An Open Letter to Modern Female Feminists

FeminismDear feminists,

I am a twenty-three year old, white, middle class, cis-gendered female, living in London. And I cannot, in all good conscience, call myself a feminist. Yes, I do believe that I should have the same rights and the same freedoms as men; yes, I do believe that I deserve to be paid just as much as any man who does the same job as me; yes, I do believe that I deserve to make my own sexual choices without discrimination; yes, I do believe that I should be in charge of what happens to my body. And perhaps you’re reading along, perhaps even nodding along, thinking that all these things make up the baseline of why feminism is important. But to my eyes, this is not how you are representing. If I woke up every day to read the words of feminists who were campaigning for a pregnant woman’s right to choose her own course of action, I would be right behind you. But I don’t.

What I wake up to looks nothing like the feminism I was raised to believe in. What I see is women telling other women that they can’t understand because they are too privileged; because they’ve never been raped; because they’re not mothers; because they’re white; because they’re middle class; because they’re straight. Exactly who are you fighting for? Because all too often I feel like I would only be allowed an opinion if I were a working class, black, lesbian, transgender, single mother of two. Yes, I understand that I am incredibly lucky; I do feel privileged to have had an incredibly good education; to have never worried about where my next meal was coming from; to have always received fair and equal pay; to have always been able to make my own sexual choices. But I am sick of feeling that because of these things, my opinion is not valid. I don’t want to have to tell you that my Mother worked sixteen hour days to give me – and my brother! – the life every child deserves. I don’t want to talk about my abusive relationship in order to make my views on rape valid. I don’t want to be heard because I’m female; I want to be heard because I’m human.

And this brings me to the second thing I see when I read the word “feminist”: on a weekly – sometimes daily – basis, I see feminists telling men they cannot be feminists because they don’t understand; they’re not female, so they don’t get it. My Father did just as much to give me freedom and choices as my Mother did. But, what? Because he has a penis, he’s not allowed to be a feminist? Oh no, I’m sorry: it’s because he’s also a white and middle class; because he’s privileged. What if I told you his Mother threw him out when he was eighteen? What if I told you he lived in a squat? What if I told you he worked every day of his life to live comfortably? What about supporting his partner through chemotherapy, whilst battling his own cancer? Can he be a feminist now? Has he been through enough hardships? And then there’s my brothers; and my male friends; and my cousins; and my friends’ little boys. I don’t want any of them to live in a world where they have to apologise for their gender. None of them tried to silence suffragettes; none of them have ever raped a woman. None of them have ever been given advantages because of their gender. In fact, I see men being shamed for their gender far more than I see women shamed for theirs. I have sat in seminars on feminist literature and watched male students squirm, unable to speak because they feel so weighed down by the inherited shame of their male ancestors. When men don’t feel able to express an opinion on Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own – which, by the way, strikes me as a far more elitist text than a feminist one – because of their gender, isn’t that oppression too?

This leads me to two further points: first, perhaps the most heinous argument I have seen from feminists: the “women have been oppressed for thousands of years; it’s time for men to know what that feels like” argument. Okay, it is not an argument I see from the majority of feminists, but the fact that it is out there at all, tarnishing the term “feminist” adds to the reasons I do not identify with the term myself. I have never seen any self-proclaimed feminist attempt to create difficulties for men, but I have seen women who, when confronted with issues which negatively effect men, say “so what? We’ve suffered.” This is disgusting and completely undercuts what I was raised to believe feminism is: I thought women wanted equality because we are human! And actually, I do see socially accepted ways in which women are given privileges men are not: for example, female-only groups are often celebrated, whilst male-only groups are condemned. Why is it okay for women to celebrate their gender, but not for men? Feminism is not supposed to be about getting back at men, or about empowering women at the expense of men; it is supposed to be about equality! After all, an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.

