“What fresh hell is this?”
The words of the late, great Dorothy Parker seemed an appropriate response to Women Against Feminism, a terrifying Tumblr I was blissfully unaware of until yesterday.
Essentially, women (overwhelmingly young, overwhelmingly white women) hold up hand-written notes detailing all the ways in that they “don’t need” feminism.
Sample post: “I don’t need feminism because real feminism is about equal opportunity and respect for women, NOT abortions, free birth control and the ability to walk around like shameless sluts while damning the male population!” (Translation: BOO, YOU WHORES.)
Women Against Feminism made me angry — partly because it kept crashing my elderly MacBook — but mostly it made me really sad. A lot of these girls — and they are indeed, girls; some are in braces — are working with wildly misguided, MRA-indebted definitions of feminism. They seem to believe that feminists are shrill, man-hating harpies with hairy pits who “blame men for everything” and are “destroying the family unit” and “taking over the media.” (LOL, K. How’s the great feminist take over of big media coming, ladies?)
(Other working titles for Women Against Feminism: Shit Fox News Pundits Say; BUT WHO WILL OPEN THE JARS!?)
Thing is, I don’t get what there is to be “against.” At its core, feminism is about establishing and defending equal social, political, economic and cultural rights for women and girls. Of course there are nuances within that boilerplate definition (THX WIKIPEDIA!), but those are pretty much the broad strokes of it. Feminism is a good thing that benefits EVERYONE. Men, too. Honest!
A feminist, meanwhile, “is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men,” to quote Gloria Steinem.
Like most things that challenge the status quo, feminism can be uncomfortable — particularly for those new to it. It can be intimidating. I totally get that; I still feel like I have lots to learn. But here are some things feminism is not: Feminism is not perfect. Feminism is not an all or nothing movement. Our relationships to feminism can be as complicated as we are.
And yes, Virginia, there are feminists who have husbands who open pickle jars.
Feminists are not the enemy. As Jenny Lawson, aka The Blogess, wrote in her hilarious response, “Feminists are like bees. They are adorable and fuzzy but people run away from them because they don’t understand that they just want to make things good. We’d be fucked without bees.”
We’d be pretty fucked without feminists, too.
I need feminism because I believe ALL women and girls should be treated like human beings. I need feminism because I believe we still have a shit-ton of work to do on that front. I need feminism because not all women enjoy the same freedoms I do as a white, middle-class Canadian woman. I need feminism because I believe in everyone’s right to bodily autonomy. I need feminism because we live in a world in which corporations are people and women are objects. I need feminism because we live in a culture that tacitly condones violence against women. I need feminism because I believe in reproductive rights. I need feminism because women are still viewed as a special interest group when it comes to health care. I need feminism because I want our little girls to love their bodies. I need feminism because I know damn well my sex life IS a political agenda. I need feminism because I refuse to accept the scraps that have been presented to me as “choices.”
‘Choice’ is a word that gets bandied about a lot on Women Against Feminism. IDGAF if you want to be a stay-at-home mom. Or if you wear makeup. Or if you “love cooking for your men.” Did you know that you can do all those things AND be a feminist!? HOLY SHIT I KNOW.
Back to Lawson:
I’m not saying you can’t choose to not be a feminist but know what you’re choosing. Don’t make a decision about a group based on the most radical beliefs of a group. Don’t get defensive if you get deeper and are exposed to difficult ideas about intersectionality and race and gender and colonialism and patriarchy and male liberation. Just listen. Some of it will make sense. Some of it won’t. Some of it will later when you’re a different person. Some of it you’ll change your mind about throughout your life and the world will change too. Some of it is bullshit. Some of it is truth. All of it is worth listening to. And now you get to decide. Are you a feminist? Yes? No? Well, don’t worry because tomorrow you get to choose again. And that keeps happening every day for the rest of your life.
In other words, you are free to choose your choice. YOU ARE FREE TO CHOOSE YOUR CHOICE. And you can thank a feminist for that.