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Feminspire | April 20, 2014

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Before You Decide You’re “Not a Feminist,” You Should Probably Understand What Feminism Is

Before You Decide You’re “Not a Feminist,” You Should Probably Understand What Feminism Is

| On 21, Oct 2013

Feminism has an image problem, that much is obvious. Much of that image problem comes from feminists with a platform putting forth thoughts and ideas without criticality examination, and more of it comes from misinformation given on websites and other news outlets. Annica Benning’s piece over at the State Press is a glaringly obvious example of misinformation and misrepresentation being put forth on a widespread level, furthering myths about feminism. Ms. Benning is not a woman out to do harm. She is, however, misinformed on some basic tenets of feminism, and I think that if we break her argument down point-by-point and address it, that this might help put forth a broader and more accurate portrayal of what feminism is. So let’s go!

1. “I also believe that I should not be denied a job because I am a woman. However, unless I’m applying to be a lumberjack in Canada, the chances of me being denied a job based on my gender are incredibly slim.”

Gender discrimination in the workplace is still an ongoing problem. The thing is, gender discrimination doesn’t stop at whether or not you are hired for a job: It continues on in the workplace. Workplace gender discrimination can include getting paid less than a male colleague with similar skills and experience for the same work; being subjected to sexual harassment, which is most commonly directed at women, and not men; and an inability to access to basic medical services through company provided insurance, like contraception, maternity care, pre-natal care or maternity leave.

And it doesn’t stop there! Significant over-representation of men at the management and CEO level is a problem, along with horizontal segregation, which occurs when any occupation is dominated by women or men. Example: The nursing field is occupied mostly by women. These practices hurt men and women, and feminism is about equality for everybody. Women are denied jobs, promotions, raises, hospitable work places based on their gender, and men are often limited to access to some fields that are predominantly occupied by women because of their gender. Feminism wants people of all genders to be able to avoid gender discrimination in the workplace.

2. “The larger problem I have with the feminist movement is they seem to want preferential treatment because of their sex. It’s akin to reverse discrimination. Many male-dominated industries seek out women for the sole purpose of appearing diverse, which does not sit well with me. I do not want to be sought out because I am a woman. I want to be sought out because I am the best candidate.”

I think the problem here starts with assuming that feminists are only women. A lot of men are feminists, too! Some of the most important men in my life are feminists. And wanting to be sought out because you are the best is great and all, and definitely aspire to that. But the fact is that a company looking for diversity is doing that because they are in large part homogenous and need to correct an imbalance, and that imbalance is usually race or gender related. There’s no reason to assume women getting hired for jobs aren’t the best at the job. Also, reverse discrimination is not real. 

3. “Attempting to solve a problem by balancing out the playing field sounds good, but at the end of the day, it is still discrimination.”

Balancing the playing field is the exact opposite of discrimination. If discrimination didn’t happen, there would be no need to level the playing field.

4.”Modern day feminism is used as a crutch in many ways. Putting down males won’t bring up women. Rants about equality are just that: rants. And forgoing committed relationships to just ‘hook up’ because it’s somehow ‘empowering’ might be the greatest running joke of all time.”

Rants about how feminism is just the shittiest shit fest ever is also just a rant, so there’s that. But feminism is not about putting men down. It is about equality for women AND men. Nobody should be left out in this equation. As much as feminism wants women to have equal opportunity, freedom and agency as men, we also want men to be able to participate in some activities commonly associated with femininity and not be criticized or shamed for it. That’s another way feminists want to level the playing field, and no, it’s not discriminatory. For many feminists, paternity leave and maternity leave are things we fight for. It’s also common for many feminists to want men to be able to seek out mental health treatment without stigma, or to be able to more open with their emotions and feelings and not be criticized for it. The “hook up is empowering” mode of thought is one aspect of raunch culture coming out of third wave feminism. Not every feminist feels like that. I don’t. 

5. “I don’t expect a man to open the door for me or pick up the dinner check. I can open doors just fine on my own, and I can earn my own Amex points. However, I appreciate both of the aforementioned, because it is respectful and courteous.”

