I’m not a feminist

I don’t label myself as a feminist. But why, given all the inequalities that women have to suffer?

Say you identify yourself as a feminist. Somewhere in the world, there are feminists who show nude breasts for political purposes. You and many others might not approve of this. Now, each time you present yourself as a feminist, you might have to debate such radical actions before you can talk about what matters to you. It just deviates the conversation. This would not happen if you just stated your opinion without “as a feminist, I think…”

Then there is the blurry definition of gender equality. Does it mean that we must have gender quotas for hiring? Does it mean that we must make gender irrelevant in the olympics? Even feminists do not agree. I don’t want people to assume that I hold the same opinions as other feminists, because we might disagree on a few things. I want people to ask me “what do you think, Anna?”

There is also the abuse. I personally believe that some feminists have misused the movement for their personal gain (fame, control over other people’s actions, street cred, etc.) Some feminists were also very aggressive and sometimes unlawful. These people left a very negative impression on me and it would be a shame for me to say that I’m in the same group. Thankfully, these are a minority.

Finally, it’s the specificity. Feminists say that the world is unjust to women. It’s true, but I have seen about as much injustice towards people of lower social status, towards disabled people, towards ethnic minorities, etc. As much as they claim that they fight for equality for all, their actions are usually targeting gender and occasionally sexuality. Most people have a problem with the idea of promoting a specific group, instead of promoting good in general: honesty, kindness, justice, tolerance, etc.

You can do a lot of good without being a feminist, just like you can be a decent human being without being Christian. By calling myself a feminist, I have absolutely nothing to gain other than the approval of my peers. However, I stand a lot to lose due to the few loud penis-hating and egotistical bigots who are giving the movement a bad reputation.

I just want to promote my own values with my own words and actions. I don’t want to depend on anyone. I want to have the flexibility to change my opinions in light of new arguments. I don’t care for any “isms”.

Edit: There is something that a lot of people seem to have missed. I agree with the core of feminism and work towards the same goal. I refuse to call myself one in order to enable less polarized conversations about sensitive topics. I’m quite saddened that people twisted the meaning of my words in order to have someone to hate (which kinda proved my main point).

19 thoughts on “I’m not a feminist

  1. mynameisinthemail

    Recently I found something very interesting out:

    I talked to my mom about my childhood and since she worked in her own shop (something craftsmanship related), had a equal income and a relatively modern relationship the whole gendertopic was never ever a talkingpoint in our household. My parents did work completely differnt jobs, had both their own income with totally different focus in their life. I guess, income and equality wise, that was a good prototype for what some feminists wish for.
    But one thing I never ever heard from her, and she would have had a lot to complain about, given she worked in a bussines that was 90% male dominated: A complaint about her “rights” as woman that were diminished by men that used some boysnetwork in order to keep a woman out. I asked her why and she said it would not help anything. It’s not that these things are not out there, but some things can not be changed by protest, they must be changed by action. And some people seem to mix up protest with action. Which rarely is the same!

    This is why you dont find me in the “feminist boys” corner: I have never been teached reality is just a thing you accept, it’s something you create/choose and change.

    • I find that most people don’t want to be told what to do or how to think. They want to decide themselves what’s right or wrong. The more pressure you apply, the more resistance you will get.

      The best way to change people’s behavior is by showing a good example and by giving your opinion. Just tell them what you think in a nice way (don’t make them feel bad) and let them decide later.

  2. Pancakes

    You can do a lot of good without being a feminist, just like you can be a decent human being without being Christian.

    Although Christians are probably some of the worst human beings on this planet, historically or otherwise.

    On a side note good for you. There is no need to pigeon hole yourself to any type of label, specifically one that seems to be less about empowerment and more about general man hating. Whenever I see the words “white male” used in a detrimental way its usually by a self described feminist in “tech”. You know the ones, no actual development background, usually a “tech” blogger, just another irrelevant human standing on the sidelines of an industry they hardly understand and certainly don’t belong.

  3. “Although Christians are probably some of the worst human beings”

    I can’t say that a religion makes anybody worse or better. On any side, the loudest people are the most memorable, which biases our opinions about the group.

    “no actual development background, usually a tech blogger”

    Some feminists are actually very good programmers and not always female. I tend not to assume about programming skills when I read feminist blogs. I just focus on the message instead of the person, unless their experience (or lack of it) is relevant to the conversation.

  4. A.J. Kandy

    Anna, I understand the reticence to use labels, be labelled, or subscribe to -isms. That said, I have to say I am taken aback at your sweeping generalizations and seeming lack of knowledge of who feminists are, what feminism is about, what it does, and has done, and why it’s important, not least for women in engineering and technology.

    I will leave it to others to refute your misconceptions, but here’s one specific one, that feminists hate men. I’m a man, and I’m a feminist (or at the very least, a feminist ally). Do I hate myself? Obviously not.

    Feminism, like many social movements, has wings and branches and contains many sub-groups within it. And individuals vary, of course. Some people are outspoken and ‘notorious’ and others just work behind the scenes, day to day, trying to improve the lives of others.

    There are conflicts and contradictions, to be sure, but that does not negate the need to interrogate our society’s assumptions about gender, nor does it mean that patriarchy is not a real thing that exists and is demonstrably holding society back.

    • “I will leave it to others to refute your misconceptions, but here’s one specific one, that feminists hate men.”

      I did not suggest this. I said that feminists have diverging opinions on some topics. I actually know feminists who hate men. Whether they are true feminists is irrelevant. They label themselves as such and this is all that matters to the public. They’re a minority, but they are one of the reasons why it’s so hard to talk about gender nowadays.

      “but that does not negate the need to interrogate our society’s assumptions about gender”

      I’m not saying that the movement is pointless. I’m saying that I don’t want to label myself as a feminist because I feel that it hurts my ability to promote the values.

