that way. In terms of its actual definition, “Women Against Feminism” might as well read “Women Against Women.”
And that’s a shame, because deep down, what a lot of these anti-feminists are advocating is strength. They don’t want to be seen as victims. They don’t want men to be seen as oppressors. I don’t want that, either. But we do still live in a world in which countless women are denied the respect that everyone deserves simply because they are women.
Feminism is so important. The evidence for that is everywhere. Recently a journalist tweeted to her followers asking if they knew of a country in which tampons were available to women for free. Some of the responses were so hateful from men and women alike. Incidents such as this, which happen every day publicly and privately, are why we need to emphasize the important misunderstanding here: To be against feminism is to be against the idea that men and women should be treated equally in political, economic, and social spheres. I don’t believe any of the “Women Against Feminism” followers feel this way. I believe that they are using a dangerous generalization to voice how they feel about the way a small percentage of women approach the issue of gender equality. To me, this is akin to disliking the way certain gay marriage activists behave and deciding to do away with that quest for equality altogether.
Women, please rethink what it means when you say that you don’t need feminism. That simple four-word claim can do so much damage, and already has. Even if you do feel that you don’t need feminism, many women do need it. I need it. Not all women are victims, but so many are. Not all women are paid less than men for equal work, but so many are. Not all women are afraid for their safety in the presence of certain men, but so many are. We are wasting our time spewing hate at each other because of our personal feelings about what it means to be a feminist. We are moving backwards whenever we dismiss or insult each other’s interpretations of feminism. We are teaching young women that advocating for women’s rights is less important than knocking each other down when we disagree. This kind of passion and fervor could be applied to efforts to help us all move forward as females and not as victims. All we need to do is learn to talk to each other.