Why is it only respectful and courteous for a man to do these things for a woman? Isn’t opening and holding the door for whomever is behind you courteous no matter who is doing it for whom? And is there a particular reason why a man paying for the bill is courteous, but a woman doing it is not? It is an old-fashioned custom built on sexism, and if it works for you, go for it, sisterfriend! But if it doesn’t work for other women, or men that you are dating, there’s nothing wrong with them. Feminism doesn’t mean “you can’t let a man pay for you,” but it does mean “consider the historical and cultural context of the origin of that custom and decide if it is right for you based on that.” I don’t care if you buy your own dinner or if somebody else buys it for you. It would be nice if people did think about where “respectful and courteous’” customs borne out of sexism came from, however.

6. “I appreciate it just as much when a girlfriend picks up a late night frozen yogurt fix or my boss takes me out to a nice lunch. Being thoughtful and having good manners should apply to everyone, regardless of gender.”

Yeah. Feminism agrees with you. Being nice to people is good. Being a bag of dicks is not good.

7. “Another problem is endemic to the modern career woman, who seems to think that to make it to the top you have to push everyone else, including other women, out of your way. I hear it all the time, one girl talking about how another girl is in the same field as her so they are ‘competing for the same jobs.’ Why is it a competition? I know it’s a tough economy, but there are plenty of jobs to go around. If women helped each other out and worked together they could accomplish great things. Instead, they push each other down.”

No no no no NOPE. Because of gender discrimination embedded in hiring proceesses and corporate structures by people OTHER than women, women often are competing for the same job. But women didn’t put themselves in this position. We are playing the hand patriarchy has dealt us, and trying to do the best we can to bring that system down and build up. So if you do see women bad-mouthing each other and pushing each other down to lift themselves up, that has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with patriarchy. Feminism doesn’t want women to have to work against each other. What you’re citing as a problem is a real problem, but it’s not a problem within or created by feminism. It’s a problem feminism wants to eradicate.

8. “True success comes from not only building yourself up, but helping out those around you. If      feminism focused more on building up women, I might give it a chance. Until then, the last thing I want to be called is a feminist.

I don’t know what you’re reading, but feminism does a lot to build women up. There are some really valid and important reasons why somebody might not want to call themselves a feminist, but none of them were on this list, and most of the complaints don’t actually have anything to do with feminism. If you ever change your mind and want to join up and work for the equality of all people, feminism will still be right here, and you’re welcome at any time.

Written by Sara Luckey
You can Tweet with her, talk beauty with her here, or engage in a conversation about current events as viewed through a sociopolitical, feminist lens here.

  • jim dorey

    i notice a down vote, rather interesting that instead of asking for proof of this, or any verifiable nature, someone would just down vote it, almost like it’s unbelievable to their preconceived notions. that’s what bigots do, ain’t it?

  • Jess Eagle

    Great response to a misinformed article. (Hey look — it’s a couple of typical feminists building each other up!)

  • Tantalus

    [citation needed]

    Also, have you considered that women are generally paid less than men? Your employer may simply be choosing to hire people who they can pay less. (e.g. women with my credentials have median incomes $30,000/year less than men with my credentials). Your buisness may get more bang for its buck by hiring women.
    Sexism hurts everyone.

    Also, I suspect you may just be bitter, and probably don’t know much about your employer’s hiring practices. Are you a hiring manager? Are you part of the process?
    Why are you bothering to make unverifiable anecdotal claims of little relevance to the article at hand?

