Dear Women Against Feminism,
First, thank you for reading this and for listening (assuming that you are, or that someone else out there that empathizes with your Tumblr account is). It sometimes takes a lot of energy and gumption to jump into the fray with opinions you know many people will disagree with. It takes even more energy to engage in the conversation that follows. You have my utmost respect and appreciation on both fronts.
I read many of the posts and looked through your images. Plus I read your “why I am Anti-Feminism” page, your “How to be a Tumblr Feminist Crash Course,” and your “You call THIS oppression?” page (Note: some of these pages have been removed since this community has gotten more media coverage). I’m digesting, for sure. There’s a lot of content to take in here. Nevertheless, I feel ready to respond.
Let me begin with something weird and off-topic: the United States federal government. If I asked the first 10 people I came into contact with on the street right now what the federal government should be responsible for, I would get 10 completely different answers. One person might say, “Education, protection (military) and the federal reserve.” Another person might say, “Create jobs, support the arts, and provide a social safety net.” Still another person might say, “Nothing. Get out of my wallet. Get out of my bedroom.” There’s tons of disagreement on what falls under the purview of the federal government. But that doesn’t mean that the federal government doesn’t currently function or serve a purpose. And, as citizens, we don’t throw up our hands screaming, “I don’t know what you’re about!” and post Tumblrs saying we’re Anti-American – or at least most of us don’t.
You argue through several different posts that feminists can’t all agree on what feminism is supposed to mean. That’s because the issues and problems feminism attempts to address are big and complicated. It’s not exactly like the federal government, but, similarly, feminism does try to make the world a better, more fair and safe place for EVERYONE. That’s right. Everyone. Maybe we could get more done if all of us agreed on exactly what we should do, but having dissenting opinions and voices helps keep the movement fresh and healthy.
Back to that “everyone” for a second – feminism is good for all people. You claim in several places that feminism only addresses the issues of women at the expense of men. But, that’s simply wrong. The more talented and capable women in the work place and in positions of leadership, the better it is for our economy. The healthier women are, the lower our healthcare costs are all around. The more educated women are, the more minds we’ll have to solve our greatest challenges. The safer women are, the better all our lives will be in our families and in our communities. This isn’t a zero-sum game. We’re not in the business of reducing or stealing opportunities away from men. We’re trying to make the world a more equitable place so that our best and brightest can do their life’s work and pursue their happiness regardless of their genders.
You say in several places (like here) that:
A lot of feminists seem to think they have been appointed the Women Police who can then go around shaming other women for the things that are ‘not okay’. Makeup, shaving, wearing pink, and more are all ‘crimes against feminism’ and punishable by social attacks. Nearly every online feminist seems to be a petty dictator marching around and telling women what ‘true feminism’ is.
In any social movement or community, there are angry people that do a lot of shouting all over the internet. Democrats disagree with other democrats; republicans disagree with other republicans; the tea party started off as a fiscally conservative movement and morphed into a socially conservative movement practically overnight, and they still disagree over what they should be doing. Are there women who are easily offended on the internet? YES. Do some of them identify as feminists? YES. But, there are people that go on angry, misinformed rampages every day on the internet from every paradigm and cause imaginable. Saying you don’t like feminism because people say unreasonable things on the internet is like saying, “I don’t like any vegetables at all because I had canned asparagus once and it was pretty gross.”
There are extremists; there are people who are totally unreasonable; there are people that act like victims. They are present in EVERY movement. Does that mean the movement has no value because their terms have been co-opted and their intentions have been twisted by a small minority? If it does, there isn’t a single movement around today in the United States that people would stand behind.
Here are some reasons why I need feminism:
1. There is a persistent gender pay gap. You claim this is a myth and that it all comes down to career choice, but if you take the time to disaggregate the data and analyze salaries by gender and industry which the Bureau of Labor Statistics has conveniently done for us, you’ll see that your claim is patently false. Full time working women make only 77% of what their male counterparts earn. According to the Pew Research Center: “This means that women have to work approximately 60 extra days, or about three months, to earn what men did by the end of the previous year.” Don’t trust me? Watch the video here.
2. There are significant health care disparities between men and women. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in this country. Yet, according to womenshealth.gov, “Women having a heart attack are twice as likely as men to be wrongly sent away from the hospital.” Did you know that men receive faster care than women for heart attacks? Here’s an interesting statistic from a story by ABC News: “While nearly 50 percent of doctors prescribed heart medication for men, only 13 percent prescribed it for women.”
