Now, let me back up to the month of November 2012 when I posted a video titled “Why I’m No Longer a Feminist”:
Probably would help if I added a bit of background information on who I am and what my experience with feminism involved. I originally became aware of feminism’s existence during teenagehood, though I had no direct exposure to it back then aside from television programs and talk in glossy magazines marketed to girls (like Cosmo and Glamour). During my freshman year in college (1999-2000), I purchased my first computer and discovered feminism in greater detail online. Now, I was attending school at Mississippi State University and wasn’t all that sociable with others, so at that time delving into feminism was pretty much strictly limited to the internet, though my husband (now ex) considered himself a feminist and we did discuss topics pertaining to that movement. We both come up with and embraced a libertarian spirit (as products of the same small county), which then dovetailed into supporting women’s rights to do with their own bodies as they see fit.
I remember becoming aware of NARAL and NOW online back when they were offering free kits to anyone who asked that included pro-choice literature and posters to put up around campus, but like I said we lived in Mississippi and my husband staunchly put his foot down on this due to the likelihood of this leading me to be targeted and given hell. This was at a time when there were no abortion clinics in the state, though I am told there now is one.
So I contented myself with learning and reading online, which is when I first came up against a band of feminists who really threw their weight around and ridiculed me and let it be clearly understood that I was naive and ignorant and should sit back and listen and read rather than speak up and interfere. That would’ve been when I was 19. So for a while that’s what I did. I read and listened and a couple years went by.
I moved up to the Midwest once again when I was 21 after my husband and I decided to split. As a young woman single once again, the world appeared to be my oyster, and I went about earning a living and picking back up on continuing my education. Continued reading and listening and then jumped back into the feminist arguments, again mostly online despite living in a much larger, more open-minded city. The reason for that probably has a lot to do with me not knowing a lot of women in person, and those I do know and get along with don’t consider themselves feminists necessarily and aren’t too interested in discussing those sorts of topics. The feminists I did run up against in academia or out in society didn’t seem to have much patience with me or my questions, so not much in-person dialogue took place that I can remember. Wasn’t involved in any local groups and didn’t attend any rallies. Most of my friends tend to be male, and we did and still do discuss feminism from time to time, but the breadth of their understanding of it was that it pertained to women’s reproductive rights, which they all pretty much support. Mostly I tell them what I’ve learned and they take it in. When I’ve asked how feminism has affected their lives, most stated that they don’t see really how it has, aside from being reared to be respectful toward women (as was the norm long before feminism came into existence). So, not much drama occurred there. Had a few verbal bar feuds, as to be expected when we drunks get to running our mouths.
But when I went back online and decided to really get into what all was being said and to speak my piece, I found out just how unpopular my beliefs were. One major source of contention between myself and many feminists I interacted with online revolved around the question of sexual agency. While on one hand they argued that we women have so much power, on the other and at the same time they spoke a great deal about us being victims to violence men can and do inflict upon us, particularly rape. Now, I don’t feel like going into much detail here on my experiences in dealing with men or what life has taught me, but I will say that I’ve always been a strong advocate for women arming themselves and becoming well-acquainted with their weapon of choice so as to be properly able and willing to use it if needed. Seems to me that cuts down significantly on worrying about being victimized when you are in possession of an equalizer. Doesn’t even have to be a gun; tasers and stun guns work too, as do knives and brass knuckles and whatever else happens to be handy. Well, you wouldn’t believe how unpopular of a position that apparently is in some feminist circles. Holy cow.
Now, combine that with my hesitation in accepting the notion that women should walk around scantily clad and expect no repercussions at all (that’s not to say we deserve to be attacked, not at all, but cat-calling is predictable) and you might imagine where those fights led. I still struggle to see their logic, because to me, if I’m out walking around in public half-naked I’d expect back then to have to deal with men’s come-ons. And because I’m no fool when it comes to understanding how some men will treat you when you appear young, dumb, and defenseless, I did make an effort to protect myself. Hell, even a canned air horn is something to consider to draw attention from others if you’re afraid and being confronted by a strange person. My point was that there are options, though I also certainly know that walking around scantily clad isn’t the only way to wind up receiving unwanted male attention. But the issue made over the right to self-defense really stuck in my craw when dealing with a lot of feminists because they were arguing in favor of gun control, which to me seems completely antithetical to their professed goal of remaining safe and secure. If a woman wants to remain safe, why not take power into your hands and do what you can to ensure it? That was my primary argument there. But many of them had jumped on the liberal bandwagon and the Democratic Party pushes for gun control, so they then followed in suit, and I don’t feel very many critically considered what they were advocating there. Because basically that’s arguing in favor of a situation where you have to rely on police protection, and one thing I do know is cops can’t be everywhere all at once. Depending on what neighborhood you live in, they might not even show up after being called. Besides, police are part of a retributive justice system, which is to say they seek out people who have already committed a crime. And my experience dealing with police has shown me that their response can be a mixed bag. Sometimes they care. Sometimes they don’t. Depends on which officer is on duty that day, I suppose. And they surely don’t want to receive a call every time someone feels creeped out by someone else who has not yet perpetrated a crime.