  • Anthony

    it may not feel fair to be paid a little less at work for the same job as a man, but it isn’t just oh you are a woman so you automaticaly get less. lets take a look at it from the male perspective and the laws that we must abide by. Men legaly have a 15% higher tax bracket then women, aka if both a man and woman work a job for $100 the woman claiming zero on her return pays $25 dollars out at max tax margin, a man pays $40 out in the end the male made less. At the age of 18 men must sign up for the selective service by the age of 21 or go to prison, women do not. Men can be drafted to forcably serve in the military as an enlisted member during a time of war women cannot. In all Honesty I completly aggre discrimination is wrong and both men and women should naturaly be treated as equals in every aspect as long as they themselves are on equal footing. Meaning that if the qualifying credentials for a job are met exactly the same by a man and woman sure pay them the same, for the same work, and tax them the same, giving them the same benifits. But the kicker is in all reality people use the white male ‘model’ to go hey thats not fair i don’t get the same as that guy, lets face it the White Male average doesn’t get piss for help on anything because of all the groups going i want fair treatment. I do apreciate and thank any true equal opertunity feminist that wishes the same treatment as a ‘white male model’ used in the typical descriptions. i just want you to understand when the average ‘white male’ asks for help on anything for any reason every activist group out there will turn away going ‘you’re not a woman, you’re not ethnic, you’re not going to make us look fair.’ that is the typical response you get as an ‘average white male.’

    • jim dorey

      there’s the thing about selective service, if the draft were enacted and women weren’t called up, it would be challenged in court for being sexist, violating anti-discrimination laws. the U$ supreme court, loooong ago, decided that someone willing to go to war to protect the states with their life deserves to vote. even before universal right to vote for women, there were a fair whack of em that got the right to vote by doing nurse duties in war zones. there was also the thing that women, whose husbands died in war, they voted in his stead. kind of like the voting right was family treasure and she inherited it, if she had the default right to vote, she could have been drafted, which is probably why so many women were against voting rights for women, at least at the time.

      people that live during time when there isn’t a draft get to vote regardless, but anyone who refuses to serve when called, loses their right to vote. being required to sign up for draft is kind of meaningless as an example of discrimination -against- men. though it is discriminatory against men, it’s not ultimately going to lead to -only- men going to war if there’s a draft called, so at most it’s a minor inconvenience. i don’t think there’s any rule that says women -can’t- sign up for it, i don’t know why more women don’t, as is now, the right to vote comes with a pat on the head ‘don’t worry, there won’t be a draft’, politicians being too chicken to draft women are protecting the men who sign up.

      women didn’t have the right to vote till relatively recently, but not too long before women got it, many men didn’t have the right to vote either(i believe it was only land owners that got to vote), men got the right to vote through service. afaik, while serving, probably as a draftee, even men aren’t allowed to vote, it might be too easy to vote the draft out if they were.

    • Bastet

      I’ve never heard of men paying higher tax before but even if that is true your maths is out. Women earn 70 c to the male $1. A man earns $100, then the woman has earned $70. Even if what you are saying is true and the womans tax is 25% to the mans 40%, she still earns less. $100-$40 gives a take home pay of $60. $70-$17.50 gives a take home pay of $52.50.

  • jim dorey

    :)

  • C

    I’m really proud of all the great activists out there doing amazing work! I’m currently a graduate student and my research area is in advocacy and activism work. I would really appreciate it if I could get some more people to take a short 10 minute survey for my study! The goal of my research is two-fold. Firstly, I want to empower students to turn their passions into a meaningful change in the ‘real’ world. Secondly, I will use the results of my study to develop academic courses with the same aim. My end-goal is to create a field of study around advocacy and activism. Thank you for your time! https://redcap01.brisc.utah.edu/ccts/redcap/surveys/?s=dUvJTcShpq

  • Pete

    Is it possible to reconcile feminism with the fundamental freedom of speech and expression that both men and women born in the last 25 years have grown up with and come to cherish?
    The vast majority of both young men AND women I know who shun the label, do so in response to campaigns to have offensive t-shirts removed from sale, offensive facebook posts censored, and demands for people like Dr. Phil to delete controversial tweets which don’t fit in with feminist ideology. Many of these young people might actually be repulsed by the things the movement is trying to ban or censor, but they have grown up in a world where the most fundamental value is “There are no restrictions on opinions and the expressions thereof, regardless of how obnoxious such opinions might be.”

    This is the main root cause of feminism’s image problem in my own personal experience, and is far more serious than any other issue facing the movement. I guarantee you that if you ask most young men and women about the campaign to have misogynist facebook memes censored, they would agree that the memes were repulsive but go on to say that there is no place for censorship in the modern world.