But to my second point: and here we have something I rarely see discussed. That patriarchy that the suffragettes fought against, that women want to be free of; the patriarchy that pervaded our society for hundreds of thousands of years; the one that put men on top? Well, women were there too. Women were complicit in the way society was structured. This patriarchy was not something that was done to women; it was something human beings constructed, agreed to, and lived by. Men didn’t change at the turn of the century; women did. Women decided they wanted the vote; and they weren’t fighting against men! they were fighting against the status quo: a status quo that both men and women created. If women had wanted to, they would have changed things earlier. There were female monarchs long before that; powerful female role models women could have allied with; women always had the strength of mind and the will to earn themselves power and freedom. But for a very long time, they didn’t. Women were complicit in the patriarchy right up until the moment they decided they wanted change. And then they started working for that change. And as far as I was every taught, feminism now is supposed to be about continuing that change; about relearning and restructuring society in a way that works in the modern world.

The way in which consciousness has evolved means that, yes, women deserve and need a lot more freedom than our ancestors wanted before. But what we’re living in the shadow of is not men; it’s the hangover of a patriarchy everyone created. And the term ‘feminist’, for me, puts too much emphasis on gender. It’s not about being female, it’s about being human. And I would like to note here that our use of the term now is very modern. The women who really lived under that patriarchy, those who first campaigned and marched to earn themselves the right to vote called themselves, first and foremost, suffragettes, not feminists.

A few weeks ago I spoke to a friend who said she felt that in many cases women are the weaker sex; that many women do want to be taken care of by men. Now, I don’t believe that women are innately weaker, nor that we need to be taken care of. But I do believe that there are those amongst us who want that. And looking back at our patriarchal history, it seems a few other women understood that feeling as well. My friend went on to explain that because of her desire to be a wife and Mother, to take care of her children and keep a home, and be taken care of by a man, she feels shamed by feminists who tell her she is perpetuating a dangerous stereotype. The thing is, she is not stupid. She is smart. She is conscious She understands those who want independence and equality; but she believes in making choices. And in my eyes, she is making her own informed choices about what she wants. To me, that is what feminism should be. It should be about getting the respect of other people, regardless of how you choose to live your life. And that’s not what I see. What I see is women telling women they need to be independent and career driven. But if you don’t want that, isn’t being pressured into it just another form of oppression?

Perhaps you have read this far and feel that I have got the wrong end of the stick; that my views are skewed and out of focus. In fact, I hope you do. I hope I am wrong. I hope my view of feminism is unrealistic and untrue. But, sadly, this is what I see. This is what I am presented with on a daily basis. And I’m not stupid. I understand that things aren’t perfect. In fact, often they are dire. But doesn’t the fact that this is my view of feminism, worry you? This is what the young generation of women are being presented with. And as long as this is what we’re seeing, we’re not going to call ourselves feminists. I know very few people my own age who can identify with this picture. And that is my problem. I think that if I were ever properly shown the true, grassroots of feminism, I would probably agree. But I’m not.

I am incredibly grateful to all the people – feminists included – who have come before me, and fought for my right to vote; for my education; for my freedom of expression; for me as a human being. I recognise how lucky I am to live at a time when I have been given the same respect, support and opportunities as my brother and I will always speak up against oppression; I will always support freedom and equality, for everyone and anyone. But as long as I am represented with this picture of feminism, as long as these details pervade my view of female empowerment, I will not wear the term ‘feminist’.

Please, change my picture.

Yours faithfully,

44 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Modern Female Feminists”

  1. steveh11 says:

    Heard an item on the radio the other day about Mary Ward, or Mrs Ward Humphry as she’d have preferred to be known. I think you’d have got on well with each other, even though you’d have probably differed on some points.

    As a man I do feel constrained to be quiet when women talk about Feminism with a capital “F”, because any sign of disagreement is usually met with such a vituperative response it renders actual philosophical argument impossible. Thank you for standing up and saying that the modern Feminist doesn’t represent real feminism, they don’t want equality and they won’t accept that other people’s choices are valid, when I’m not allowed to.


    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Thank you for this. I loathe that you feel constrained to stay quiet when women talk about feminism. If women ever needed an ally, it’s men. To cut out half of the human race is so fucking stupid.

