When I was in high school, I drove a car that was absolutely covered in bumper stickers – gems like “I still miss my ex, but my aim is improving.” Many of them, I would not be caught with now – but one, I still remember. It said “feminism is the radical notion that women are people too.” Since the bumper sticker is still for sale twenty years later, it is fair to say that the interpretation that was on the back of my car has had some staying power.
That’s why I am curious about the rise of being “against” feminism. While I’ve known for a long time that some people were uncomfortable using the word, and that many people (even among feminists) disagree on the appropriate political content and mission of feminism, the “Women Against Feminism” movement has me confused – are there women who disagree with the notion that women are people too? I’m not the first to have commented on the issue – Jessica Valenti wrote a great piece for The Guardian with perspective, and the conclusion that feminists should let antifeminists stop them. Reading all of the discussion of “women against feminism,” though, I remained confused about the very premise – especially in a world where headlines everyday suggest women aren’t being treated as human. Just today, women shouldn’t laugh in public, some guy was arrested for using his cell phone to look up women’s skirts (really), a seven-year-old girl was raped in a Bangalore school, and accounts of astonishing violence against women are way too frequent (see this story about ISIS in Iraq, e.g.). I’m not comparing any of these incidents – just suggesting that there are myriad ways everyday that women aren’t treated as full humans. And I can’t figure out why there would be women opposed to the recognition that women are people too.
So I investigated further, and figured out that the “Women Against Feminism” tumblr and Facebook page list a lot of great reasons to be “against feminism.” Here are some highlights (my commentary in italics):
- “because my boyfriend treats me right,” “I have respect for the boys” (happy to hear, and irrelevant – nothing in feminisms suggests this is either impossible or a bad thing);
- “being blessed with the opportunity to be a good mother and housewife if I choose” (personally, a little grossed out; politically, happy to hear, and irrelevant – feminisms are not about stopping people from being mothers or housewives – the way I see it, they are about allowing everyone to fulfill those roles, regardless of sex, gender, or sexual preference – that is, thinking of people as people);
- because “blaming men for your own insecurities is wrong and absurd” (while blaming men individually and collectively for one’s psychological issues does sound absurd, treating women as people would end any disproportionate physical insecurity or emotional trauma for women, right? So this might be a good argument for treating women as full people?);
- “because I was not born a victim” (nor do all forms of feminism say you were; in fact, most don’t);
- because “I like being feminine” (few if any feminisms are critical of attraction to femininity, they just try to think about it as complicated);
- because “the world needs equality and not superiority” (few if any feminisms explicitly seek women’s superiority; those that do could be argued with; for me personally, if hierarchy isn’t inevitable, sweet; if it is, hell, I’d like to win);
- “because I love men” (me too. especially feminist ones. that doesn’t make me less of a feminist or women less human);
- “because I love my husband” (congratulations. but, again, irrelevant to embracing the basic tenets of feminisms);
- because “I know all men aren’t monsters” (… which a feminist take on the study of masculinity tells you? suggesting women are people doesn’t make men less people – it just makes them not super-superior-people-allowed-to-abuse-and-expected-to-support-women-people);
- “because feminists mock men’s struggles” (assholes mock men’s struggles. some feminists are assholes. most aren’t. recognizing women as people is agnostic about men’s struggles. my personal feminism suggests it is important to acknowledge men’s struggles in context, like it is important to contextualize all gender subordination);
- “because if men and women do the same work they should get the same pay” (but they don’t. why? because women and femininity are valued less. this claim follows directly from the claim that women are people too. it is [gasp] kind of feminist);
- because “I’m tired to be, as a woman, represented by some hysterical hipster whore” (this one might take me a while. 1) this is an example of the claim [below] that men and women are already equal, right? 2) feminist thinkers do a lot of thinking about the use of [masculine and feminine] gender stereotypes as derogatory towards people – the use of the word ‘whore’ here is the use of a gender stereotype to put people down. I think it is antithetical to treating women as people. 3) as a side note, if this weren’t written in a terribly offensive frame, I would suggest that many feminisms do not claim to be representative, and critique the notion of representation; 4. because it is framed offensively: learn some grammar, poster);
- because “I strongly believe that women should try to understand men as much as men try to understand women” (1. what about people who are either/or or neither/nor or both/and? should no one try to understand them? 2. more to the point …. thus gender analysis. trying to understand men, women, masculinities, and femininities and the way that they structure social and political life);
- because “traditional family constructs are traditional for a reason [insert citation to the Bible]” (my first reaction is to suggest the patriarchy and gender subordination inherent in most major religions, Christianity included. but many [probably most] feminists disagree with me. feminisms are not about suggesting that you shouldn’t be able to choose particular family structures. they suggest that you shouldn’t be sold into them, or have your options limited. they suggest women are people, not property. that doesn’t dictate a particular structure of the family);
- because “my worth isn’t determined by what’s in my panties” (though it has been for thousands of years, and the radical claim that women are people too is making a dent in that);
- “because it makes me feel afraid” (‘man up.’ really. if feminism makes you feel afraid, it is only in the statistics about women’s vulnerability that it provides. its important to know that – even if it never does [or never would] affect you. don’t let it make you afraid. let it make you want to fix it);
- “because men and women are already equal,” “patriarchy doesn’t exist,” “there is no rape culture” (in what world do you live? statistics suggest that people understood to be women bear the overwhelming brunt of poverty, single-parenthood, starvation and preventable disease, pregnancy-related problems, forced migration, sex trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual violence – not all of it, but most of it – on few if any axes are women actually held equal to men – statistical breakdown available on request. everyday my research suggests that the world has serious, complicated gender problems – for women, for men, and for people who are gender nonconforming, from across the world to in the backyard);
- “because I can’t think of one instance where the feminist movement hasn’t resulted in more destruction than violence” (1. there is not just one feminist movement; 2. how about the correlation between women’s advancement and state peacefulness? 3. that little thing called women voting, maybe? 4. rape trials … must I continue?)
I’m not saying that feminisms and feminist movements don’t have their issues, and that there isn’t a lot to disagree on among people who think that women are people. And some people can be more committed to the cause of actualizing women’s humanity than others. But to be against the notion that women are people too? That seems … as I titled this post … incredibly silly. And, while I can’t make that point as well as these cats, I thought it was important to make the argument – feminism is something to struggle with, to try to understand, to debate the contentions of, and to engage with – its hard stuff – but feminism is not something to oppose. In my view, its about damn time that the ‘radical’ notion that women are people too became less radical.