    How can one reconcile this discrepancy?

    • Bastet

      If thousands upon thousands of FB posts showed pictures of gagged, bound and beaten people of colour with words to the effect of ‘show a nigger whose boss’ (the equivalent of the misogyny that is being banned) would people be screaming ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘ban the hate speech’?

      Banning hate speech and hate groups is essential for a healthy society. There is no freedom of speech violation in this issue.

  • KashyaCharsi

    I usually just hold the door open if someone is about to go through it behind me. Who then takes over the door handle and closes the door for me.

  • This article is a joke.

    Eh, this article is decent, but let me say the one you’re critiquing is better.

    My boss is a female and she’s sexist. WW’re grad students who get payed salary, all the same mind you, yet i pay more taxes, work longer hours, and have more responsibilities than my female lab counter parts because they have the same genitalia as my boss. ‘Reverse racism’ isn’t a real idea but racism does, and like any ism, isn’t specific to who the left and right operands. My boss is a straight sexist and I’m subjected to it on a weekly basis. Always being yelled at for not having enough work but I have 11 reactions done and the girl in my year has 6 or 7. I’m in charge of training graduate students on instruments, which further adds to my work load, and she doesn’t have to do it. To act like sexism in the work force is a one way street is horse shit.

    Also, what kind of favors are you doing by ‘leveling the playing field’ as you put it? You’re disenfranchising the group that is being selected against, turning them to enemies and not allies. In my university, they hired three new female faculties this last year, of which 70% of the applicants were men. I wonder why that is.. oh yeah, the department was already about 80% men. The perspectives this creates is that a woman got her job because she has a vagina. I don’t think this is always true, but it certainly is in many cases. Same idea with race.. because real diversity is only represented through skin color and whether or not you have a dick hanging. Every white man is like all other white men, right? You’re like every other ‘insert race’ female, correct?

    I also like how you selectively took her words out of context: your quote “Why is it only respectful and courteous for a man to do these things for a woman?” was in response to a man picking up the bill as being courteous, yet your next quote was her next line which pretty much is her saying exactly what you’re trying to critique her for: “I appreciate it just as much when a girlfriend picks up a late night
    frozen yogurt fix or my boss takes me out to a nice lunch. Being
    thoughtful and having good manners should apply to everyone, regardless
    of gender.”. So actually you are agreeing with her on this point but just want to tear down a feminist who has empathy with men in the plight of equality.

    I’m tired of the neo-feminism being female driven sexism, because it is. I just read a post on a famous fem blog.. oh wait, was it this one? Maybe…. “That said men cannot be feminists!” That it makes them angry and dislike that person from the start. Makes them judge him… Seems like what the founders of feminism were shooting for.

    I have a Ph.D. from a good school, with great letters of recommendation, a good CV, and awesome presentation skills. Why are so many girls able to find jobs so much faster than I am? Women are routinely chosen for jobs based on sex with the notion that well, white guys are dominate in the work force, so keep trying bud, you’ll get one soon. 65+ applications later, I’m moving to a different country to seek employment (moving out of the fucking USA for a job, go figure) because I’m a white male holding a degree dominated by white men. My bad for not choosing basketball for my degree. Think about how absurd that would be for a second… “there are too many africans in basket ball, so let’s hire some whiteys.” “There are too many females at victoria secret (… or anything), let’s hire a dude” said no employer ever. You want equality? Then play on an even battle field and give up preferential treatment, earn your shit for real, and then come talk to me about how it’s fine for a guy to be skipped over because he has a dick. Seriously, you’re trying to fix a problem by invoking the same ideology that caused it. That in itself is an insane notion.