  2. Brigit Delaney says:

    Like any group, the ones who are heard are those with the loudest, and often most irritating voices. And they usually give the whole group a bad name. I fully agree with you. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist either, but, like you, it’s not because I don’t believe in equality and choice and freedom for women. It’s because I would be embarrassed to identify myself with such judgmental, exclusionary ideas as those feminism has become associated with. That militant, angry, accusatory, man-hating stereotype, like all stereotypes, is couched in truth – or it wouldn’t exist. Yes, it’s the extreme. I agree with you also on the point that men are getting the raw end now-a-days. We’ve gotten to that point now where white, middle class men are actually in the minority – and yet they are still treated like they are holding the world hostage simply by being what they are. I’m married to a white, middle class man. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think he’s better than anyone else just because he sunburns faster and belongs to an economic class that is barely holding on.

    Excellent Post, Harper!

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Yes! And I think, really, what I’m asking is that the feminists who aren’t judgmental and exclusionary come out a little and show me what I’m really supposed to be supporting.

  3. Janine Ashbless says:

    Hey Harper

    You are a feminist. You’ve expressed it completely clearly in this article. The thing is, there is not just one form of feminism, “One True Way.” There many threads of feminism – and there always have been: I’m old enough to remember feminists arguing that Lesbian Seperatism was the only way to freedom from the patriarchy! There are egalitarian versions, gender-war versions; academic versions and pragmatic versions; left-wing, liberal and libertarian versions. Sex-negative versions, sex-positive versions.
    You sound like a liberal egalitarian version. You don’t have to feel belittled by the people who want to play “more feminist than thou” because (for example) they see everything through the lens of class analysis. That’s just their paradigm.
    Feel confident in yours. You do not have to be ashamed of the “F” word – claim it back.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      You know, I’d never thought of it that way, but it seems obvious now: of course there are different versions of feminism; different ideas, different facets. And I have, at times, called myself an “egalitarian”, which I am, but then I get shouted down for side-stepping the term “feminist”. But as it stands I can’t call myself a feminist; I know so many smart women, who talk about feminism in a real, honest, and inclusive way… their voices just aren’t loud enough. I don’t want to be associated with the loud ones. But you can count me as a feminist… just a quiet, non-labelled one.

    2. Panty Parade says:

      I was going to write my own reply, but Janine did it for me. I, too, am saddened to hear that many young women you know feel as though those of us who call ourselves feminists are excluding you/men/mainstream women/etc.

      As I read your essay, it reminded me of how I felt while in graduate school (presumably I got that piece right–you are a graduate student or recent graduate student?). It’s a time of awakening for many students as we learn about history and religion and gender and society in ways we never considered before. It’s a glorious thing to be able to stretch our brains, but it also skews our perspective by narrowing our scope. The Ivory Tower has an agenda.

      In an effort to be inclusionary, many academics do not understand how off-putting they can be. Sure, there are real-world examples of hegemony out there doing damage in the world, but for most people, we just want to be happy, healthy, and able to provide for our families on a day to day basis.

      Harper–I agree with Janine–based on your words, you are most definitely a feminist. I also think that your decision to reject the term is more helpful to our cause than if you had simply gone along despite your concerns. Your perspective (and your essay here) is an important reminder to those of us who choose to claim that identity. Thank you for helping us better understand your decision–it clearly illustrates that we have a long way to go.

      1. Harper Eliot says:

        Thank you so much; this is such a thoughtful, and sensible response. I’m actually doing my first degree at the moment – Bachelor of Arts in English Literature – and the feminist theory I’ve studied has been thought-provoking. It’s a subject worthy of much discussion.

  4. James says:

    I agree with your general argument. I too have been severely tongue-lashed by feminists on Twitter for daring to have an opinion, even though I thought I was supporting their point of view. The result is both a certain amount of embarrassment for my apparent ignorance and anxiety about saying anything now in support of women for fear of being ridiculed again.

