Feminism is not whatever you want it to be

Feminism is not whatever you want it to be

Some people think that even uttering the word feminism is equivalent to ‘men suck’



In the early 1970s, Joan Didion wrote an unkind essay about the burgeoning feminist movement in North America; a movement, she argued, in which “even the brightest women found themselves engaged in sullen public colloquies about the inequities of dishwashing and the intolerable humiliations of being observed by construction workers on Sixth Avenue.” In other words, despite its remarkable gains and grit, the women’s movement seemed eternally bent toward self-indulgent insecurity and pearl clutching. In times of strength, it spoke of nothing but fragility. Didion may not have been entirely fair to the female pioneers who secured her right—and mine—to live as a first-class citizen. But she certainly was on to something. Fast-forward four decades and fragility has all but swallowed the women’s movement whole.

Today, Western feminism isn’t concerned primarily, as it should be, with civic action, but with overreaction to unsavoury elements in popular culture (sexist song lyrics, sexist TV writing) and a never-ending obsession with the identity politics of “privilege.” Every space where feminist theory and issues are discussed must be a “safe” one, which is to say a conformist one. According to the Geek Feminist Wiki, a popular online feminist forum, a “safe space is an area where a shared political or social viewpoint is required to participate.” Discussions, therefore, tend to end before they begin, unless they devolve into yelling matches between men’s rights activists (a ragtag collective of angry virgins and divorced dads) and indignant feminists (a ragtag collective of angry everything) futilely trying to reason with them.

Despite this shift toward insular Internet bickering and suffocating identity politics, the number of self-identified feminists in America increased nine percentage points between 2008 and 2012, according to a 2013 poll for Ms. Magazine, a feat former Jezebel editor-in-chief Anna Holmes attributes to “attacks on abortion access” in the United States and the sexist treatment of female politicians like Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton. However, Holmes told Glamour, “Some people think that even uttering the word feminism is equivalent to saying ‘men suck.’ ”

Now, it turns out, those people are organizing. Enter the Women Against Feminism campaign, a social media bonanza conceived by real women all over the world who have recently taken to Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter in the thousands to decry modern feminism with selfies and hashtags. Posts range from the defiant—“I don’t need feminism because I am not a victim”—to the crudely practical: “How the f–k am I supposed to open jars without my husband?” A few others that capture the spirit of the movement include: “I sure as hell don’t need anything that makes playing the victim out to be empowering,” “I don’t need feminism because I don’t need a leg up to succeed,” and, “As a raped woman, I know not all men are monsters.” (One of the most surprising and interesting things about the campaign are posts that appear every so often by survivors of sexual assault, seemingly critical of the feminist concept of rape culture.)

It’s easy to dismiss Women Against Feminism in the same fashion sexists often dismiss Sarah Palin: as a stupid, irrational, destructive force, blindly and proudly acting against its own interests. But to do so is shortsighted. After all, the most telling thing about the campaign isn’t its blasé attitude toward patriarchy, but its cluelessness about the thing it means to reject. Go online and read the posts. These self-proclaimed anti-feminists, judging by the slant of their complaints (“I am not a victim”) regard feminism as a synonym for political correctness, humourlessness and fragility: Feminism, in their eyes, is a declaration of weakness, rather than strength. It is Joan Didion’s dig on steroids.

In other words, nobody “against feminism” actually knows what feminism is: the social and economic equality of the sexes. That says a lot more, I think, about the current state of fourth-wave feminist activism than it does about the women admonishing it.

In its modern form, feminism alienates people with dissenting opinions, and confuses everyone else. Are we talking about genital mutilation in Mozambique or the inequities of dishwashing in Medicine Hat? It’s like a phenomenally less sexy incarnation of Ryan Atwood, the romantic lead on The OC, who is famous for telling his girlfriend, “I’ll be whatever you want me to be.” And that’s a problem. Movements need not only conviction, but focus.

