Why I Decided To Drop The Feminist Label

I think I will need that flame-retardant gear again…

So as mentioned in a previous post I have for the longest time self-identified as a Feminist for various reasons. But as with any label, I only keep it as long as it’s useful and feminism has outlived its usefulness.

The label Feminism has overstayed it’s welcome for me, the more I have read over the years the more I receded towards a small, insignificant niche inside the movement. Finally I decided that the label, the word, the concept, just isn’t useful to me anymore. That in itself wouldn’t really be a problem. Other labels like “skeptic” are also not really useful to me, yet I subscribe to them. It’s because I believe that labels like atheist, free thought or skeptic describe concepts that are in principle useful and sound, while I have discovered that Feminism doesn’t really fulfill these criteria.

Now, don’t get your knickers in a twist, I have not changed my core values, opinions or become a women hating misogynist.

I have decided that having both labels humanist and feminist is just awfully redundant, both concepts are supposed to lead us to equality and egalitarianism. One could think that there is no harm in subscribing to feminism and humanism at the same time, for feminism should be a subset of humanism focused on womens rights in particular. The danger however is that by focusing on one set of a population in particular, one loses track of the other side of the coin as well as creates a us-vs-them dichotomy.

I came to feminism naturally, through both a long tradition of matriarchy in my family as well as the general media-exposure of those issues. It felt ” the right thing to do”. Women were after all underrepresented and the patriarchy was “working them” hard every day. I never questioned the fact that women needed more rights and more protection.

My goals were always humanistic in nature but somehow over the years I lost all perspective, I stopped questioning the veracity of the claims made by feminists/women and just accepted them. I failed to see the other side of any argument centered around gender, assigning a-priori the “right” to women and womens rights.

Divorce rights? Yeah sure, of course the woman should have the custody to the children unless she is mentally ill or unable to take care of them. After all my parents divorced when I was 5 and my mother got custody of me, that wasn’t bad right?

My dad? Oh he fought for months against it, to no effect, after which the court blackmailed him to give up custody or else I would be transfered to a foster home till the lawsuit was settled (which could have taken years). My mother took me and left the country (Communist Poland) afterwards to live with her new lover and my soon-to-be stepfather in Germany. Later I learned how devastated my father really was over this, he genuinely thought he would never see me ever again. I mean take the context into consideration, Europe was still split in west and east, the Berlin wall still intact and martial law was in effect in Poland. Nobody could have even begun to imagine that I would be sitting in Sweden today, have Skype conversations with my father and mother, travel freely between countries on a drivers-license instead of Passports, Visas and Travel Allowances, pay next to nothing for air-travel  (back in the day, car-travel could take up to 24 hours including customs at the border), pay with a unified currency and have universal rights in all countries as an European citizen.

Once I caught myself doing this I realized that I have done the one thing that I absolutely despise and rail against, accepting claims without evidence. I never scrutinized any claims to rights women had, nor did I consider the other side of the argument and how granting those rights will impact other human beings. I have just followed another religion instead of following a concept.

I had a lapse of judgment, but I’m better now.

I’m still for all the rational rights of women, and I think that we, as western society, have done a good job of implementing most of them in laws and societal norms. Misogyny, of course, still exists in many parts of the world (perpetrated, in part, by our best friend religion) and sexism also still exists in many parts of even our society, but it goes both ways and focusing exclusively on one gender will not solve the problem but exaggerate it. The fight for human rights and equality is far from over, but decisions can not be made from one side alone, and this side can’t dictate the discussion exclusively.

I also no longer subscribe to the concept of Patriarchy as it’s a concept subtle enough to be undetectable through scrutinizing evidence, yet powerful enough to be dictating lives of women. Furthermore it lacks any explanatory power in itself, it’s so vague that everything can and will be attributed to Patriarchy. In essence it behaves exactly the same as a conspiracy theory.

In conclusion the feminist movement seems less and less concerned about equal rights but rather exclusivity. If I say that feminism has radicalized I don’t mean to suggest that the radfem fringe has grown, I rather mean that feminism has long since reached most of its goals but still operates under its original assumption that women are overwhelmingly repressed. This is a serious problem. I think that most feminists genuinely mean well but have lost sight of what has been gained by them already. The Internet isn’t helping here where the “problems” of sexism are exaggerated and can give the appearance of a systemic problem that validates the patriarchy-conspiracy. However we should not forget that the Internet, with all its wonders, connects a staggering amount of people on the planet and 100 misogynist comments on your blog represent a tiny minuscule fraction of them.

But now I’m just rambling.


Bye feminism. Hello egalitarian humanism.