    Let’s go back to the female enforced sexist policies that I’ve mentioned.
    I got drunk at a bar one night, had a conversation with my two male friends about sex and sex positions with my girlfriend. Whom which I told the story and she said “aww”…. we’re very open people and I think sexuality is fine to talk about. I wasn’t talking about sexual conquests, I was talking about the things my girlfriend does that I like. My two friends who were with me, also chemists were enjoying themselves when his ex gf, also a chemist, walks by and hears me talking about my gf. She files a formal complaint of sexual harrasment against me and my two friends. In total, she costs us each one month wages, 5000+ dollars, months of probationary period from school in which we had to attend sensitivity training, and months of stress as I had to battle for my right to stay in my program. It also destroyed my character because I’ve been labeled as a harrasser, yet I did nothing to harrass this girl. It was ludacrous. We never had a right to defend ourselves for 2 months until they talked to her, and all the other ‘whitenesses’ who were there (lots of chemists from the department there because it was following a poster session earlier that day). Never got to tell my side of the story. It invoked a yearly sexual harrasment training for our school (Sorry guys and gals) in which the SH officer basically told us, as a guy you’re boned. You have no rights to defend it. If a girl says you did something, you did it as long as her story is consistent or corroborated by any other person. This girl was quoted for saying she was going to ruin our lives because she hasn’t ruined any in a while. I appealed, walked in, and the woman board member (2 girls, 2 guys) instantly started with “How are you going to try to defend this?”

    So I was guilty from the start because all men sexual harass women in the workplace. Again, nice job feminism.

    You want equality, then fucking practice it. Earn your goddamn job and be above a man and maybe you’ll get that goddamn job over him. Anytime a man is hired over a girl (I hear it in my lab) they cry sexism! Scream it at the top of their lungs.. he only got that job because xxx professor is an old sexists asshole. She got a D because the prof is a sexist asshole (not that you got 40% of the fucking material wrong) I know that there are two girls out of the 7 in my lab that I think are qualified to be here, and 4 out of the 8 guys in my lab are as well. This one girl comes in at 10 am, works until 5 and goes home. No weekends, no holidays. I’m here from 8 am until 8 pm. My other three male counter parts are here at 11:30 am and leave around midnight each day. Saturdays included and I saw all three guys on Thanksgiving. We are working 12 hour days and the girls work 8 on a hard day.

    Guess whose going to get treated like shit during our meetings with our boss? Guess whose going to be coddled and respected? It’s not reflected by our work ethic.

    The worst part about all of it, is if I say it… oh god “Man Up” “Don’t be such a fucking pussy” “BULLSHIT” are responses from men and women and it’s not just to my situations. While I can see yo are agreeing with my notion that these propagate sexism and feminism is good for both sexists, you need to be objective to the ideas of feminism still because it’s easy to be used to drive sexist ideals.

    The original cited text was a very nicely written article.

    • Bastet

      You pay more tax than your female counterparts according to you. Bullshit! I can’t even take the rest of your rant seriously when such a obvious lie is its beginning point!

      • This article is a joke.

        You can’t take the rest of my rant serious because you refuse to believe that sexism can go two ways. That just maybe the author of the article in judgement has differing views than your own. The real joke of feminism is people like you.

  • Bastet

    Study after study after study has proven that ‘the best qualified for the job’ is a Male name. The exact same cv gets more interviews when a male name appears than a female one. When they’ve shortlisted and then been told to do it again but only with female candidates, then compared qualifications and experience between the first and second shortlists, studies have proven that female candidates with equal or greater qualifications and experience weren’t noticed the first time around. This is what discrimination is. The employers aren’t anti-female or overtly discriminatory. They sincerely believed their first shortlist were the best candidates.

  • Bastet

    I call myself a feminist and very proudly. I don’t do it to box myself. Feminism has a stronger focus on female discrimination. That doesn’t mean male discrimination doesn’t exist or we don’t care. It doesn’t mean other discriminations don’t exist either such as ageism, ableism, racism… I feel no need to apologize for focusing on a discrimination that effects 51% of the worlds aproximate 7 billion people. It is not my job to speak for a group of people of which I am not one. I can support them in their quest for equality. I don’t need to justify my focus on womens inequality any more than a person needs to justify their focus on ableist inequality. I’m really sick to death of people expecting feminism to champion and lead mens rights. Women are not respinsible to do this FOR them. In mens rights, men lead and women support if they agree. In womens rights, women lead and men support if they agree. Its no more appropriate to demand feminism to champion male rights than it is to ask why people of colour aren’t fighting for white rights!