Filed under:

Feminism is not whatever you want it to be

  1. “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings”

    That’s it, that’s all.

    • “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings”

      What a delightfully smug, self-centered, and thoughtless statement. Let’s ponder it for a moment. Roll it around in your head.

      What about the radical notion that PEOPLE are human beings? Men and women both? Wouldn’t that be more appropriate for a movement that claims it’s about “gender equality?” Hmmm? Or heck, why would a gender equality movement be called “feminism” to begin with?

      Of course, as I said, feminism is about equality FOR women. But that can be said of nearly any movement that’s out to serve the interests of it’s group. Is a lawyer defending the rights of an accused murderer a “civil rights” lawyer?

      The “radical” notion that women are human beings implies that it’s not radical that men are human beings and implies that men treated women as less than human. Feminists are in constant denial that they are man haters yet a movement named after women’s interests (feminism) and continually claiming women are victims and men are privileged strongly implies that it hates men. (History lesson: A suffragist on the Titanic took a lifeboat at the expense of young boys without a second thought. Apparently, women were “people” on that day!)

      • LOL cute, but please do your drinking elsewhere.

      • Fight Club….a ‘stupid male’ movie.

        Goes right along with ‘Idiocracy’.

        • So in leau of a response to my points you make fun of fight club and make a juvenile shot at drinking. Either you are supremely confident or you’re just trying to blow me off. I won’t address the drinking but Fight Club has a 90% favorable rating on IMDB and 80% on Rotten Tomatoes (That’s with reviewers, with audience it has a 97% favorable rating.)

          Not such a bad film after all.

          Now let’s rate the white male patriarchy. It’s apparently not that bad. How relevant is feminism outside of Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, and USA occupied Japan? Oh, wait, not much. For feminist equality to work, it has to be artificially propped up by… the Patriarchy.

          It’s like a father buying his daughter a lemonaid stand so she can pretend to be independent.

          So sure, dismiss my points because you have the European patriarchy on your side. For now. Project out from 40 years from now and see how long this “equality” lasts…

          • I dismissed you after I read your first post….the rest has been laughter.


          • So you’re laughing me off. OK. This isn’t a big surprise since an ideology that defines women as people probably isn’t concerned with men other than mock or bash them or pat them on the head if they know their place.

            But apparently not all women agree with that.

            Since the feminist movement, young black men have been railroaded into prison faster than Jim Crow. That’s no laughing matter. It’s tragic. I don’t mean to exploit the plight of these men for my own political agenda but rather to illustrate how the civil rights movement has been turned on its head. It’s not just young black men that have been abandoned by the feminist and civil rights movement but also working class women and women who want traditional relationships with men. “Feminism” by literal definition isn’t about equality, but neither is it about what most women want either. So really, what is it about other than man bashing?

  2. “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings. Until they stop being feminists. Then they’re just stupid ignorant whores.”

    The #WomenAgainstFeminism group is responding against feminism as it is in realty, not the idealized version that feminists love to quote. It’s not about dictionary definitions. It’s about two generations of practical observations about feminist behavior that have informed these women’s opinions. In practical reality, regardless of the ideology involved, feminism has become anti-male, anti-masculinity, and anti-marriage, and these women are sick of it.

    And yes, the Manosphere supports these women…because they have voiced the same objections to this movement that we have for years. But it took your daughters to point this out to you in a way that got your attention. You wouldn’t listen to the men (not divorced, not a virgin – I’ve been happily married to the same woman for 20 years and have 3 kids) who said the same things about feminism because that would have been responding to the Patriarchy. But the very fact you use terms like patriarchy demonstrate just why these women have rejected the ideology you want to force them to believe. Feminism is misandrist in its presentation today; it hasn’t been about “equality” since the 1960s.

    • Feminism has always been about equality….the rest of it is your fantasy, and a lot of embroidery by bored people.

      You have, however, a lot of hate there guy….maybe you should check into that.