    My only challenge to your position is that I do feel that all is not as rosy as it seemed to me you’re implying in your piece. Men still overwhelmingly run the world and the major corporations when it would in my opinion certainly be a better world if more women ran more things. But women aren’t, I feel, still being excluded because they choose to be, it’s because the men in control make it that way, through inequalities of pay, education and opportunity and because women are made to feel guilty about child care and their responsibilities to other family members.

    Your point about women colluding with patriarchy doesn’t sit well with me. Prior to the early 20th century the main task of the majority of women (and a lot of men) was to survive and to ensure that their offspring survived. There was no time or energy to fight for equality. Women had precious little education, no property, no vote, no inheritance rights and violence against them by their husbands was seen as acceptable, even appropriate. They were essentially owned, first by their fathers and then by their husbands.

    Women didn’t collude with patriarchy for thousands of years, they were shackled and subjugated through physical and emotional force (in my humble opinion). Only in the past 100 years, thanks to better education and the fact that they began to realise how vital they were to an industrialised world did women begin to have some leverage to start the change process that is still evolving.

    Thanks for your post. I enjoyed reading it and chucking my tuppence worth in.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      I know that this article is written very much from my personal – and rather privileged – viewpoint. And I understand why I come across as feeling that everything is rosy now; I don’t really think that. I’m lucky that I haven’t had to deal with prejudice because of my gender, and I know there are places in the Western World – particularly certain industries – where there is still a huge imbalance. If there wasn’t, I would have written an article telling feminists to shut up. I still think that what is at the heart of feminism, or whatever you want to call it, is relavent. I still believe we have work to do to make the world an equal, and just place. I just don’t like how it’s being done.

      As for my point out women being complicit in patriarchy… I think I’m looking back a little further than you. If you look at the 17th and 18th centuries, yes, I think you’re probably right: but by then women were on the cusp of revolution anyway. That’s what happened at the turn of the century. Everything you listed is why we had suffrage when we did. However, it started somewhere; and I’m willing to bet it wasn’t just men taking over; it was women letting men take over. We have a role to play in the world’s history. And actually, since before the reformation (when education was somewhat overhauled) there were tutors educating girls and boys in private homes; sure, education for women may not have been available for the masses, but it was available for some. And none of them attempted to change the status quo. Even when Elizabeth I was queen, we still had a partiarchy. And I think it’s comparable with some cultures we have now: look at Islam. You may feel that Muslim women are terribly oppressed, but I believe many of them are happy with the way their society is structured. For many, it IS a choice. And what we need is to allow everyone the choice. But that’s a modern need.

      1. Jessica Burde says:

        Hoo-boy. I’ll try and tackle this one.

        Let’s go a bit further back to when civilization (life in cities) first became a thing. Prior to this period, over all and on average, there was no real gender imbalance.

        The keys to the oppression of women historically are agricultural. Lots of reasons for this, I’ll touch on a few, and they had little or nothing to do with either women or men ‘choosing’ that women would be second class citizens.

        First off, when the switch to agriculture developed, women went from being semi-nomadic to sedentary which; for reasons I won’t get into here, led to a jump in birth rate and a vast increase in infant and child mortality. (Again, overall and on average). A woman who is getting pregnant every year is not able to support herself with her own efforts in a pre-industrial society. She becomes dependent on a man to provide food for her and her children.

        This is exacerbated by the fact that pre-industrial agriculture requires upper body strength, where men (overall and on average) have an advantage over women. So even if women banded together to take care of each other, they would generally not be able to grow enough food to support themselves.

        This doesn’t apply to just farming. Metal smithing is key to agricultural societies, extremely upper body dependent and not work a pregnant woman can do.

        Women ended up by default taking on the roles that weren’t crucial to survival (making clothing, tending animals, etc). This made them (again) dependent on men for survival, which gave men power over them.

        I could go on, but that is the gist. It isn’t a coincidence that the suffragette movement in America developed so quickly after the industrial revolution. Suddenly there was a large number of jobs (there had always been some, but not ENOUGH) that allowed women to support themselves without the help of a man. Suddenly women were not financially dependent on men for their survival.

