Wednesday, June 4, 2014


A colleague from Writer’s Club once described me as someone who is “passionate in her views and unconstrained in expressing strong opinions.”

I usually just tell people that I’m a drama queen. They often think that I feel more strongly about certain issues than I really do just based on the way I express myself. But in reality, I can have a heated discussion about whatever and then laugh it off and go for a drink (which in my case means mineral water), feeling nothing but calm and peaceful inside. That’s just the way I am.

(In fact, the second part of my colleague’s e-mail said that despite of my fierce personality, I tend to be fairly unbiased and open-minded, and capable to “honestly consider viewpoints even if they do not support my demographic.” Just sayin’.)

But this time, ladies and gentlemen, I’m REALLY pissed off!

Those of you, who have been following my blog for a while, probably know by now that I have been having some issues with modern feminists and as a result also with some members of our counseling community, who are buying into some of the modern feminist theories about gender equality. If they were speaking for themselves, I would be as cool as a cucumber; however, when folks start acting like they know what’s best for me as a woman (without actually asking ME how I feel about it), it’s the point when I start growling.

So what set me off this time?

Well, ever since the unfortunate incident in California there have been an increase in all those articles that are trying to convince me that as a woman, I’m scared and vulnerable all the time, and face oppression and misogyny and sexual harassment on daily basis (neither of which is true). But what really got me was the article The Feminist Version of American History You Never Hear About in School. I worked as a babysitter and a tutor for many years, and can testify from my own experience that kids in fact DO learn about many of the women of the list in school! And while I agree that there are some names on the list that an average American probably never heard of, I refuse to see it as some kind of patriarchal conspiracy; there are many men in American history who did some pretty amazing things and didn’t make it into (most) history books either.

However, the most irritating part is the beginning. See for yourself:

“When Divergent actress Shailene Woodley told an interviewer recently that she didn't call herself a feminist because she "love[s] men," many people were outraged. But there's another side to this story: Shailene Woodley doesn't understand what feminism is, and it's not necessarily her fault.”

The way I see it, Shailene Woodley, whoever she is, or any other woman should be able to identify herself as she sees fit without being patronized (or without facing an outraged mob). I for one declare openly that I no longer identify myself as a feminist. If Maureen Shaw (the author of the article) doesn’t like it, I have one thing to tell her:

Maybe the problem is that FEMINISTS don’t understand what feminism is!

Because from how they have been presenting themselves in the media for past couple of years, I gathered that feminism is a movement of women who 1) have very specific ideas about how I should look, dress, and behave, 2) will pass judgment on me when I don’t submit to said ideas, 3) know better than me how I feel as a woman in our society, 4) make decisions about how I’m allowed to express yourself sexually.

And yes, I’m aware that not all feminists are as extreme and that there is plenty of the moderate ones – but you know what? The diversity within feminist movement actually supports MY view, not Maureen Shaw’s. Because if women have such different perceptions of what feminism is, how can any of them pass judgment on others regarding how they see feminism?!

 Merriam-Webster defines feminism as follows: 

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
: organized activity in support of women's rights and interests

No problem here, right? But already the discussion underneath the definition shows that reality is much more complex. I especially liked a comment from someone called Tammy Kaulback:

The title is only a name; a way of identifying a set of ideas. Other waves of Feminism have since emerged with more inclusive (not perfect) understandings of other women's multitude of experiences as well as marginalized persons. May I suggest a little more insight in to the reality of this world on your part and don't get caught up on a label.

I’m getting the vibe that Tammy wrote her comment in defense of feminism, but that’s okay – the comment points out the diversity within the feminist movement and that’s what I’m talking about.

A Voice for Men: Humanist Counter-Theory  website warns that “it’s also important to recognize that what some people tell you a word means is not reflective of reality”. Well, no shit. I read some so-called “feminist” writings that indicated that the author was sharing her wisdom from an impatient psychiatric clinic.