      • Re: ‘You have, however, a lot of hate there guy….maybe you should check into that.’

        Emilyone I would like to challenge you on this statement. In my view, because this man disagrees with you and is critical of feminism, you accuse him of being motivated by hate. I could not recognize one hateful comment in anything he wrote, and find much to agree with. I certainly share his frustration with the current directions and emphasis of feminists, which you seem to attribute to ‘hate’. Perhaps the things he wrote are beyond your experience, and lacking a sound reply you resorted to an ad hominem attack by innuendo. If so, you are providing an excellent working example of the behavior so many of us abhor in the typical ‘modern feminist’.

        • Well, isn’t that fascinating. You ‘Elizabeth Anderson’ show up to do battle for a man who calls women ‘stupid ignorant whores’ and whose acceptance of a BJ is in his profile.
          You didn’t think this would sound fishy? LOL

          • Hi Emilyone. You are a more experienced blogger than I for sure. I did not notice the boorish logo on Ian ironwood’s profile. I take your point, although it is not clear what is meant by it. It is odd that this is your main defence. I enjoy reading your columns and do not generally associate you with sexual prudery.

            I can find no reference in his comment about ‘stupid ignorant whores’ so you must be referencing something from somewhere else. if so, please cite it as I am interested.

            Also, Ian Ironwood may well be a sexual boor, but so is Miley Cyrus, a woman whose stupid antics you have condoned, even admired, in your piece entitled “How rare: Miley Cyrus, a female pop star unafraid of being ugly”. Are you saying that it is OK for her to ‘sell’ her body like a piece of meat and exploit her sexuality in a blatant search for notoriety but it it is wrong when men get the message? is that not a double standard based in gendered lines? I certainly agree with you about her being ‘ugly’ although we may be using the word in different ways.

        • I’m not ‘defending’ or arguing anything….feminism is a simple statement about being a human being.

          Mr Ian ‘Ironwood’…..[oh brother. rolls eyes]….quotes ‘“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings. Until they stop being feminists. Then they’re just stupid ignorant whores.” ‘

          I think you have confused me with the author of this piece….Emma Teitel. MY name is EmilyOne.

          And while I’m flattered….I’ve never said anything about Miley Cyrus that I can recall. However you now seem to be arguing that 1 Miley Cyrus outdoes millions of nuns in the world.

          Cyrus does an act….on stage…and however raunchy it is….it doesn’t mean men have the right to take that as an invitation to rape women.

          Why on earth are you anti-women’s lib to begin with? It gave you a choice….for the first time in history.

          • There’s a neat film that most women probably wouldn’t want to watch called “Fight Club.” The film is about men getting in touch with their caveman side and getting into fights to reclaim their rugged masculinity. In one of the radical leaders’ assignments to his minions, they are told get pick a fight and have a hard time doing so. Most men are amazingly civilized and unlikely to take a swing at someone even when highly provoked to do so. Not all men of course since there is a minority of men who are violent when provoked but that begs the question: What households are raising these particular men? Is there a father present in those households to teach them that controlling their temper is the way to avoid jail and to be a reliable member of society?

            On the other hand, I have personally witnessed women attacking men and even each other over petty insults. It’s not Jerry Springer but more like those Real Housewife shows. It’s women that collectively seem to have a bigger problem controlling their temper.

            Regarding having a choice for the first time in history: For most men in history, life wasn’t about choosing whether to be a doctor or an olympic athlete. Heck, even now, men consider themselves amazingly lucky if they get a job that pays enough for them to live up to their traditional breadwinner duties. The notion that someone should have a “choice” to do as they please in candyland and “have it all” is a lie feminism told women. Women graduate from college and go out and say: “Where’s the 6 figure job with a private jet for someone with a degree in French Literature” and… it doesn’t work out that way. Want a radical notion? It’s not that women are people. The radical notion is that the world doesn’t owe you a living.

