Don’t Denounce Feminism if You Don’t Understand it

Recently, I stumbled upon The Thinking Housewife, a conservative-minded anti-feminist blog with a name so ironic, it hurts. Operated by one Laura Wood, the content of this corner of the web ranges from archaic (“Is College Necessary for Women?“) to downright ridiculous (“Feminism is a movement among men, to indulge women with more authority in the determination of public life”). Through the din of negativity and mind-boggling ignorance, I found a recent post that was not written by Wood, but by one of her readers. In it, the reader explains that her 17-year-old sister received a poor grade on an essay in a class on feminism, supposedly because she expressed views contrary to those of her teacher. Prompted by the semester’s topic, “Gender Oppression in the Modern Age: Is Feminism Still Viable in Modern Society?,” her essay concluded:

…I understand when I hear it said that feminism is no longer viable. I understand when I see that I have to wear tiny skirts and publicly visible underwear to reclaim my sexuality… I understand when I see women stuffed into business suits, irritably peeling the clinging fingers of their wailing children from their pinstriped skirts and ushering them into the waiting arms of daycare staff… I understand that feminism has no place in my life.

Both the student’s mother and the commenters on the article seemed to think that the poor grade was a personal injustice perpetrated because the girl dared to oppose the “teacher’s viewpoint.” They praise the girl for her good sense and accuse secondary education of being an “indoctrination machine”:

After extensive research on the subject (said ‘research’ being mostly whining about the poor, poor women), each student was to write an essay discussing in detail the subject, and what it means to her personally… As my sister has had a traditional upbringing… hers was by far the most interesting, most honest, and, of course, the lowest marked essay of the class. The teacher went so far to suggest that she have ‘catchup’ classes to better comprehend the topic.

Unfortunately, what this student and her supporters failed to divine is that the low grade most likely wasn’t given because the professor was offended by a 17-year-old’s point of view, but because the essay fails to fulfill both the criteria of the assignment and standard expectations for writing mechanics and essay structure at that grade level. Although compelling in language, it has no thesis statement, houses no facts, and neglects to offer even the slightest bit of objectivity in its description of the movement it so vehemently denounces. In a course whose purpose is the discussion of feminism and gender issues, Lucy Cat’s essay is tantamount to taking a class on the culture of Islam and submitting a paper describing the faith as a monstrous conduit of hate and jihad. It’s ridiculous.

Most importantly, it is obvious that she lacks any grasp of what feminism actually entails. She lists endless examples of what she apparently believes it to require: dressing provocatively to “reclaim sexuality,” dancing “like a stripper,” “children eating canned soup alone because Mommy is working late,” and “the downtrodden man” who is the victim of an independent wife’s lifestyle. But the purpose of feminism is not to mandate women to abandon their families, or to enforce a dress code, but to promote the shocking notion that women are individuals capable and deserving of making their own choices. For some, yes, this may mean business suits and long work hours- but they are no more villainous for that than any man who makes the same choice.

In the first half of her essay, it seems like she really gets it. “I understand [oppression] when I read of complaints that women are told how to act to be accepted, and I hate it,” she writes. Unfortunately, she fails to see that she is part of the oppression she rails against. Her judgment against working women, women in the military, women who don’t look feminine enough for her convenience, and even girls who want to play football, is scathing, ignorant, and more aggressively oppressive than any career path or wardrobe choice.

She cries that “Barely a day goes by when [she is] not oppressed, suffocated, smothered and pinned under a stifling oppression,” but she’s not the one being told to leave her job, abandon her personal preferences, passions, and opinions, and forsake her individuality for the sake of a being accepted by a system.

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14 thoughts on “Don’t Denounce Feminism if You Don’t Understand it

  1. I am not a fan of The Thinking Housewife; I find most of her views deplorable, but I do have some sympathy for Lucy Cat. Your post seems to suggest that feminism supports all women in whatever they choose to do; that isn’t the case. If the ERA is ever passed, women will be eligible for the draft, whether they want to be or not. Several prominent feminist writers- Simone de Beauvoir, for instance- have stated that women should not be allowed to be stay home mothers. Feminism is about achieving total equality at any cost; it isn’t about supporting individuality.

    • Hi there Judithann, thanks so much for your perspective! Feminism, like any ideology, is subject to interpretation by each individual. And unfortunately, just as there are those who err to extremes in politics and religion, there are those whose ideas of feminism swing dangerously close to misandry and/or undermine the spirit of true feminism. Simone de Beauvoir position’s on women in the workplace must be contextualized to be understood. And she is just one woman- a woman who for a very long time refused to associate herself with the feminist movement. Anyway, the point is that movements like feminism are difficult to pin down because their definitions vary so widely. But one thing is for sure- feminism seeks to eliminate the idea that women must behave certain ways, make certain lifestyle choices, or define themselves as one thing or another simply because they are women, or in order to be a “good” or “acceptable” woman.

      (As for the ERA, many would argue that the draft is already unfair to both genders in its implementation. Why would it be unfair to draft a woman against her will, but perfectly acceptable to draft a man? I know plenty of men who would be emotionally and physically unfit for military service, and plenty of women who would be excellent.)

      • Hello, Erin Marie, thank you for posting my comment. The point that you make about the unfairness of drafting men but not women illustrates my point about the nature of feminism: the main goal of feminism is to achieve total equality-fairness, if you prefer-without regard to what women might want as individuals. You say that feminism seeks to eradicate the idea that women must act in certain ways in order to be considered acceptable, but if you support the idea of drafting women, then you are requiring them to act in a certain way in order to be considered acceptable. Feminists who want to draft women want to use government force to impose their will on other women; that is why large numbers of women reject feminism. Ideally, I prefer to not be bossed around by anyone, but I would rather be bossed around by sexist American men than be bossed around by feminists- and the feminists who want to draft women are, most definitely, bossing other women around.