        Historically, the societies where it was easiest for women to find ways of supporting themselves without a man were usually the ones where women had more freedom and more rights.

        As far as whether or not women in places like Iran are happy with their lot in life… evidence suggests that quite a few of them aren’t happy. And the ones who aren’t happy and speak out can be stoned, mutilated or killed by their own families. When you need to keep silent or be stoned to death, it’s hard for those of us outside to tell if women aren’t protesting because they are happy or because they don’t dare say anything. (Iran is actually a case in point re: above, as the laws there make it insanely difficult for women to get jobs, recreating the financial dependency of agricultural society in the modern world).

        As far as women with power in history not attempting to overthrow the patriarchy, etc, one thing that is insanely ard to wrap our modern heads around is how different the world view was then. Men weren’t in charge because that was the was society was structured. Men were in charge because it was women’s nature to be subservient to men, just as it was man’s nature to be subservient to God. A woman might be skilled, talented, intelligent, etc; and still believe that she was supposed to be beneath the men around her b/c that was god’s will. The women who gained power were seen as not true examples of womanhood. Elizabeth I is and was often referred to as having masculine qualities. The idea being that she was different from most women, and that while most women were meant to be subservient, she wasn’t because God had placed a man’s heart in her breast. And they believed this, really truly believed this. So of course they didn’t try to change things – it was the way God made the world. Trying to change it would be like trying to stop the sun from rising.

        Basically, people can’t make a choice if they really and truly can’t conceive that the choice exists.

  5. Modesty Ablaze says:

    Oh Harper . . . I couldn’t possibly add anything further to your own words, or to those of some of the people who have commented, other than to say this is a WONDERFUL post !!!
    I wish I had your way with words and reasoning . . . so well written and presented.
    Just wonderful . . . should be compulsory reading for everybody.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Wow… thank you! That’s quite a comment; thank you so much.

  6. Ian Jade says:

    A very well-written and clear analysis. I can only hope that they will be listened to.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Thank you; I hope so too.

  7. David says:

    Very well said, wise young child.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Thank you!

  8. Faile says:

    A very thoughtful and well written piece. As a supporter of equal rights for human beings who is increasingly coming to dislike labels I sympathise with your point of view.

    Feminism as a word is often used to describe the ugliest side of a desire for equality and that discourages many people (including myself) from identifying with it.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      It’s a really tough one; because I want to ally myself with the people who use the term and act in good faith… but the term is so mutated by others.

  9. Curious Muse says:

    Good to hear it said and your clarity is admirable. A couple of things though. I have never aligned myself with Feminism for precisely some of the reasons you give here and I am a full generation (at least) older than you. There is nothing new in women feeling alienated from the anti-male and judgmental attitudes of the Feminist movement. I have never felt Feminism was about equality but about retribution. A brief glance at the custody laws in this country would make any person shudder at the way the law dismisses the rights and relationships of fathers to their children. Where are the Feminists shouting for equal rights then?
    I do take issue with the idea that women were complicit in patriarchy. To some extent I follow your argument but how far back do you want to go? Women bear children and until recent history this was a dangerous and often terminal condition. Whilst ‘single mum’ is now a much used phrase, at times in our recent past single fathers were more common simply because women did not survive childbirth. Being pregnant, a new pregnancy every year, raising children, these things constrained women’s choices. With family planning and improved medical health care women could finally free themselves from their biology.
    It is true things shifted in the last few centuries and there are many factors that changed the role of women within the household, most obviously the shift to industrial and urban societies. However whilst women may have achieved the vote, in real terms, for many women, it took many generations more for them to have freedom of choice in how they lived their lives if they also wanted to marry and have a family.
    In my humble and limited experience women are too quick to judge each other for their choices. I have been both a stay at home mum and a working mum. In both instances I have come under attack from the opposite camp. I didn’t give a damn about any political argument. I was doing what felt right for my family.
    Women being less inclined to criticise other women and supporting each other in our choices is maybe the next big leap to improve our chances of all being who we really want to be regardless of gender.
    Great piece Harper. Really enjoyed it.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      I’m really glad people are picking up on my point about women being complicit in the patriarchy… because it’s a point I’m not completely certain about myself, so it’s really interesting to read others’ views on it. Although I still think the magnitude of the sense of oppression people often feel about the patriarchal past has skewed the view. But it’s an interesting one.

