"My response to the “I am not a feminist” internet phenomenon….
First of all, it’s clear you don’t know what feminism is. But I’m not going to explain it to you. You can google it. To quote an old friend, “I’m not the feminist babysitter.”
But here is what I think you should know.
You’re insulting every woman who was forcibly restrained in a jail cell with a feeding tube down her throat for your right to vote, less than 100 years ago.
You’re degrading every woman who has accessed a rape crisis center, which wouldn’t exist without the feminist movement.
You’re undermining every woman who fought to make marital rape a crime (it was legal until 1993).
You’re spitting on the legacy of every woman who fought for women to be allowed to own property (1848). For the abolition of slavery and the rise of the labor union. For the right to divorce. For women to be allowed to have access to birth control (Comstock laws). For middle and upper class women to be allowed to work outside the home (poor women have always worked outside the home). To make domestic violence a crime in the US (It is very much legal in many parts of the world). To make workplace sexual harassment a crime.
In short, you know not what you speak of. You reap the rewards of these women’s sacrifices every day of your life. When you grin with your cutsey sign about how you’re not a feminist, you ignorantly spit on the sacred struggle of the past 200 years. You bite the hand that has fed you freedom, safety, and a voice.
In short, kiss my ass, you ignorant little jerks.”
One of the strangest anti-feminist stereotypes to me – among the Birkenstock-wearing and bra-burning – is the idea that we’re unhappy. Angry. Bitter. Both because the foundation of the insult is the assumption that women should be perpetually happy, and because the truth is that the culture doesn’t actually mind if women are unhappy – so long as we keep it to ourselves.
Women’s distress directed inward – from eating disorders to feelings of inadequacy – keeps the status quo moving along, with diet pills selling through the roof and women asking for promotions far less often than their male counterparts. But when our dissatisfaction takes an outward turn, people get uncomfortable. Then, women’s emotions are “hysterical” or over-the-top. Anything less than a bubbly disposition means that we’re “bitches”. Hell hath no fury like a man who finds a woman displeasing.
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I’ve been thinking about how appalled Westerners are at the idea that Muslim women supposedly can only uncover in front of their husbands. Needless to say, this isn’t true - women who wear hijab can uncover in front of anyone except for men they’re not closely related or married to. But this fixation on which men get to see you leads me to think that liberation, in this simplistic view, first and foremost is about being exposed to (and presumably affirmed by) the male gaze you can be. It really shouldn’t be that way. Female bodies aren’t public property so while agency to decide one way or the other is important, the normativity with which a subjection to a male gaze is prescribed as liberating is problematic.