3. Women are struggling to get access to reproductive healthcare. I realize that many of the people who post on and enjoy “Women Against Feminism” may be pro-life. (There are groups of pro-life feminists, by the way.) So, maybe abortion or birth control of any sort are not acceptable in your moral universe. However, whether we care to acknowledge it or not, our bodies are politicized, and we don’t yet have the freedom to choose to do with our own bodies what is right for us, or even what doctors would recommend for us. So, even if you’re okay with women NOT having full authority over their own bodies, I think we can probably all agree the doctors should at least take part in deciding what’s safe, necessary and healthy for us.
4. Violence against women and rape are not cut-and-dry, settled issues. Yes, they are crimes. No, they do not get investigated and prosecuted to ensure the safety of women. And, I realize you’re skeptical of statistics and data. But, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) only 3% of rapists will actually go to jail. And, here’s a crazy fact — 31 states in the United States allow rapists to sue for custody and visitation rights of children that are the result of their rape. The implications of this – that a man could rape a woman and get her pregnant, not suffer any legal consequences, and then go on to sue for custody later – unsettles me and many, many other women. Not to mention, our elected officials — the people responsible for establishing the laws and policies that impact women and men — say things like, “Some girls rape easy,” and draw strange and false distinctions between types of rape with labels like “legitimate rape” or “forcible rape.” These biases undermine our system of justice. Imagine for a second saying with a straight face, “some kids murder easy.”
5. Women are unequally portrayed in the media. I assume you watch TV and movies, right? Check out this quote from Melissa Silverstein in an article for IndieWire:
In a brand new five-year study from Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, Elizabeth Scofield, & Dr. Katherine Pieper at the USC Annenberg Center, they found that ‘females are grossly underrepresented on screen in 2012 films. Out of 4,475 speaking characters onscreen, only 28.4 percent are female.’ And it also should be no surprise that when a female is present, she is usually younger than the male character. Overall, for every single female character we see onscreen, we see 2.5 male characters. The study goes on to say that women make up only 16.7 per cent of the 1,228 directors, writers and producers across the 100 top-grossing films of 2012. Women accounted for 4.1 per cent of directors, 12.2 per cent of writers and 20 percent of producers. The grim news is that for every woman working behind the scenes in 2012, five dudes were employed.
Here are some additional statistics to chew on. The implications of this are that our stories, our cultural identity and our historical legacy will be missing. Isn’t that troublesome? Don’t you want to do something about that?
The issues above are just the tip of the iceberg. And, they are not about victimization. The facts and figures cited here are not overblown.
Let’s just get down to brass tacks. If you believe:
- people should get paid the same amount for the same quality and amount of work,
- when someone starts experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, they deserve to be taken seriously at the hospital,
- medical doctors and specialists ought to be able to decide to take the best course of action and prescribe medications that are right for their patients,
- violence and rape are wrong and our legal system ought to prosecute offenders of these crimes,
- our culture has insights, creativity, entertainment and wisdom to pass onto future generations and the more variety of voices and stories, the better…
…then I’m so sorry to break this to you. You actually share some core feminist beliefs. The very act of going onto the internet to share your opinion is a display of feminism at work! The differences between us then are semantics and confirmation bias. While you’re spending your time arguing the definition of feminism (despite what the dictionary says) and staging a witch hunt for people that are writing angry tumblr posts to validate your beliefs, you could actually be pursuing real equality and change.
Turns out, I have a lot to say on this, but I won’t keep you too much longer. There’s just a little bit more. The thing is — wow — your Tumblr account sounds so angry! It’s hard for me to understand where all that anger comes from. Maybe because feminism itself stands in a personal space adjacent to sex, beauty and attraction, romantic relationships, relationships between mothers and daughters, families, and daily work, people naturally will take it personally in any direction they want. They might feel energized and connected or threatened and judged, and all kinds of things in between, above and below.
Based on just some of your posts, you’re angry enough that you won’t accept discussions on what feminism actually is, and you don’t trust any of the statistics we cite to demonstrate our need for feminism. I know I can’t convince you to change your mind. And, I’m not asking you to. But, I do want to say this:
Hi. I respect you and your thoughts – even if you don’t respect mine. I’m here for a conversation or a debate any day of the week. I’m not weak willed, and I’ve got a pretty tough skin. I’ve got an open mind and I’ll take all of your thoughts and ideas seriously. If it’s not me you’re looking for, I can refer you to MANY brilliant, empathetic, and damn funny feminists that will respect you and talk to you about any and all of this. I put this open offer on the table because this is complicated stuff. And, if all of us are going to keep learning and upping our game – whatever that game might be – we’re gonna need to face challengers from the other side. Give me your best shot at a real dialogue. I promise – you won’t be disappointed.