      I also think you’re right about women being quick to judge each other. I try hard not to, but I know I fall into it sometimes; it can be hard to see beyond your own choices when you’ve made them so decisively.

      And I think you completely hit the nail on the head when you say “I was doing what felt right for my family.” THAT is what we should all be driven by; by what is right for ourselves, our families, and our loved ones. And that is pushed aside far too often in the name of many movements, feminism included.

  10. Miss Pearl says:

    I will call myself a feminist. And, you can call yourself whatever you feel like, but you not being fair.

    It’s funny, the movement gets it coming and going. If critics outside feminism aren’t ragging on it for being upper/middle class white women, ie “Lean In”, they’re being horrified that the new gender discourse suggests a whole vocabulary of terms that suddenly being female born isn’t the only way to be female. Or it tries to look at women’s issues as a collective and apparently that makes you feel excluded.

    I guess you don’t feel like your gender is enough to have in common? That you don’t have any of the struggles of the people outside your ethnicity or that the problems you face are unique to your class and not something that applies to you? Cool. But if that is what feminism is, it doesn’t have to apply to you to directly to identify as it. Men can be pro-choice, I can be anti-draft or pro-prostate screening. But you, apparently, deciding that a movement doesn’t cater to you (anymore, in the least?) wash your hands of it.

    But the worst part about the refrain “I’m not a feminist but…” is that you are reaffirming the phenomena of straw feminism. As well as essentially discounting people like me, who are not man hating and who are generally supportive of personal choice, you give people who would like to see you not self-advocate on behalf of your gender be cut away from a larger group.

    Like “Judging me for being a housewife!” It’s like the sacred cow of anti-feminists, but I have never met a feminist who actually thought women shouldn’t be housewives, just that there’s no such thing as “just” a housewife. They are rejecting the idea that a housewife is just a sentient home appliance and nurturing machine who should be taken for granted. It’s the support that, as you said, that your mother is “smart”. But for some reason it’s easier to feel judged by women who had to fight like hell *not* to be housewives or to be excluded from anything from being treated like an independent entity because they were part of a household, than it is to examine why something might be in place.

    Or look at colouring of everything with the accusation of being “angry” or “militant”. Yes, there are angry feminists. We are not a monolith. There are feminists who are jerks, who discriminate, who say crazy things. But… god golly, it’s a movement that’s been onging for a couple of centuries and it’s big and nuanced because it has to be as inclusionary as possible. But one of the problems of being a woman, and I mean this is a literal, studied problem, is that every time they open their mouth or write something, people, regardless of gender, subscribe more aggression, rage and violence to whatever is being said.

    I hear someone say they refuse to identify as a feminist, and I see someone who is content to rest on what is achieved. Maybe you deal with the inequalities in life by supporting sub-causes, and see the feminist as the other. I can’t judge you, only react to how I read you and you’ve clearly put a lot of thought in this.

    But cis- white women with middle class jobs still deal with a lot of bullshit, whether it’s my boss undermining me when I act as a manager by telling male staff to come to him directly; or it’s being charged more for cars and underbid on salaries; or keeping various politicians out of our reproductive organs. And at the end of the day, it’s the same bullshit darker skinned people, or trans people, or people from different socio-economic classes deal with. But, if you’re not comfortable standing as part of a larger group, so be it. Nobody can make you.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Interesting… but I feel I should point out that this – “I guess you don’t feel like your gender is enough to have in common? That you don’t have any of the struggles of the people outside your ethnicity or that the problems you face are unique to your class and not something that applies to you? Cool.” – is almost the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I wrote…

      1. Miss Pearl says:

        I’m sorry you feel that way.