      • A.J. Kandy

        Pardon me if I misconstrued your point.

        So are you saying you agree with the general aims of feminism – the bread-and-butter issues like; pay equality; gender equality; reproductive rights; equal access to education; the right to vote; paid parental leave; a livable minimum wage; the right to be treated as a person, and not as property or objects; and the right to live in safety, without fear?

        Then surprise: You just might be a feminist.

        It seems like the thing you object to is being tarred by association with a handful of extremists, who, here and there, excel at grabbing headlines.

        (Personally, if you hang out with people who would make that into an issue — I would get better friends.)

        I’m no conspiracy theorist, but the news media like to chase the shiny distracting thing and (sadly) have ventured into the business of pitting people against each other in pointless argumentation, so they love to point out these extremes, because it makes for “good tv” or whatever.

        In practice, this focus distracts people from the bread-and-butter issues of feminism…. and, at least in the US, it’s possibly because news sponsors are companies who benefit from paying people a less than living wage, denying them healthcare benefits and parental leave, and leaving it to taxpayers to clean up the inevitable mess.

        You and I both live in Quebec, which, compared to many jurisdictions, is a very socially progressive state; one could argue that feminism is part of what shapes our laws and civil society. I personally would not want to turn back the clock and I suspect you wouldn’t either.

        There is still a lot of work to be done to make society fairer and more egalitarian, and as we’ve seen this week, toxic misogyny will not go gently; it has to be engaged with and defeated, for everyone’s sake.

        If it’s not your fight, fine. It doesn’t have to be everyone’s. Not everyone needs to be a professional activist.

        But I don’t see how making the “feminist” label something to be feared, and in doing so, undercutting the good-faith efforts of others, helps anybody. Respectfully, it seems like you’re playing into the strategy of people who would rather defeat those aims, and turn the clock back.

  5. C Thompson

    I don’t know you, but felt compelled to comment because this post made me feel rather sad and dejected. Not sure what set of forces in your world brought you to post this, but is is disheartening given all the things in the world that are truly deserving of criticism, you instead spent your time and words criticizing feminism.

    I am sure if I asked you, you would not really consider the couple of French fashion models who occasionally bare their breasts as a publicity stunt as actually “radical actions” as you state. If we discussed the discrimination, abuse, rape and death that women suffer daily around the world due only to their sex — you would consider those to be actual “radical actions.” And I an sure that in conversation you would not allow the trivial to deviate the conversation from the substantive.

    Nor do I think that you would consider argumentation techniques like exact definitions or hypothetical conditions to be trivial compared to important issues like pay, safety and access were there is still progress is still needed. Given that it is only in the last 100 years that women have won basic rights you take for granted, you surely know the distance women have come and also that there is still a ways to go.

    And I don’t think you actually believe people who seek specific improvements for specific groups are in opposition to doing good in general. The general good improves because many individuals work toward specific improvements they care about. Everyone is for the general good, so saying you are is saying nothing.

    I would be interested to know more about the feminists who were selfish, aggressive and sometimes unlawful that left a very negative impression on you. Perhaps you have had an unusual experience, but I wonder about the actual equivalence of these people’s actions compared to what feminism seeks to change.

    Finally, I would hope that you would think deeply about your statement that you have absolutely nothing to gain from feminism other than the approval of my peers. You seem to have a desire to gain independence from some people around you due to some unknown pressures. Hopefully you can still embrace you connection to women everywhere and the general goals for improving womens lives — that’s feminism.

  6. To be clear, I wholeheartedly agree with the core of feminism. I just refuse to call myself one.

    By dropping the label, I am able to promote these values better. This is because the label causes me to be associated with people who do bad things*. I know that these haters are a minority, but they give feminism a bad rep, so I’d rather not use the tainted label if I want people to listen to me.

    Just because I’m not on a team doesn’t mean that I’m an enemy. I’m actually doing real work to help women, which is more than can be said for others who merely talk about it.


    *bad things: publicly calling me a child molester, hacking one of my sites, trolling my business partners, sabotaging my marketing campaigns, etc.

  7. Petah

    How the hell did this get into the Planet PHP feed.

    • @Petah Since I switched my domain name, Planet PHP picks up my entire feed instead of just the PHP tag. I contacted them countless times to fix this, but no response.

  8. foobaer

    Uhm, are you kinda confusing / mixing up feminism and femen? the later being that group of breast showing protesters

    • FEMEN is a protest group. Feminism is a movement that encompasses a large number of groups and individuals with a common goal.

  9. C Thompson

    I am sorry to hear about you bad experiences. I hope you will reconsider. You have made positive contributions to support and improve conditions for women in the technology field. That is important work. It is people like you that give feminism its good name. Label or no, keep up the good work.

  10. anonymous

    You’re not a feminist? That’s odd. I thought that no women are against it.

  11. Tom

    I think all the author is saying is that the definition of feminism has changed to mean: penis-hating and egotistical bigotry. This changed has occurred due to the negative stigma that has been created by a few radical feminists. I think the author still believes in the traditional definition of feminism regarding gender equality, but since the definition of feminism has changed to mean something entirely different, she no longer considers herself a feminist. Just trying to defend the author because this article really comes down to linguistics more than anything.

    • You understood my point perfectly!

  12. grainne

    I would just like to say, that having stumbled across your post on some research into similar issues I support your opinion, it is logical, unbiased, and cohesive. My own thoughts today have led me to ponder on the affect of “isms” as having a certain social capital” in certain circles, why would anyone let an ‘ism’ pigeon hole themselves into some section of a Venn diagram. kindness, goodness, and dignity should be entrusted to people not because of their so called sub group or ism but because they are a person. I like my equality free of exploitive ‘isms’.

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