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Pleeeeeaaaaase! Call yourself a feminist!

This blog post is brought you thanks to many of my feminist friends who posted this article on Facebook this morning...

The article laments the fear of so many young women these days have about calling themselves feminists.

It argues - part in sarcasm, part in desperate pleading - that feminism is not about being angry or man-hating, although the author resorts to name-calling, despite this assertion.

'Did she just say she's not a feminist? She's obviously oppressed by The Patriarchy!'

What this article and its writer, Mary Elizabeth Williams, fails to understand is why so many women do not identify as feminists - its not just about not wanting to be perceived as an angry man-hater.

Busily and desperately trying to explain that feminism is not homogenous; that they do not all agree with one another, and that the true basis of feminism is only the belief that women are equal and have a right of authority over their own bodies, this article, like so many before it fails to see the forest for the trees.

You see, I'm not afraid to call myself a feminist, and quite frankly being challenged with the 'scaredy-pants' call-out does nothing to persuade me to identify as a feminist, either. The reason I don't identify as a feminist - despite knowing women are equal and despite believing I have an absolute authority over my own body - is that I don't believe in a particular conspiracy called The Patriarchy.

It seems, in recent times. feminists have been careful not to mention the word 'patriarchy' as much when trying to persuade other women - despite their protestations - they really are feminists. This also seems to be something every feminist I've ever met has in common; they tend to believe they know other people better than those people know themselves.

I used to hear a lot, 'We're all controlled by the patriarchy; whether we know we are or not, whether we believe we are or not. We are all oppressed by the patriarchy, even if we don't feel oppressed.' This statement of fact is not disimilar to, 'You are a feminist, even if you don't think you are - because you believe you are equal to men and should have the authority over your own body.'

What that statement doesn't mention is the little feminist clause of essentially having to believe there is an over-arching conspiracy theory call 'The Patriarchy'. You really must believe there is a conspiracy movement to oppress women - and men, too, it now seems... I'm sure there will be feminists who say they don't believe in the patriarchy conspiracy, but scratch the surface and they're all fighting the invisible evil force which compels men to oppress women, this belief is essential to the other belief that feminism is necessary. In the end it's a war - a war against the faceless patriarchy which controls and oppresses us all.

According to feminists this is why even though 95% of the magazine publishing industry is governed by women, written by women, and sold to women, they still uphold the cults of thinness and materialism. The patriarchy controls powerful, educated, supposed self-possessed women like the invisible demons which possess non-religious folk. This is also why women force female circumcision on their daughters and nieces and granddaughters in Africa. This is why women abuse their children. It all comes down the conspiracy theory of The Patriarchy.

And there you have it, I believe, the main reason so many women do not identify as feminists; they simply don't believe in the conspiracy theory.

As an aside, what is the desperate need for using the word feminist? Why is it so important women who already believe in equality and a woman's right over her own body must also call themselves feminists?

The hegemony of feminism, of the belief in the conspiracy of the patriarchy, and the desperate need to identify specifically as a feminist is off-putting. Is feminism a religious order? No? It certainly comes across as one, 'Be like us, or suffer eternal damnation - save yourselves, believe in Feminism!'

I don't care how nice all the feminists I know are (though, I have to admit, to one degree or another they're all pretty bloody angry, despite protestations to the contrary). I don't care whether or not 'All feminists do not believe the same thing' (well, except, you know, that whole patriarchy conspiracy thing... Hey, I could be wrong, but so far I haven't met a feminist who doesn't believe in some sort of patriarchal conspiracy). I simply don't identify as a feminist.

Now, if I - as with so many other women - have simply completely misunderstood what feminism is about, then feminism has a serious PR problem.

Chances are though every last feminist will say I'm oppressed by the patriarchal conspiracy...

And that's where they lose me.


Kathy said…
I self identify as a feminist. I do not believe in a patriarchal conspiracy. And although I can be very irritable at times, I wouldn't characterise myself as angry per se :-)

What I do believe is that, on the whole and taken as an aggregrate, male persons are still more privileged than female persons in the world - just as I believe that able-bodied people have relative privilege compared with people with disabilities, white people compared with people of colour, straight people compared with queer people, and so on.

In other words, I don't think you need to believe in an active conspiracy to think that some characteristics of a person mean that they have to strive harder and overcome more obstacles for their success in life. This can be for all sorts of cultural and historical reasons, and doesn't require a belief in the complicity or conspiracy of anyone at all really.

So to me, feminism is like gay rights or anti-racism - it's a movement to say, well, how about we at least recognise that opportunities are not equal for everybody, and that not all the grounds of inequality are individual (ie some are based on characteristics that aren't really relevant)?
Sif Dal said…
Okay, would you then agree that some men have less opportunity than some women because they are men?

You see, I see discrimination against men as often as I see discrimination against women. I see oppression of men as often as I see oppression of women. The forms may differ from circumstance to circumstance, but I certainly don't see that men as a whole are more privileged than women. I do feel that the many ways in which men are discriminated against by women often goes unrecognised in western cultured. In other cultures, it is not so much discrimination as an acknowledgement that men and women have different areas of inclusion and privilege and it all balances out in the end.

In western societies, in particular, the shift of concepts such as misogyny - which used to mean a pathological hatred of women and is now changing to mean something far less psychologically abhorrent, while misandry still only mean the pathological hatred of men, and simply a lack of respect for men - is evidentiary of an imbalance which is set to intensify and perpetuate a war of attrician between the sexes in privileged societies while there are people around the globe, both men and women, who do not have human rights upheld.

Feminism is bourgeois. Humanitarianism is where the real work lays.

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