        However, my point is that you appear to be complaining about the focus on people who are not white, cis and middle class, and on the classic “feminists don’t like my mother” cliche. In the former case I can’t offer that much sympathy- the “oppression olympics” that’s typical on the left can get a bit tedious at times, but trust me, calling yourself an equalist does not get you away from people who want to talk about the poor brown trans people. As for your mother and her feelings of persecution, blaming feminism for the deeply entrenched devaluation of typically female work really does little justice to the ongoing discourse on the subject.

        1. Harper Eliot says:

          Actually the feminists I know are cis-gendered, white, middle-class women… and they’re so venomous; that’s my problem.

          1. Miss Pearl says:

            Hmmm, I think that’s also the crux of my point- you’re letting a bunch of jerks shape the discourse, when they are in the minority as far as the larger group, and in the end, letting them have ownership of a label.

            1. Harper Eliot says:

              To my mind, it’s other feminists who are letting these people have ownership of the label. For myself, I’m happy fighting inequality in my corner of the world without a label.

  11. Pervertically Virtuous says:

    As others pointed out, feminism comes in many shapes and size, and the one(s) you’re arguing against are only one of its variations. I think it’s really sad that you choose to not use that label rather than reclaim it for the kind of feminism you stand for. That’s like saying ‘the most visible gay people out there are flamboyant queens; I don’t look like that, so I won’t label myself as gay’. That’s an opportunity lost to fight for equality. Because that war with patriarchy is not over yet. Sure, we’ve won many battles so far and we’ve come a long way, but women are still not equal, and feminism is still much needed.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      I see so little of the other forms of feminism; if I called myself a feminist in the place I live, I would be allying myself with people I have serious issues with. Which feels less honest.

      If pressed, I will call myself an equalitarian… but I know some people consider that to further undermine the issue. It’s difficult.

  12. Robyn Morton says:

    I’m very impressed by this piece, and agree with you in almost all respects. One additional point I would make that I *think* goes along with your article is that I’m always depressed by how we analyze the feminist “success at fighting the patriarchy” by evaluating ourselves on exactly the same bloody set of values that helped establish the patriarchy. Feminism is successful not when women have the ability to determine for themselves their own best interest, but when they attain great goals like money, power, and influence. Like your friend in the article, I don’t want any of that. Some women do, and that’s great. But it’s not enough to have access to those things, we have to be actively pursuing them, otherwise we are victims and, well, who knows what else (betrayers to our gender?). And frankly, some men don’t want it either, but they’re trapped, too (ask my stay-at-home husband what it’s like). We don’t value people’s actual needs, goals, or desires; we value a set of goals that society has deemed “appropriate” and that we should all unquestioningly strive for.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Yes! See, this is the other problem I have with feminism. I understand the need for it, but I think it overshadows the needs of men. Everyone is human, and every human being needs support in some way or another; and that’s what’s important.

  13. SubReiSkyeM says:

    The feminism you discuss in this article is the type of feminism that disappoints and upsets the movement as a whole. RadFems (who are awful, against men, anyone trans* and many others) are the ones who have created the perceptions you and the rest of the world seem to have. Personally, I identify as feminist – though, as I often say, humanist is the more accurate term – and I tend to keep to myself about the issue. For example, I avoid many newspaper articles and such about the RadFems because I don’t agree with them and their existence is depressing. I stick to places like Tumblr, where others reblog opinions and if I agree I do that too.

    I don’t know if the way I go about this is the correct one. I hope that people who see what I’m agreeing with will understand that some feminists are not all that bad. Not all of us hate sex or men. Not all of us want to have careers or shut out our biological abilities. Not all of us want to beat down everyone that stands in our way and take their rights off them while we’re at it. It is utterly disgusting that the things we believe in have been turned into something else. I often want to take back the word and show the world what feminism is supposed to be, but I don’t see it happening when there are extremists shouting the label as they say and do horrible things. The patriarchy has obviously not helped in this regard as it oppresses everyone but I do feel that the RadFems make it all the harder to wear the label with any sense of comfort, let alone pride.