3 Responses to Why I Decided To Drop The Feminist Label

  1. Emmaline Sydney says:

    Thanks for the post. I consider myself a feminist. I cringe when I see everyone else cringing because of the use of the term. My problem with the term feminist is because of the second wave of feminism people believe that the term feminist = man hater. That isn’t what I am. It saddens me that others think so. Yes I believe strongly in the rights of women. I believe that equal pay is too slow to catch up (last several sources I read was only 4 cents in the last 20 years) and that men are flat out over represented in power positions (politics/congress). But this doesn’t mean that I believe all men are jerks. In many cases the issues against women seem to more societal. Men are not the only culprits here. I’ve met more than enough women who seem to be “self-haters”. With that being said, in regards to your post it seems that some of your statements are referring to the second wave of feminism rather than the current 3rd (or some sources argue 4th) wave, that emphasizes that there are many ways to be a woman, embracing both a career woman or a stay at home mom. I do not see the emphasis on exclusivity (2nd wave emphasis) but rather an emphasis on true equality (for men and women- such as parenting rights that you mentioned) and women’s issues. Your blog basically states that you feel “we are there”. I find this interesting when only four years ago while Hillary Clinton was running for Democratic candidate, the nightly news covered her ankles, her “ball breaking attitude”, having PMS, crying, or her clothes that she was wearing rather than the topics at hand. The same was done to the Repuplican Candidate Sarah Palin when she was hung out to dry with comments inevitably coming back around to her looks and sexuality. All of this was only four years ago. Even if we chalk this up to political sabotaging women’s inequality remains an issue. Even this year the Paycheck Fairness Act was put to congress because it was acknowledged that women are still getting paid only 77 cents to the dollar. While this act seemed only logical (yes let’s pay equally), it was denied. Even now centers such as planned parenting (which focus primarily on women’s health such as PAP’s, birth control, etc and only a small fraction on abortions) is still under attack. This isn’t even mentioning the increased sexuality of younger girls in media and advertisements, and the relational aggression happening between women. While I fully agree that as a country we are making further and further strides (according to the 2011 Global Women’s Progress Report the US ranked 8th), I still argue “we are not there yet”. I believe our biggest step is in politics. Out of the 536 members of congress only a measly 93 are women (not even a fourth!). Ultimately, while I have hope for our future, I fear that with the lack of vigilance rights get stepped on and pushed to the way side. While women and men are afforded more rights and have moved closer to equality than ever before (even that men may be the say at home dad’s while the women have a career), it is important to remember that equality (both gender and racial) is so new in our history that it would be a mistake to take it for granted that “we have arrived”.

    • tradamtm says:

      I disagree. My article says that we are -mostly- there.

      What you have written in your comment are standard feminist talking-points, I’m well aware of them, and they are precisely what I disagree with. If you scrutinize them from a different perspective than feminism they are not tied to gender equality.

      I will not in detail discuss the PFA, but needless to say the bill was a bad idea in terms of discrimination against employers, taking every single instance of disparate pay as a sign of sexism. It was designed against the tenets a free market economy and the abilities of the individual.
      Does a wage-gap exist in some sectors of the industry? Yes. Does sexism influence payment and wages in some sectors of the industry? Yes. Is it a systemic problem in society? Hardly.

      The 77-to-a-dollar statistic has been scrutinized over the years and researchers are uncertain if the wage-gap is indeed to be attributed to sexism in the marketplace exclusively. There are a lot of factors to be considered like negotiation skills of the individual, etc.

      If it comes to the media, and your example of Palin and Clinton, that is really just fair game in politics. Male candidates are being covered for their sex scandals, magical underwear, their dog, thats just media for you, its not in any significant sense caused or exclusive to the gender of the candidate.

      Planned Parenthood is under attack from the religious right and has little to do with gender equality. It’s not a representation of sexism, but rather a systemic problem of the religious right to quell progressiveness out of society, in all aspects. I am strongly behind planned parenthood as a concept of education and health for society, but it’s not an exclusive attack on women, it’s a broad attack on civil liberties of individuals by ultra-right wing conservatism.

      The question is, what is the goal of the feminist movement? Equality, in law at least, is almost exclusively egalitarian (there are a few places like the army and military in general).
      What kind of equality are we talking about here? Should we legislate a 50/50 split of men and women in the marketplace? Congress? Office? no wage gap? 2% wage-gap? -10% wage gap? Is that even achievable?
      What are the objective markers that can inform us what the “goal” is? Should we even think about this in a result-driven sense instead of leaving the freedom to decide to individuals?

      I find this vision to be entirely utopian in scope simply because we are individuals, and trying to legislate or prescribe human behavior was always a complete failure.

      My position is that women have a level playing field in (western) society (except for the few vestiges like the Military, and others) and everything else is the responsibility of the individual to make their lives better.

      In the questions about abortion for example, I am all behind the right of the woman to have sovereignty of her body, but we have to take into account that those discussions are hardly this simple.
      The current societal norm is that we grant women all reproductive rights but we leave out the male perspective out of it entirely. Is it not unethical that a man is not involved in the discussion of what can also be his child?

      It shouldn’t be the right of a movement to prescribe individual behavior.
      Feminism behaves as a movement in a sense of “we know best” and I am immediately very skeptical of movements that decided that they have the “cure” for a “problem”, especially if I can’t find the problem.

      I made the comparison to religion in my article for a very good reason.

  2. Pingback: Technical Difficulties: Why I’m not an Mens Rights Activist | liveware.problem

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