    • Ian, I’m going to disagree with you and Emily and observe that feminism has never been about equality. The very notion of “equality for women” is unequal. We’re all for equality when it suits us. If you get caught by the police doing something wrong, you’ll quickly look to exercise your civil rights to try to get out of it. But that doesn’t make you a civil rights advocate.

      Even back in the 60’s, so-called equity feminism was at best a rationalization. Women wanted their rights NOW and they justified those rights by claiming they’d earn them later and start supporting their families in similar ways that men are expected.

      We all know how that turned out.

      But it doesn’t surprise me or them. They planned it that way all along. Even before women found it harder to marry breadwinners, they proposed free daycare, welfare benefits for unwed mothers, paid maternity leave, etc. in order to make single, childless men into serfs for the matriarchal state (A matriarchy run by patriarchal white guys. Outside of Europe, Canada, and Australia, how is this unstable matriarchy doing?)

      Most women today are not obsessed with getting rid of the pesky patriarchy. Most are wondering how they get a piece of the remaining part of it. Most don’t worry about abortion rights. They worry about whether they’ll find a breadwinner before their biological clock runs out. This has been gossipped about by feminists for the past 20 years or so. The media is full of the concern that it’s harder for women to enjoy the chivalrous dream.

      Feminists claim to want “equality” but they really want a goodie grab. In the meantime, men would like a little respect considering all the responsibilities we’ve continue to bear throughout all this “equality” nonsense. Absolutely rubbish, nonsense. Always has been that way.

      • LOL you must be smoking 3 of what the other poster is having….!

  3. “…what feminism is: the social and economic equality of the sexes. ”

    Agreed. But that doesn’t seem to be its North American, public face anymore. I support your view of feminism, and ardently support it. But over the last few years, the public face seems to be primarily male-bashing. For example, “rape culture” comes across to many males as women saying that ALL males have a certain attitude and behavior toward women. When I hear that term, I know from experience there’s no point in even engaging in discussion with the user, unless I plan to smile and agree with everything she says. Which isn’t really a discussion.

    “Every space where feminist theory and issues are discussed must be a “safe” one, which is to say a conformist one. ”

    Certainly seems true from this male’s perspective and recent experiences. Any opinion expressed by a male that isn’t according to the orthodoxy being preached will in all likelihood, result in that male being called misogynist. Whatever happened to diversity of ideas or freedom of expression?

    So, yes, I can understand the backlash toward the word “feminist.” I used to consider myself one – and still live by the definition set out in the first line of this post – but I don’t recognize or like its current incarnation.

  4. another good article, Emma,
    because of it’s modern day “fairness” for both sides,
    “In its modern form, feminism alienates people with dissenting opinions, and confuses everyone else.”
    -well said.
    And kudos to those women who do NOT completely buy into this “new” feminism, especially for their sons, and daughters’ sakes.

  5. Well as an old guy who yesterday saw a young woman who happened to be quite good looking get jeered by three quite older guys at a liquor store ( I think one of them call her a hot baby and they all laugh while inside their truck) then I guess women just have to live with it.

    • No actually, they don’t.

    • Macattack – Those men were trying to make the woman feel small and powerless. Next time you see that happen, it probably wouldn’t hurt for you – an old guy – to step in and speak up and make it clear that even though you’re a guy, that that behaviour is unacceptable.

      • Further to my comment above about stepping in when you see street harassment happening; saying something, saying, “Hey – that woman is a human being like you and me. Don’t treat her like that.” is not just common decency, it’s feminism in action.

  6. the other day in an online forum(not this one) I was called an ugly old lesbian whore c*** for simply stating that a man’s statement was incorrect and gave my evidence. until this stops, until women are allowed to make corrections, or even statements, feminism is still needed. the saddest part of the whole thing is that the man was under 35 and should have been taught that denigrating women in such a matter is not ok. I fear there is starting to be an anti female backlash.

