Sunday, 11 August 2013

Why I Am Not A Feminist

I'm nobody special so there shall be no profound truths, and no reinventing of the wheel, here. But I felt it was time to write up why I personally disassociate myself from the word "feminist".

It isn't easy. I support women's liberation. When I say women's liberation, I mean total freedom. Freedom from the need to conform to other's demands, freedom to choose who they associate with, what activities they partake in, what career they choose. Of course freedom doesn't mean any of us get what we want (life is never that simple) but we should have the chance at least.

What does that mean in practice? It means that I support the right to choose. Not just on abortion (abortion is something I personally struggle with; a woman's right to choose is not) but also if a woman wishes to choose to be a stay at home mum, all power to her. If she wants to get involved in sex work, then so be it. If she wants to fly to the Moon and be bloody super awesome, then Hell yes.

In short I want for women what I want for myself (and all men). The right to be individuals, with their own personal wants, needs and dreams.

I just don't see feminism as supporting that. Over the last few weeks I've seen self-described feminists say that women don't have the right to choose to work as models (of the "glamour" variety, although I've always thought it must be way more glamourous not to be a glamour model and instead to be someone, well, glamourous). This is because, supposedly, such work is not good for society as a whole. I am disturbed by this argument which seems to be a rehash of the very worst of the pro-life arguments. By arguing from "the greatest good" position, feminism is simply splitting hairs with "traditionalists" (for want of a better term and to avoid insulting people with more puerile terms) over what women should be allowed to do.

I've also seen it said that feminism will "liberate" men from their stereotypical roles. What this really means is that feminism wants men to NOT do anything those "stereotypes" represent and that feminism has no intention of allowing the freedom for men to choose not to conform (or conform if they wish!). This isn't liberation. That is like freeing some political prisoners (consisting of a few conservatives, a few liberals, lots of communists and a Monster Raving Loony party member) and then telling them they must now conform to one political worldview from now on and declaring this to be a "liberation". Truly the gay rights movement and the concurrent metrosexual revolution has done far more to liberate men from conformity in the last 20 years (although seems like there is a new conformity forming, damn it) than feminism has managed in 50.

Feminism is heteronormative. Studies on porn and lad's mags and their effects on men and women tend to completely overlook the use of gay porn and gay magazines by men and women. I've had feminists tell me that the reason for this is because the historic subjugation of women makes a man sexualising a woman quite a different thing to a man sexualising a man. That it does. Thus it must be something far more complicated in society than the sexualisation of others that causes the just concerns feminists have. The argument that sexism is endemic in society just makes me want to shout "I know!" and remonstrate forcefully with the person making that argument to show them that ergo their attempts to ban porn and lad's mags are attacking not even symptoms let alone the cause of sexism in society. Heteronormativity is hardly a new thing in feminism, it has been going on for many years.

Feminism is too much dogma and not enough facts. Feminists are keen to point out studies that suggest lad's mags sound like rapists (but not enough like rapists to stop men from choosing to identify in a blind test more often with comments by rapists than lad's mags, sounds like lad's mags might be restraining men rather than the other way round!) but don't present evidence that banning lad's mags (and/or porn) has had a positive effect in other societies. Some evidence certainly suggests the effects are anything but good for many of us. Calls for them to rethink don't just come from "men who just want their porn", they come from women who want their sexual freedom. It is a similar, but even more lopsided, problem when it comes to feminist views on prostitution.

And a surprisingly large number of feminists are transphobic.

I know what you are going to say: Jason, there is more than one flavour of feminism. Sex-positive feminism! Don't tar everyone with the same brush. I accept that my use of the word feminist above does tarnish everyone with the same brush. I know lots of people who describe themselves as feminist who wouldn't share any (or at least a majority) of the beliefs above. But the problem is that, to me, feminism as a concept has become tarnished. I don't think feminists are evil. I think they have some very worthy aims. But I believe that the methods and ideology that are used to get to the feminist "utopia" are not justified and will ultimately fail.

Ultimately feminism divides people, fails to speak up for 50% of the population (at least) so can hardly be considered "liberating" and relies too much on a puritanical certainty that some things are inherently bad. It ignores individual choice, and fights against women's right to choose how to live their lives.

So no, I'm not a feminist.

1 comment:

Paul Brownsey said...

Some claims -- I only say "some" -- labelled "feminism" can rather too easily suggest the Little Princess syndrome in a new guise. If, for instance, I read that women should be able to pursue a career or stay at home, entirely as they prefer, I am apt to think: that's just a demand for someone else -- usually male -- to lay it all on.