And once more with feeling:

Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. However, there are many different kinds of feminism. Feminists disagree about what sexism consists in, and what exactly ought to be done about it; they disagree about what it means to be a woman or a man and what social and political implications gender has or should have. Nonetheless, motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, economic, and political phenomena. Important topics for feminist theory and politics include: the body, class and work, disability, the family, globalization, human rights, popular culture, race and racism, reproduction, science, the self, sex work, human trafficking, and sexuality. Extended discussion of these topics is included in the sub-entries to feminism in this encyclopedia.

The quote is from A Voice for Men: Humanist Counter-Theory and it illustrates nicely my experience with feminism: There is no consensus between feminists THEMSELVES how things should be!

Mind you, that’s not necessarily meant as criticism from my side - we ALL have a different life story and tend to see the world through the lens shaped by our experiences, which is okay. However, it’s not okay when we start feeling that our experiences are so superior that it gives us the right to tell people what to do.

So the way I see it, until there are feminists out there who preach feminist gospel that is irritating to women like myself or (clearly) Shailene Woodley, Maureen Shaw has no right to accuse us of rejecting feminism out of ignorance. Mainly because she doesn’t have the answer to the question “what is feminism” either. No one does. I had identified myself as a feminist for many years (and even wrote passionate articles in defense of feminism) and while no scholar, neither I see myself as a dummy. When I decide to reject feminism, you can trust me that I have reasons for doing so! And you are welcome to ask what those reasons are, if you are interested, but you are not welcome to start lecturing me, telling me that I’m stupid, or accusing me of “internalized sexism” (which I just recently read in another article written by a genius; luckily for my mental health I accidentally deleted the link).

Because if you do, guess what?! You are being just as oppressive as is the traditional patriarchal society you are (supposedly) trying to liberate me from.

So here!


Frank F. O'Barski said...

As always, these subjects are more nuanced than most accounts about them. The sad thing about modern life is we want nice neat little thirty second sound bite thinking. Life is not like that. Life is complex, nuanced and varied. Thanks for adding some more sophisticated critical thinking to the discussion.

Global Chick said...

I mainly just want to be left alone and make my own choices about my private life, without feminists (or anybody else) poking their nose into it. I said it before and I will say it again: I'm cool with almost ANY opinion, as far as people use the singular form. As one of my classmates pointed out in one of our Facebook discussion, "generalization often defeats one's purpose" - and she was right! And thanks for reading and commenting on my post, Frank :) Especially considered that you shared on FB one of those articles that raised my blood pressure! You are a good sport ;)

Cecelie Keys said...

I still consider myself as a feminist. Yes, many feminists disagree about what feminism is, but I stick to its core principles about fighting sexism. Women should be allowed to be themselves, and that is what true Feminism means. Women have been through a lot in history, and therefore, a clear consensus is hard. It is up to a woman to decide how she wants to be treated and how to live her life. And Margaret, sexism is very alive in schools in America. It is very common for children to grow up thinking women didn't do anything! And that needs to change. I believe in equal representation for people. Women are not victims, but the media tries it's best to portray us in that manner. And oftentimes, women are victims. That is just the sad truth. As a feminist, I simply try to fight against misogyny and support women and men's rights to feminism.

Global Chick said...

And that's your right, Cecelie! Notice that I didn't mention anywhere in my post that I expect all other women to follow in my footsteps and denounce feminism as well! If you feel that it's important to you and has something to offer, by any means you should be a feminist - and proud of it!

However, for me, it doesn't work. And your comment certainly proves that we have very different experiences in life, because one of the reasons why I like living in the U.S. more than in, say, my home country, is that the level of sexism here is significantly lower. Much lower than in most countries I can think of, actually.

One of the quotes in my column points out that feminists often disagree between each other on WHAT sexism is, which I think is the key issue, because we all have a different level of tolerance. I only know a sample of schools in Illinois, but I honestly can say that I have ever came across one that would teach children that women did NOTHING...

And another thing: People often think that feminism is the only alternative in fighting social injustice - sexism and all. It isn't. I identify myself as a humanist and as such believe in equal rights and opportunities for all human beings, i.e. women included. This "who isn't with us is against us" fallacy is one of many that feminists discouraged me with.