Privileged people don’t need feminism, but the rest of us do

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Few things get my bra in a twist than articles like this one where young people – perhaps too young to have a living relative around to explain what life was like for women before they could vote, before it became somewhat more socially acceptable to work outside the home – criticize a movement they know absolutely nothing about.

I could pick apart every one of those signs and explain the fallacies behind them, but I’d be too tempted to gouge out my eyeballs before getting halfway through. So here’s the point I want to make: we continue to use labels that describe our beliefs all the time, despite the negative stigmas attached. I still call myself a Christian despite the Crusades, despite the Westboro Baptists who picket military funerals. Rational people should understand that such atrocities are not my fault, and the vast majority of well-intentioned Christians want nothing to do with them.

You would think that educated people would understand a few bad seeds don’t spoil the entire bunch. It only seems that way when the media shines a spotlight on the loudest voices that also happen to be the most ignorant.

Why is feminism any different? In college, I would have died if anyone accused me of being feminist; all I saw were the stereotypes. Eventually, I realized I already was quite feminist in my thinking. It was only the label I feared.

You know what kind of people can say they don’t need feminism? Privileged people. That’s who. But where did that privilege come from, you may wonder? Umm…

Perhaps more people would “come out” as feminists if they did a little research, and understood that patriarchal authorities never would have “given” women the right to vote if not for – you guessed it – women who decided to band together and fight for it. Male-dominated universities would never have “allowed” women to attend if not for a movement of – what you say? – women dedicated to proving themselves worthy.

If waiting on men to “come around” to handing us rights were all it took, history would not be filled with centuries of documented misogyny. Clearly, the feminist movement was necessary…and still continues to be.

Until women earn the same salary as men for doing the exact same work;

Until actresses are asked about their roles rather than where they got their gowns at the Oscars;

Until a woman can report her rape and be asked, “What did your rapist look like?” instead of, “What were you wearing?”

Until a new mom can announce she’d like to quit her job and stay at home to raise her baby and not be judged;

Until a woman can decide to keep her career and utilize daycare or a nanny and not be judged;

Until women can safely walk the streets and not be harassed by strangers;

Until women can announce they’d like to remain single and child-free and not be looked at as freaks and monsters;

Until a woman can tell her boss she’s pregnant without the risk of being fired; feminism continues to be necessary.

You don’t stop calling yourself part of a movement just because there are people within it you disagree with. That should only make you fight harder to clear its name.

Is this what you want to hear, anti-feminists? I’m sorry for the ones who hate men, who don’t want any woman in her kitchen, even if it’s her choice to be there. I am not in agreement with those people. Believe it or not, most of us just care about equality.

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19 thoughts on “Privileged people don’t need feminism, but the rest of us do

  1. Crystal says:

    Totally agree, Beth. I think people misunderstand feminism and what it is really all about and that is why they hate it so much. Yet I also think some people understand feminism to mean a loss of SPECIAL power, hence the fierce opposition to the movement.

    The Suffragette movie will be coming out soon, and I’d encourage everyone to see it, because it’s about a basic human right: the right to vote:

    We still need feminism.

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  2. jsherwin2013 says:

    I’m a lot older than those who have posted here today. I’m the author of a post that appears today, October 20, 2014, at http://jsherwinblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/a-response-to-young-women-who-claim-to-be-anti-feminists/. I, too, would never label myself in any way. When I entered the workforce in 1969, I wanted to be treated fairly and professionally, and I certainly didn’t want to deal with sexual harassment at work. As I moved from teaching to publishing and then into consulting, I observed that the reality for women in many cases was the opposite of the ideal of equality. That began changing with the efforts of the early feminists and the passage of protective legislation.

    The problem lies in the label, and the stereotypes connected with it, as pointed out in the responses above. That was one of Emma Watson’s major points in her address to the United Nations. It’s just a word. We need to look beyond the word and continue working for equal opportunities for all disenfranchised groups. Jennie

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  3. caelesti says:

    I like to watch people’s brains explode with cognitive dissonance when I tell them I was raised by Christian feminists 🙂 Is that a special privilege? Certainly my parents are white college educated and semi-middle class, but they still could’ve been feminists without any of those things. I’m 32, same age or older than a lot of these young women. Problem is, most of them grew up with right-wing media dominating the airwaves and defining feminists as hairy-legged, no-make-up wearing man-hating lesbians (granted, other than the man-hating part there’s nothing wrong with the rest of those components they’re just not requirements!) Kinda like how until college, I thought “secular humanist” was a mostly imaginary bogey made up by Rush Limbaugh & Co. Now, personally I care more about people’s actions than which labels they use, but a lot of the “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist/humanist et al” rhetoric doesn’t have much critical analysis surrounding it.

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  4. theduckandtheowl says:

    Great post. “You don’t stop calling yourself part of a movement just because there are people within it you disagree with. That should only make you fight harder to clear its name.” YES! I completely agree with this statement.
    -Kaitlyn 🙂

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  5. Alice says:

    These girls are plain ignorant, in my opinion. I agree with Beth that they are privileged. We live in a world where hundreds of millions women can’t even open their mouth to express their opinions, so yes, being able to declare yourself an anti-feminist is a privilege. Taking advantage of all the benefits feminism has brought to women while shouting against the movement is hypocritical to say at least.

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    • Beth Caplin says:

      Proof the early feminists accomplished what they set out to do, that today’s young womem can’t begin to fathom a society without rights. Gender studies should be a mandatory part of the education system, IMO.

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  6. Lucy Merriman says:

    I also want to say I’m 100% a feminist myself, and like you I’m also a Christian. I like your analogy and I agree that the issues you bring up need addressed, perhaps we just disagree regarding tactics. But please don’t think I am in any way against what you stand for 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Shum'el says:

    Beth,

    I agree that the writings that this group are holding up are easy to tear apart & are somewhat LOL- able . Also by your set of questions, I guess I’m -gulp- a feminist as well (although for reasons I can’t make out, I just don’t like the title) . By observation, rather than any empirical evidence, I’d say that the privileged (at least in terms of education) people I know (my friends) are regardless of them being male or female, or whatever their politics are the more feminist in articulation and sentiment, than those who aren’t privileged.

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  8. Lucy Merriman says:

    Okay, but how are the young women holding the signs more privileged than you? What do they have that you don’t, that’s blinding them to the issue?

    There have been anti-feminist women since the time of the early Suffragettes, Gloria Stinem went face to face against Phyllis Schafley, and there are contemporary all-women anti-feminist organizations like CWA who fight NOW every step of the way.

    If your argument is that these young anti-feminist women are only anti-feminists because they’re misinformed, or because they’re all wealthy and don’t care about non-wealthy women who are the types who are unprotected, it doesn’t strike me as a very strong argument, you know?

    I think, honestly, a lot of the anti-feminist or “egalitarian” college students know the score, but feel that the status quo is good enough for them, and that being vocal about anti-sexism could cost them socially or financially.

    Also, on a person-to-person level, the most “out” feminists I know are grating to be around, and the most likely to try to invalidate my experiences when I bring them up. Like, for instance, once I was telling a story about my friends and I, and this group of guys shouted at us, and my friend Carrie had a really clever comeback. Then we kind of insult-bantered back-and-forth until we were out of earshot. Everyone thought the story was really funny, except my Uber Feminist friend who was mad that I wasn’t offended by the frat guys and didn’t feel like a victim. Sorry I’m funny? Like I just disagree that assholes shouting at you is The Worst Ever, I think it’s worth it to be a bit thicker skinned.

    Or like, I’ll say, “I think having sex in committed relationships is the best way to have sex, because stripping sex of its emotional and psychological intimacy and turning it into a drug / commodity is dangerous and based on a shallow understanding of pleasure.” And immediately, it’s like, that’s a BAD OPINION, and I’m “slut-shaming.” No? Look, if you believe that hookups, porn, and sex-for-money is okay, I’m all for hearing your opinion and *why* you believe that. But I’ve never gotten into a real conversation about sex with my most feminist friends, because they just repeat buzzwords like “slut-shame” and “virgin whore complex.”

    This isn’t extremists like Femen I’m talking about, these are the feminists I know up close and personal on my own college campus–in my own social circle. Maybe the thing isn’t to lecture and alienate anti-feminist women, but it’s to make them feel safe and heard first and foremost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beth Caplin says:

      I will not deny that I am privileged. Privilege only becomes a bad thing when it blinds you to the plight of others.

      Feeling safe and heard goes both ways. Admittedly there is not much room for thorough explanation on a small sheet of paper, but the attitude of many of these suggests they aren’t interested in hearing the other side.

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      • Lucy Merriman says:

        Right, but what I’m asking is, how do you know these women are privileged? Some of the women in the photo set were racial minorities, and one is in the armed forces. They don’t strike me as being privileged at all.

        I guess what I’m getting at is, and please correct me if I’m wrong, I mean that: you think anti-feminists believe as they do because they are alienated by hateful and extremists feminists.

        But perhaps they just disagree with the feminist stance on certain issues, and that disagreement shouldn’t be causing such a reaction? For instance, while I don’t like to use the word “slut,” the idea of having many sex partners being okay is a tenet of the mainstream feminist movement. There are many women who disagree with that notion as a moral value, whether for religious or philosophical reasons, and thus can’t in good conscience claim to support a movement where approving promiscuity is the norm. It is an “agree to disagree” sort of thing, which seemed to be the stance of at least two of the women pictured.

        Plus, isn’t it at least worth asking why feminism makes some women feel like a victim? Is it really that feminists are revealing uncomfortable truths, or are they exaggerating certain risks in order to rally people to their side? Honestly, I believe it is a bit of both.

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      • Beth Caplin says:

        I think we’re talking about two different kinds of privilege here. I’m going off the assumption that all these girls are American, meaning they live in a country where their rights are easily taken for granted.

        No need to agree with 100% of what I post, appreciate your comments 🙂

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