        As for the unfairness of drafting men but not women, even if all women were just as strong as all men, it would still be wrong to put women in combat because women get pregnant and men don’t. POWs are often tortured; whether they are male or female, they could also get raped, but only women get pregnant. Virtually every society that has ever existed has kept women out of combat for this reason: women in combat are not just risking their lives. They are also running the risk of becoming pregnant as a result of being raped; no woman should be forced to take that risk.

      • Hi there! Thanks again for your thoughts- this comment actually prompted a great discussion with my boyfriend on the topic, and has led me to the following conclusion:

        First, although I am obviously a feminist, this is a VERY recent development. A year ago, I was probably closer to being a misogynist than anything else; the word “feminism” left a bad taste in my mouth as I thought of whiny women with overinflated senses of entitlement. I had very backwards (but surprisingly mainstream) views on rape, sexuality, and power dynamics in everyday culture, and, for the most part, I found other women obnoxious- trying too hard to be “cool” and prove themselves, but clearly insecure and irritating. Clearly, a lot has changed since then, but the point is that I’m new to all this, and that I’m still figuring it all out.

        That being said, I think my earlier response was a bit misleading. Personally, I’m against the draft. I think it is ridiculous to force ANYONE into military service, regardless of gender. When I considered the ERA (a topic to which I was mostly oblivious until you mentioned it), I didn’t consider the implications of forcibly sending women into situations in which rape is unfortunately prevalent, even among our own troops. My knee-jerk reaction was to think this akin to telling women to not dress provocatively or go out alone at night because it could lead to them being raped. That mentality justifies rape culture and places the responsibility on the victim, rather than placing the burden of responsibility and change on those who commit rape and the society that condones attitudes of objectification. But I see now that there is a big difference between arguing that a woman should be able to do something without fear of being sexually abused, and forcing her into a situation in which sexual abuse is statistically a significant danger. Personally, I don’t want to use government force to impose military service on ANYONE, but I was short-sighted in my conclusion that if it is going to be imposed, it should be imposed “equally.” This is one of those instances where “equality” and “fairness” does not necessarily equal “sameness.” So thank you for following up with your thoughts, and helping me to clarify my own.

        The rest of my thoughts are going in a blog post- thank you again for inspiring it!

  2. Yes! It’s mind boggling how many posts I read on wordpress under the label “feminism” demonstrating this misunderstanding. I’m so frustrated by the women who don’t understand that where they are today and the opportunities (even if they don’t take advantage of all of them) they have are due to feminism.

    • Thanks! And I’m right there with you- I have only very recently been educated on feminism (thanks to my boyfriend, of all people!), but now it just blows my mind how few people understand what it’s “all about.” Maybe we need a Hokey-Pokey-esque theme song?

  3. Oh my! This fundamental misunderstanding of feminism is a big problem! I just read a blog post this morning, which claimed that feminists are all “predators”, who support the murder of innocent husbands. This was actually intended to be taken literally, and did not reference any actual anecdotes or news items – in fact, it had no context whatsoever. Sigh….

    Anyway, great thought-provoking blog post! 🙂

    • Wow! Just… wow. I mean, I’m sure back in the time when racial integration and the Civil Rights Movement were in full swing, there were probably white folks who angrily yelled about how blacks and supporters of integration were all out to kill all the white people and steal all their jobs. o_O What’s even more unsettling, though, is just how many WOMEN hold views like the one you describe. In fact, I used to be one of them! Of course, not to THAT extreme…

  4. Sorry that my first comment ended so abruptly; I think I ran out of space. 🙂 Anyway, while those of us who disagree with feminism are often not articulate about our reasons, I think that most of us have a pretty good idea of what feminism is.

  5. So you therefore think it is fine then to support a movement which created the multi million dollar abuse industry? An industry which it created by speading lies and one it continues fuel with further lies? How can you call yourself a decent human being and be supporter of such a deceptive organisation?

      • Sadly you know very little about the rise of feminism. Pretty poor coming from a feminist. I could point it out but you would simply attack my gramma or spelling or some other useless crap. Instead you could actually do some objective research, instead of the subjective research that your feminist freinds have taught you.

      • Actually I’m not done yet. Fault – your title states understanding. Yet by this comment you don’t fully understand feminism so how do you get to make that statement in the first place. Secondly I feel like most feminists would only accept my views on feminism if in fact I were a feminist or agreed with feminism. Third point: from above
        “Yes! It’s mind boggling how many posts I read on wordpress under the label “feminism” demonstrating this misunderstanding. I’m so frustrated by the women who don’t understand that where they are today and the opportunities (even if they don’t take advantage of all of them) they have are due to feminism.”
        What are these great achievments of feminism??? Was it women at work? Pretty sure governments had that one in the pipe line after seeing a way to tax the other 50% of the population during the World Wars. Was it women voting – Most men didn’t have the right to vote around 100 years ago. Only some men and some woman (granted there were fewer women then men) – those with power. Men only got the right to vote after unionising and becoming troublsome were the granted the vote, women getting the vote was a logical progression rather than anything to do with feminism. Was it education?? wouldn’t think so. Maybe feminism gave it a good push. There were female scientists of great note long before the 1970s.

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