Women Against…What? Why We All Still Need Feminism
In recent weeks, the Women Against Feminism Movement has taken the Internet by (shit) storm. This group functions through several social media accounts, encouraging users to take pictures of themselves with text explaining why they do not need feminism. What has become clear to me (and the rest of the internet) is how grossly misinformed many of these women are about what feminism actually is. Many users quote text from radical feminists explaining how they do not wish to be superior to men. Now seems like a good time to clarify what feminism is:
Although there are many subgroups of feminist thought, women and men who identify as feminists believe in equal opportunity for all human beings, regardless of sex. There are radicals in every group of belief, and the same is true of feminism. But the majority of those who consider themselves feminists are not in favor of eliminating men from the picture, as this one user seems to insinuate:
My older sister, who is one of the most of the most wonderful and intelligent women I know, is a happily married stay-at-home mother. While my sister chose to start a family, I attended graduate school, but who knows what the future will hold for the both of us? While being a mother is part of my sister Sandy’s life, I can think of so many more characteristics that seem equally important in defining the type of person she is, including her knowledge of homeopathic remedies and nutrition, her love of trip hop music, and her belief in equality for all people. It’s extremely limiting to say that just because she has a husband and family, she cannot identify as a feminist.
There were also many submissions that left me feeling disheartened (ie: see image below). As a woman who has been assaulted, I find this kind of mentality deeply disturbing. Women Against Feminism seems to be a group that cuts ties between women instead of strengthening them. Whereas most feminists I’ve met want to speak to women’s experiences (regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual preference), this movement is isolating us from one another. I would call that a tool of the patriarchy, but (as I’ve recently been informed by the WAF Tumblr) apparently this patriarchy is non-existent. Try telling that to the 237, 868 men and women who are victims of sexual assault each year. To give you a more immediate statistic, in the five or so minutes it will take you to read this article, two to three people will have been sexually assaulted in the United States alone.
As a woman who has been scared to walk to her car at night, felt uncomfortable because of unwanted stares and catcalls on the street, and who has struggled with PTSD for many years because of traumatic experiences, I am a testament that feminism is still so necessary in our lives. And, that if we let it, it can be a tool that unites us rather than divides us. If WAF argues that judging all men on the actions of a few is wrong, isn’t the same applicable to feminists? In my life, I’ve had encounters with men and women who identified as feminists that I disagreed with, but it didn’t make me question feminist ideology as a whole. For many, these sentiments expressed on WAF only reaffirm how necessary feminism still is in our lives. The Who Needs Feminism? Tumblr blog was formed as a direct response by a class at Duke University. It is a wonderful resource for those who want to learn more.
Although WAF does make me angry and confused, I do agree with the sentiments expressed by writer Emily Shire in her piece “You Don’t Hate Feminism. You Just Don’t Understand It“:
“Mocking Women Against Feminism validates their argument that they don’t belong in the movement and affirms their belief that feminism has no space for them. We—and by “we,” I mean feminists—need to be the bigger person in this battle. We need to make every effort to promote feminism as a big-tent movement, and we need to admit that it doesn’t always appear so welcoming.”
Unfortunately, Shire is 100% correct about feminism’s failings. Women of color and the trans community have been notoriously underrepresented in the feminist movement and there is a dire need for a more inclusive feminism. Although this might initially seem like a daunting task, I think back to the concerns that this movement has addressed over the last century. As we change and our relationships with one another change, feminism has adapted as well. I’m not saying that it was always successful or that every fight ended in victory, but if enough men and women are vocal about their disillusionment, we can transform modern-day feminism into a movement that encompasses all human experiences and concerns.
In the words of prominent feminist writer, Jessica Valenti: