The Vagenda

I Am Not A Feminist

So, I’m trawling through the maelstrom that constitutes my Facebook newsfeed (read: cat videos and the usual drunken debauchery) and a little gem pops into view. Someone has liked a link to an article entitled ‘A Response to Feminism’. Being the hard-working student that I am, I instantly seize upon the opportunity for a little light procrastination. It’s worth the look, and ofc in the best Vagenda tradition I now implore ye to read it, read it, and SEETHE. For this is drivel of the highest calibre, and requires a thorough dismantling. Hold onto your vagina-shaped hats.
Why the wanton aggression towards work by our woman Melissa Bond, a proud ‘student turned intern with strong opinions and Tory tendencies’?* Well, me hearties, where on earth do I begin? She starts by passionately imploring us to reject the ‘special treatment’ that feminism as a movement demands. She is most certainly not a feminist, if you don’t mind, because ‘the thought of being separated from my floral dresses physically pains me’ – PLUS her boyfriend doesn’t go prancing around in lady-garments himself, at least she doesn’t think so, tee hee! There ya go: men and women are different, you see. No shit, Sherlock – as far as I know I have two X chromosomes and zero balls, but if I want to stump about in trousers or a man’s coat I can. Why the hell do sartorial decisions kick off this writer’s call to reject feminism? Cue much head-scratching and facial contortion, because I just don’t know, guys. Gals. Whatever. Fear not – it gets more interesting.
According to MelBo, your typical ‘Angry Feminist’ would ‘tell me that all women are beautiful on the inside, so why cling to the patriarchal entrapments of superficial or aesthetic beauty?’ Moving swiftly on from this dash of insight, we then approach the thorny issue of how ‘Angry Feminists’ (I am actually getting pretty angry) steamroller their way through polite society. Those Angry Feminists’ ability to find sexism in almost every facet of life is actually rather incredible. ‘A man holds the door open for a woman? “How patronising!” How polite… A man tells a woman she looks nice? “Objectification!” A compliment…’’’ She then concedes that this may be a ‘slight exaggeration’. I don’t know, Mel, it looks more like a bloody massive straw (wo)man to me.
Our leading lady continues: ‘I would question one’s need to subscribe to feminism at all. Surely anyone with an ounce of common sense can appreciate the fact that men and women are both different and equal and treat them accordingly?’ – what a good question! Let’s check Wikipedia (look, I’m a student. What other point of reference do you expect me to have?) to see what exactly one is subscribing to. Apparently, feminism is defined as ‘a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women’. Shocker. Why then, MB, is identifying as a feminist such a dodgy prospect? In case there is doubt regarding the validity of the great ’n noble Wiki, let’s check the Oxford dictionary as an alternative. Feminism is ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.’ Righty-ho.
Our author’s proud proclamation that she is not a feminist seems a bit unconvincing here. I mean she didn’t get the chance to air her self-defined ‘strong opinions’ without a bit of feminism going down in the background, after all. There is a glimmer of hope, however, as appaza ‘difference feminism’ is a thing, a healthy alternative to all the fury and bra-burning the rest of us degenerates favour. A quick search for what this actually involves reveals a bucket-load of utter tripe, including the idea that men and women differ in moral reasoning. (Um?) Also, it like… still has the word ‘feminism’ in it. Bit of an oversight there for the ‘I am not a feminist’ crew.
Bond’s antipathy towards (the normal, equal kind of) feminism is then clarified in terms of her ‘Tory tendencies’. Unfortunately, this is the point when my poor addled mind nearly shuts down. (Maybe it’s because I am equal, but different, to men, and find political notions taxing, but there you go, life’s a bitch. Or a bastard.) Basically, it transpires that if you are a ‘red’ feminist, you automatically believe that positive discrimination is necessary for ladyfolk to get ahead. Bond’s world is starkly divided into red and blue factions, and if you are ‘red’ you are, well, a bit of a whinger, who uses their sex as an excuse to schlepp through life unwillingly, all the while complaining how unfair everything is. Meanwhile the noble ‘blue’ members of society (read: Thatcher) just get on with it. Proceeding from dark references to political correctness (a notoriously ‘red’ evil after all) MB then evokes a scenario in which ‘women view any setback in the workplace as a direct result of female discrimination, rather than a consequence of their own mistakes’. Gawd almighty, batten down the hatches, the raging red feminists are here to DESTROY SOCIETY WITH THEIR MOANING!
Next up, a bit of sniping at the ‘Lose the Lads’ Mags’ campaign. ‘This is another issue with feminism: it is determined entirely by the feminists themselves.’ (er?) ‘By condemning men’s magazines, aren’t feminists also condemning these women’s aspirations and career choices?…It seems feminists are fine with burning bras, but once the breasts are out, they want those bras safely back on.’ I AM SO CONFUSED BY THIS. Breasts – bras – burning – oppression – help me. MelBo – who I’m increasingly regretting giving a totes affectionate nickname to – cites glamour modelling as the classic bit of fun that The Feminists want to shut down, as they are, after all, humourless harpies. Who are scared of tits. And like to burn bras. And floral dresses (waaa). Which is totes unfair cos like, proper women like to be pretty and sexy, while Feminists do not. Ever. (Put that floral dress down, matey! I see you!) Regarding glamour modelling, incidentally, Bond knows for a fact that ‘the majority of them really enjoy it (I’m looking at you, Katie Price)’. Fair play! – but, erm, is the whole glamour modelling industry represented solely by Jordan?**
We then are treated to a nuanced discussion of Miley Cyrus’ act at the VMAs, followed by a description of how Bond’s BF (the one who doesn’t wear dresses, you’ll remember) was attacked by rabid feminists when he dared try to dance to Blurred Lines on a night out. From her boyfriend’s horrific ordeal she concludes that feminists today are out to censor Thicke and his cronies. Free speech begone! Turns out that peeps of a feminist persuasion are ‘prudish and retrogressive’; furthermore, lobbying attempts are deemed futile. I don’t know if you knew this, dear Vagenda readers, but ‘being a woman does not automatically mean you need your rights defended by feminists, and being a man does not automatically mean you are the dominant sex.’ Fack me, this is deep shit. I think I need a biscuit.
We poor deluded fools needn’t fret, because all that is ‘futile’ in modern British campaigning is henceforth addressed in sage words from our lovely lady. Deep breaths guys: ‘breast-banning and the “Blurred Lines” [boycott] and the banknotes, really do very little to further the cause of feminism worldwide…Feminists need to realise that feminism in the West is never going to be as dramatic a movement as it once was. Thanks to the struggles of feminists before us, we now have a whole host of equality laws in place in the UK: women won the full right to vote in 1928; the Equal Pay Act has been around for 40 years; and the Sex Discrimination Act dates back to 1975.’ Cheers for the legal info, babes. Now I see that we females have actually had it pretty bloody good for years! Should probably stop whining then. And paint myself blue or something. Pity that the 40 year old Equal Pay Act hasn’t quite worked. ‘If men and women have equal rights when it comes to freedom of speech, property, education, employment, voting and healthcare, then what more are UK feminists going to achieve by holding up a whiteboard or boycotting Twitter for a day?’ All becomes clear – we are just so damn petty!
Melissa Bond credits her own professional progress by referencing her old school, which has led the way in promoting women’s success. Why then, is she so keen to dismiss feminism as a movement that is really rather silly, for those who lack simple common sense? Rather a simplistic view, surely. Feminism has made it possible for today’s laydeez, and gentlemen too (EQUALITY KLAXON) to use whichever label they so choose. Even our dear leader D-Cam himself recently backtracked in a rather clumsy admission to Channel 4 that he is, actually, a feminist, really. (FYI, he likes Breaking Bad as well as lady-rights; his TV preference arguably courted more interest than the feminism ‘conversion’. Bit awkward). Having initially recoiled at the ‘poison’** that is feminism, he clarified that if the f-bomb is about supporting equal rights for women (I wearily direct you to the dictionary, Mr Cameron), “then yes. If that is what you mean by feminist, then yes, I am a feminist.” Oh, goody. If Camstar himself can strain his grey matter to reach this conclusion, then surely M-Bond can too. I mean come on, HuffPost. Really. Also, publishing this piece next to the Tequila UK ‘She’s going to get raped’ story probably wasn’t the best editorial decision ever made.
At the end of her article, our heroine mentions that ‘surely the general dogma of feminism is that women can do anything they want as long as they’re freely consenting to it, and not directly harming anyone?’ – well, yes, quite. I think that is the gist. Top bloody marks. Oxygen, someone. In conclusion then, perhaps MB should be calling herself a feminist after all. Here’s a thought, Melbot: perhaps ‘UK feminists’ aren’t being petty, but are trying to address this country’s continuing social imbalance, because right now, there is a still lot more to be flipping done here – not to mention elsewhere in the world.
*  if this sounds bitchy y’all, there is a reason for referencing Ms Bond’s politics, because appaza being ‘blue’ makes you a rational homo sapiens and being ‘red’ makes you a hysterical floozy, or something. What larks!! *faints from overexcitement*
** on a limb here but…no?
*** ta to Mrs T

16 thoughts on “I Am Not A Feminist

  1. *Sigh*.

    I’m really fed up with people saying “it was her free choice so it must be all-right then”. People are absolutely free to make their choices, and to express themselves how they choose – but if those choices contribute to continued inequality or oppression of others – they are not immune from the consequences of making those choices. Which might just include a little criticism. So just as I get angry with and criticse Tesco for profiting from the misery that is WorkFare (if you have work for people to do – pay them a living wage to do it…) – I might also criticise Miley Cyrus for making money out of contributing to a culture of objectification and rape apologism.

  2. Somewhat tangential comment: ‘difference feminism’ is certainly problematic, but Carol Gilligan’s book about men and women having different moral reasoning is not as bad as that article makes it out to be. Her point is that psychologists who have studied moral development have focussed on boys and men as the ‘default’, which inevitably makes girls and women, who appear to think about things differently, seem morally deficient. I believe she is agnostic as to whether these differences are ‘essential’ or a result of socialization; in any case i don’t think she’s saying that women *should* avoid ‘male’ ways of thinking – rather, she’s saying that the male-dominated world of moral philosophy should embrace/accommodate ‘feminine’ forms of thinking such as imaginative empathy that patriarchy-dominated philosophical traditions have traditionally sidelined.

    (great post by the way – Bond’s piece is enraging. SO MANY straw feminists you could almost believe it was a parody)

  3. Another article attacking a ‘straw feminist’ construct – this, unfortunately, seems to be an increasingly common-strategy for right-wing feminists (even the ones who refuse to self-describe with that word) as they try to forge a coherent group identity. I wonder if part of the problem, which comes through in the tone of MB’s piece, is that they feel excluded from the predominantly left-leaning contemporary feminist revival. Kind of like in school, when the cool kids won’t let you into their club, so you decide to start your own and dedicate it to the principle that their club is rubbish. In the absence of any perceived common ground with popular feminism, writers like MB seem to be trying simultaneously to undermine the label while claiming the mantle of ‘progressive’ women’s action for themselves. As ever with the right-left divide at the moment, the hang-up is that pesky ground of free choice – and in particular the current right-wing ideology that nothing anyone chooses is open to criticism or disagreement. When was it that Tories so strongly embraced moral relativism? When did their belief in a free-market become freedom from principle? Was it, perhaps, around the time Mrs T claimed that there was ‘no such thing as society’?
    Whatever the cause of the rift, I suspect the only way forward is to get them talking. Feminists will be a lot harder for the right to dismiss if we engage in open conversation across the aisle. At its best, the Vagenda has been great at doing this – as in a couple of posts a while back dealing with the politics of sexual consent from different feminist perspectives. Maybe writers like MB need to be invited to contribute here so that they can hear back from, and engage in conversations with, self-identified feminists.

  4. I’m very VERY wary of any so called moral difference in the sexes, but that research sounds really interesting. It’s certainly true that philosophy has always been dominated by male thinking.

  5. i was saddened and annoyed by the article because it left far too many things that needed correcting in her assumptions of feminism. but i BOILED with rage once i started reading the comments. it has only been in the last few years that i have started to understand the profound impact feminism has had on society that has shaped my life and opportunities as i have grown up and am now passionate about furthering the cause until the sexes are truly equal. i, for one, am proud to be a feminist. she also needs the concept of Equity explained to her. Sometimes you need to raise one group higher than another for a time to allow them to eventually become equal. this is the same argument people have against preferential treatment for indigenous people in new zealand. they argue they have the same rights so therefore need nothing else to make them equal.

  6. Excellent article SM!
    My favourite comment from the HUFFPOST article (from Janet, who I presume may be a woman):

    “Thank you for being the light of sanity in an otherwise pure hatred man hating subject “

    Yeh, cause like, we feminists hate all men. That’s why I couldn’t ever love my father, my boyfriend, or my male best friend. Also, I’m pretty sure the phrase ‘pure hatred man hating subject’ isn’t proper English!

  7. Of course her argument is so full of holes that if it were a jumper, Oxfam wouldn’t take it. It simply isn’t possible to argue that men and women are equal and to NOT be a feminist (especially if people are paying attention to you and not immediately dismissing you on the grounds of being a lady). She’s one of those people who you occasionally meet at parties who either a) back down in about 5 minutes of explorative discussion (so… do you have a job? Do you have an opinion? Are you educated? DO YOU EVER WEAR TROUSERS?) or b) absolutely refuse to listen to anything because she likes wearing false eyelashes and gaining self-validation from the reactions of men.

    Not that I have anything against false eyelashes, obvs.

    Also I think the argument re: glamour models is inherently flawed – it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the breast element of it (more nudity everywhere please!) but rather how it’s dictated by society, and the repercussions that it has. It’s rather hypocritical to rail against the choices that these women make, but we have to examine what has led them there, and whether the decision to, say, look like barbies, is a result of inequality in society.

  8. Recently, my brother was bought a car for his 17th birthday. I, a 21 year old female, was never bought a car for my 17th birthday and instead worked to pay for the insurance/driving lessons/ vehicle myself. My father’s excuse for this was that I was a girl, and, had I been a boy I would have had a car bought for me- boys have a special relationship with cars you see, a car is a ‘boy’ thing. It may seem like a petty family argument to many, and in many ways it is. But my argument was not about the physical gift of a car (I was not a screaming, foot-stomping toddler wanting a present) but the unjust fact that my lack of a car was due to my lack of a penis- and this notion was perfectly acceptable to my father and brothers. When I dared utter the word ‘feminism’ during said argument, all males involved rolled around laughing and making comments about crazy and uncontrollable women who cannot calm down and are hysterically nagging and whinging when everything is actually fine the way it is. I was even handed a lighter, so that I may go outside and burn my bra.

    It is therefore, so damaging for MB to continute to cultive this feminist stereotype as she does in this article and to show feminism in a negative, hysterical light. It means that men like my father and my brother believe that it is OK to laugh at the concept because they believe it is the product of ‘madness’- and that it’s also OK to dismiss it because, look! A WOMAN is dismissing it too. Any argument for equality therefore has the scope to be laughed at; as if instead of asking for equality, a woman has asked for a pet cheetah and a chocolate teapot.

  9. “The one good thing about feminism is that, being female, I am allowed to weigh in on this discussion without being told that my sex doesn’t entitle me to an opinion.”

    And with this one sentence she manages to invalidate her entire opinion piece that she has written for a paper that promotes the opinions of writers and indeed, she has managed to blow her own opinion on feminism out of the water entirely.


  10. Please, I can’t be the only one that was angry about this:
    “In order to restore feminism to its once powerful, transformative status, it needs to be extended to countries that are still decades behind the Western world in terms of women’s liberation.”
    No one else see this as a mini-bit colonialist? Maybe my interpretation, but it came across as a teensy bit patronising.
    Not to mention all the comments saying that feminists should do something useful instead of moaning, for example about FGM and domestic violence… cue shouting “if you think its important, YOU do something instead of pointlessly moaning on the internet”
    *goes off to do something useful (and feminist, whilst wearing stompy boots) instead of pointlessly moaning on the internet*

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  12. “Pity that the 40 year old Equal Pay Act hasn’t quite worked.”

    It has. It is illegal for any company to discriminate pay rates based on gender, If you have the same job title, work the same number of hours and have the same holiday entitlement, you are paid equal. Full stop. The article that you linked to (and every other article that cites whatever % of gender pay gap there is remaining) does not take into account a number of important factors:

    1) From the ages of 22-39, men and women are paid equally. Only the figure drops afterwards because women typically bear children and leave full-time employment to raise their kids, with many leaving full-time work altogether thereafter.

    2) The gender wage gap studies take in *median* amounts per gender, rather than comparing them equally. This means that these figures are a result of comparing part-time female nursing staff to male corporate executives, as an example. When you look at the hard data, when women and men work in the same field, under the same title, with the same number of hours, NO GENDER WAGE GAP EXISTS. Oops.

    *Hard data here*:

    3) The reason why there are fewer women in ‘power’ positions both in the public and private sector is due to the fact that women have children and are typically the primary care provider. You can argue why this is, but the fact is that is, well, the way it is (far too many is’, I know). This counts for all classes, however there will always be more in the working class as middle-upper class women that choose to work full-time over being full-time caregivers for their kids. And what of women who are entitled to longer maternity leave over male paternity leave? This of course accounts for more men contributing more working hours, and working more overtime, to provide for their families. Saying that, even the Swedish who have had shared parental leave see the fathers only taking up only 22% of the shared leave after 40 years of child-rearing equality having been made available to both sexes.

    As for your final paragraph, since when did it become an accepted thing to do to slap labels on people based on dictionary definitions, when the labels in question are nominally self-ascribed political/social/philosophical ideologies? Feminism also has definitions that emphasize the ‘advocacy of women’s rights’, when perhaps any one person might label themselves as an egalitarian instead, as they may not see the need for advocacy of women’s rights in the West. Or are we speaking of nebulous rights, such as a woman’s right to not be sexually objectified? When we speak of women’s rights, what other legal battles are there to bring equality to the sexes, given that there is no gender wage gap, men are actually raped MORE than women, and when women are viewed upon more favorably than men in family courts and other areas of law. Add to the fact that men and women initiate domestic violence in virtually equal measure, and you have no reason to be a feminist.

    Conversely I could tell you that if you didn’t believe in a god, you are a de facto atheist. But that argument is tried and tested to be false, as people have the freedom of choice to label themselves as belonging to any group in particular, and many what you would consider ‘textbook’ atheists to not claim to be atheist. And given that modern feminism can be considered as largely ineffectual at addressing very real, and actually important issues (such as the importance of feminism in third-world countries where women are legally considered to be lower class citizens with fewer inalienable rights), it’s no wonder that although people may believe in gender equality, they do not affiliate with feminism and do not wish to be labelled as such. Myself included.

    Just a thought.

  13. actually, and speaking as a black man, I have for the last twenty years been saying that for feminism to be taken seriously they have to start taking their protests to Africa and asia. of course feminists won’t do so because it is easier to rant and rave about women in the uk making choices they don’t like.