    Until that changes, I suppose I shall have to use the label of humanism – a label that, if these women had not acted this way, would not need to exist though it is more encompassing.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Well, RadFems are pretty scary. But I’m not even talking about them; I’m talking about feminists who are SO supportive of trans people, and alternate sexualities that they dismiss other allies. The word “privilege” is thrown around so much that if you have even an iota of “privilege”, your view isn’t valid. THAT is ridiculous.

  14. Rachael Juedes says:

    I disagree. There are times when we need to just sit and listen without voicing our opinions. Privilege is not about who suffered more. It’s about people’s life experiences being different because of one or multiple factors, such as age, race, gender, weight, income, etc. In America, it is harder for a black man without any criminal record to get a job than a white man with a criminal record to get a job. In most states, if your partner is the same gender, you cannot legally get married to them. As a straight white woman, those are not struggles that I will ever have to go through. I will not get a name change when I get married. Many people will judge me for this choice. I will be seen as not as committed to my marriage than someone who decides to change their last name. Men don’t have to deal with that. It is not expected for them to change their last name. I was told by a man that me not shaving my legs was gross. When I pointed out that his legs weren’t shaved either, he said it wasn’t gross because he was a man. And while I agree that choices are good, I think we should examine why we make them. We are heavily influenced by our culture. And sometimes the choices we make are influenced and/or restricted by culture. There are more stay-at-home moms than there are dads. If a woman was raised in a culture where that was all that she could do, is it really her choice? Maybe if she had other choices, she would chose something else. Maybe if she had the choice, she would chose to be a scholar and not be a stay-at-home mom, or maybe she would still chose to be a stay-at-home mom.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      I’m afraid I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make… I understand that people have different struggles based on their different privileges, but I’m confused about what exactly you are disagreeing with.

  15. Jessica Burde says:

    It sounds to me like you’ve put a lot of thought into this and are following the right path for you. It’s taking you somewhere different from the path I’m on, but we’ve had different experiences that shaped our views. I never ‘studied’ feminism, never spent time learning about the history, the development. I am largely self educated and came to feminism sideways through my engagement in the grassroots aspects of polyamory and LGBT. It is easy for me to identify and be comfortable with the side of feminism that is pushing for tran* rights and such, as I have had to watch trans and genderqueer friends go through an immense amount of shit because of society at large and RadFems.

    If you’d like, I can leave some links to blogs and such which discuss feminism in a way that might be more in keeping with your own views and goals. They are out there. They are just being drowned out by the constant shouting match between RadFem and intersectional feminism.

    1. Harper Eliot says:

      Oh, I know they’re out there. I read some of them. But they’re still not the view I say day to day.

  16. Pingback: elust #48 - Rebel's Notes
  17. Trackback: elust #48 - Rebel's Notes
  18. Remittance Girl says:

    I can’t believe I never read this piece before. I agree with it unreservedly. I don’t call myself a feminist for exactly the same reasons.

    1. Harper says:

      Thank you! No matter how deeply I personally stand by this post, it’s always great to find allies amongst those I respect.

  19. jemima says:

    Such a pity that a sex blogger who might have talked about the way some feminists limit and shame female sexuality instead decided to write a pity party piece asking what about the menz.
    Perhaps the reason ypu feel excluded is because you think being white cis and middle such a burden, maybe, just maybe you could put others first? But hey why should you, the world was invented to revolve around you amirite?

    1. Harper says:

      I am usually happy to debate with anyone who challenges me; but when you start throwing around personal insults, that’s neither constructive nor does it really open up any dialogue.

  20. sub-Bee says:

    Absolutely beautifully written post. It sums up perfectly how many of us feel but could never put into words as eloquently as you.

    1. Harper says:

      Thank you. I’m really glad you feel that way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>