    • Not for nothing but I recently heard my uncle called an ugly old bastard whore c*** when we were visiting family on Staten Island. And they meant it as a term of endearment.

      Women are not singled out for name-calling. That’s what online comments have devolved to. No one gets a break. Feminism ain’t gonna help on that front any more than joining an divorced-virgin angry men’s group will.

      • So you think because your confused and vulgar family called your uncle such a name……that makes it okay for male strangers to treat all female passers-by as a meat rack?

        This is your idea of equivalence?

        What are you smoking?

  7. Re: “Feminism has always been about equality”

    I think this is wishful thinking on Ms. Teitel’s part. Perhaps she could have more closely considered her own opinions in the context of her title, “Feminism is not whatever you want it to be”. ‘Fourth-wave feminism’ has long since abandoned any such high ideals and it has morphed into a single-minded obsession with the problems of women, be they real or perceived. If ‘modern feminists’ were truly interested in ‘equality’ they would at least admit to areas where men, most particularly young men, are at a disadvantage relative to young women (educational outcomes, suicide rates, homelessness and growing poverty immediately spring to mind), but ‘modern feminists’, a term rapidly becoming synonymous with misandry, refuse to do so and demand our compliance with their perspectives with a single-minded ferocity that is obvious and disturbing. Ms. Teitel herself has informed us on some of these matters in such excellent pieces as:

    #YesAllWomen: A viral message that forgets vital details
    Why women’s studies needs an extreme makeover
    Long live the men’s centre!

  8. Just part of human idicoracy. There are two groups of feminists. The ones that hate men, seem to get all the attention. Then there are the ones that legitimately seek equality of rights.

    Like most groups, the line between “favorism” and “equality” is a problem, as much of group dynamics get corrupted by the greed needs of “being special” to mater. Feminists are not the only group with this problem, take LGBT…

    Have to be “special” to mater is in itself supremacy bigotry. All groups that want to be effective need to push equality and not “special”. I support equality but not “special”. As preference to one group is discrimination against others. Bigotry is not limited to being a majority disease.

  9. Sorry, but feminism doesn’t mean whatever you want it to mean, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean what the dictionary says it does. All you ignorant feminists ever do is tell us, “You don’t know what feminism is.” You are sadly mistaken. I’d wager that it is YOU that doesn’t know what feminism is. Just look around you. Look at the #feminism on twitter for 10 seconds. You will misandry running rampant. You will see women who blame every personal problem they have on men. You will see men made out to be monsters and rapists, guilty only because they were born with a penis. It is not us who is uneducated, but you who are blind and incompetent. You failed the police your own radicals. You failed to condemn their actions and stand up for men, and most importantly of all, you failed these WOMEN when they chose to speak up, and your radicals told them they were clueless whores who wanted nothing more than to please men. Your movement has rape apologists. Your movement has sexist bigots. Your movement has racists, and you do nothing but encourage it. This is your failure, feminism, and we find no sympathy for you in it. Please, continue to tell us and the women against feminism how clueless we are. That only shows all the more the stupidity, arrogance, and hypocrisy your movement is rank with.

  10. Feminism does not mean different things – it only means one thing – the reality on the ground. And this reality consists of Feminist censorship of counter opinions, feminist corruption of the constitutional rights and due process protections for men, feminist justification of false rape accusations and paternity fraud, Feminist manipulated surveys and statistics to justify draconian law enforcement against men; and the list can go on. Dictionary definitions be damned – this is the reality of the feminist governance on the ground. These gracious women (against feminism), many of them mothers of sons, have finally mustered the courage to take a stand. I not just appreciate their effort, but applaud and encourage as well.

    • “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings”

      The rest is your fantasy. Apres divorce by the sound of it.

  11. Of course, feminism is whatever you want it to be. I bought feminism.lgbt and turned it into a waifu dance party because that’s what feminism means to me.