Several months ago, a friend sent me a link to the blog “Women Against Feminism,” figuring I’d appreciate its ridiculousness. I followed them for a while, even attempting to reblog and respond to several of the posts, before the overwhelming exasperation and rage I experienced every time one came up on my dash was just too much, and I had to unfollow them.
At the time, I thought about blogging about the posts, but never got around to it. However, the blog has now been discovered by Buzzfeed and is getting some online attention, so I figured now is as good a time as any to weigh in!
It doesn’t take long to get infuriated by the blog.
Some of their points are just lame. “I’m not a feminist because I love men”? We’ve been over that.
“I like it when men hold doors for me and give up their seats for me on the Tube”? May I introduce you to benevolent sexism?
“The wage gap is a myth”? Nope.
One of the big complaints made by these anti-feminist women is that feminism encourages women to be victims instead of empowered. Obviously it’s hard to totally understand what they mean from just a whiteboard – I assume that they are referring to the ways in which feminism points out things like street harassment and rape culture. Their assessment is simply wrong. Feminism doesn’t point out these things in order to make women feel like victims: quite the opposite, in fact. We call attention to these situations so that any woman who does feel like she’s been victimized by catcalling or misogyny realizes that her experience did not occur because she did something to deserve it, but is part of a larger pattern.
This brings me to the second point. A lot of the women in this post talk about taking responsibility for their own actions, as if women who are feminists attempt to avoid taking responsibility for theirs. Unfortunately, the first kind of situation that I could think they might be referring to is rape. There’s a big perception in the anti-feminist movement that women will have sex, regret it, and then claim that they were raped in order to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. This claim is ridiculous, stupid, misinformed, dangerous, and a whole host of other negative words. Women are not raped because of something they did. Women are raped because men rape.
Once my rage cooled down, I decided that the most productive way to approach this topic would be to try to think about why these women would go to the trouble of declaring publicly, to a blog, that they are anti-feminist. I mean, it’s illogical at best – many things that these women take for granted, like wearing jeans, voting, and not being used as property to be traded from a father to a husband are all the results of feminist actions.
Part of it is probably just ignorance. An overwhelming majority of the women featured in the Women Against Feminism tumblr are young and white. They have benefited from feminism, but they are also benefiting from their privilege. I know that when I was growing up as a white, middle-class girl in the suburbs, I didn’t really encounter much that would have struck me as systematic inequality. I mean, I was encouraged to take high-level academic classes just as much as boys were, my school’s women’s athletic teams were as accomplished as the men’s, and I’d lived my whole life being told that I could be anything I wanted to be. Privilege can, and does, blind you.
And I’ll be honest – not all feminists are perfect (you know, kind of like not all people are perfect). There are feminists who will speak negatively about choosing to be a stay-at-home mom, feminists who demonize men, and feminists who bully others. But given that these exceptions are not the ones who have a growing voice in the media and in our society, and that those kinds of views and behaviors tend to be frowned upon by a majority of feminists, focusing on them seems kind of pointless.
The reason that various feminist and anti-racist groups have used whiteboard campaigns is because people feel threatened. Threatened by racism, by rape culture, by a society that assumes that girls can do less and be less.
I have to wonder why these people feel so threatened by feminism. I mean, I’m assuming they feel threatened – otherwise why would they bother to go online with these signs?
I realized that the thing that bothered me the most about these posts is that they are incredibly self-centered. The women posting them are assuming that their experiences are universal. That because they feel confident and safe enough to tell a harasser to “fuck off,” that everyone should, even though we know that’s not the case. That because they don’t feel like they’ve ever been coerced into sex, that nobody has.
And I wonder if that’s where the threat of feminism lies for these women. Because admitting that you need feminism means admitting that you might be raped. That you might experience domestic violence. That you might make less money than a male counterpart. That you are less likely to see yourself represented in government. That in our society your body is often seen as public property for cat-callers and street harassers.
Whatever their personal reasons may be, when some of the posts say things like “I don’t need feminism: I need a man who will respect me,” well… I’d say we still need feminism.