From there we went on to argue about prostitution and pornography and women’s agency in regard to being involved in those forms of employment. There’s lots of disagreement within feminism in relation to the sex industry, though many feminists appeared to take the position that women cannot freely engage in such work because they are being exploited, and even to desire to do such work is a sign of past psychological damage within the woman in question. So, if she wants to earn money engaging in sexual acts, she’s sick or seriously misguided and therefore lacks the agency to decide that for herself, but if she wants to “ho around” for free, that’s perfectly acceptable and nobody better talk bad about it. Okay. That makes no sense whatsoever.
The minority of feminists in support of sex work, those today referred to as “sex positive” feminists (which is a weird label, IMO), argued from the position that sex work somehow leveled the playing field between men and women, as if that were the preferable arrangement for any two people interested in seeking out sex. Some bolstered this with economic arguments, stating that the money is good so therefore that makes it worthwhile to pursue — basically benjamins speak and they listen. And let me say that plenty of the so-called “sex positive” feminists strike me as a bit kooky in their defense of sluttiness. And I don’t mean that to be mean necessarily, just an honest observation, because I see there as being more sides to the argument than feminists were bringing up. Either they’re victims in a male-dominated society or they’re empowered, money-making freak hos doing nothing of greater consequence than businessmen — no in between, no third or fourth possibilities, no deeper thought given to the intricacies of how using one’s body in so intimate a way affects the participants involved in such a transaction. And that’s about where I’d had enough and began backing toward the door. That would’ve been about 2007.
But there were many discussions throughout those years, such as women’s roles in the military, women’s advancement in businesses (with lots of griping and complaining that there aren’t more female CEOs), discussions among ethnic women about how mainstream feminism caters primarily to middle-class white women’s interests (which I do believe was true originally, though ethnic middle-class, college-educated women are being actively brought into the fold nowadays), socioeconomic class divisions with lots of talk on how to allot resources to the poor, the perceived imbalance of educational choices, and, of course, the ongoing debate about whether a stay-at-home mom supported by her husband’s income can even consider herself to be a feminist. I read a lot of people’s opinions, followed countless links and tried to make sense of an untold number of academic journal articles written by self-described feminists. The jargon employed within their movement got to where it turned me off, because patriarchy is a central tenet that you can’t get past, can’t deny, and can’t resolve to virtually anyone’s satisfaction.
What is patriarchy? I’ve come to see it as the old way, meaning the several-thousand-year period marked by societies and cultures being shaped, in part, by special attention paid to patrilineal lineage. That era only recently began to dissolve (100+ years back), something commonly attributed to the first wave of feminists in their securing for women the right to vote, though I tend to believe it was waning prior to that. Why? I don’t know. Probably because religions were already beginning to slowly die out, Abrahamic religions having provided the great narrative for patriarchal societies. With the lessening of that stronghold, cultures become more flexible and paradigms begin to shift. But with change comes chaos, so the trade-off brings with it growing pains.
What we’re left with today is a weird hodge-podge constructed in a past that no longer seems as relevant, updated and retooled again and again since the 1940s by men and women with new objectives, and no one seems to know where to steer this ship. Generally speaking, feminists place what I consider an unwarranted amount of faith in the State and centralized power to realize their dreams and to provide for their protection. Many men seem unsure of what their role is supposed to be anymore, and I can sympathize with their confusion and feelings of being left out of a meaningful position in the new narrative others are busily constructing for the future of society. I feel left out too, but in a different way. I feel like once all the talk about rights settles down, we’ll be left to realize we dropped the ball on our responsibilities to one another, especially a lot of women who believed the horrible Disney-fied lie that they could have it all (a committed partner, children, a demanding career, a healthy sex life, an active social life, exotic vacations, a fulfilling existence and time to enjoy it). They’re being run ragged by their own selves, and it shows. More than that, it affects everyone around them. When locked up in an echo chamber one comes to believe they’re on the right path, but what is it a path to? A fantasy is all it is. And not even that great of one when you really stop and think about it.
When I first took up interest in feminism, it was because I believed in my right to do with my own body as I see fit, and I still feel that way as much, if not more, today. What I discovered I didn’t want to sign up for or take part in was this great lie, this massive experiment in social distortion supposedly in favor of women but in the end appearing to not be truly in favor of hardly anyone. Men are not automatically our enemies, though specific individuals may prove to be, and the same holds true vice versa. Most men are no more guilty of upholding “patriarchy” than are most women, even self-professed feminists. The problem isn’t in men universally, it’s in people, all of us. History swings back and forth over time, favoring some more than others in any given period, but we were all simply born into it and none of us are responsible for having created the past. All we can do now is move forward, and I think that’s a discussion that needs to be brought out to include everyone, not just this sex or that one. This group or movement or that one doesn’t get to decide the fate of all going forward. No. That’s ludicrous. That, in itself, is bigoted, because it pretends that members belonging to one affiliation or another are necessarily more “enlightened” and therefore in the best position to decide for everyone. But plenty of us are deeply unhappy with the options being handed to us and we reject this queer “utopia” others seem intent on striving toward and dragging everyone else along in tow.
There’s plenty more I can say on the topic of feminism, but it will have to wait until another night.