February 10, 2010

"I'm not a feminist but..."

"I'm not a feminist but.." I can't count the number of times I have heard this phrase. I often find that pro-feminist ideals usually follow. I’m not a feminist but I care about women's rights, equal rights, equal pay in the work force, and a women's right to choose. Some time ago, I was one of these people. I was skeptical about committing to the cause. Sure, I agreed with all of these things but did that really make me a feminist? I remember when my first women’s studies professor brought up this topic for conversation. Did we identify ourselves as feminists? Did we agree with the ideology behind it? I found myself asking, if I agree with one, why not the other? If we as a generation of women and men agree with so many of the feminists ideals why are we so afraid to commit to this identity?

I didn’t really understand why I was so reluctant to commit to a movement whose ideals I obviously believed in and supported. But we all know the stereotype associated with feminists. We’re all a bunch of butchy man hating dykes. We don’t shave our arm pits. We don’t wear high heels and we definitely do not wear make up. No wonder why women are so afraid to commit to the cause. Especially in a day and age when girls are already dealing with so many image issues, why would they be interested in adding one more?

I don’t know how this off the wall stereotype started, but its negative connotation has followed the word feminism since the movement began. The creation of this stereotype has pushed away so many women that agree with feminist ideals but refuse to identify with them. The most important thing I learned in that women’s study class was that my reluctance to associate myself with the word “feminism” was solely based on a lack of education and understanding of the topic. It is so important to look past these negative connotations and stereotypes. Because if you find yourself agreeing that women should have the right to vote, that women should be able to be a house wife or a politician or both, that women should have control over their own bodies.. then maybe, just maybe, you are a feminist, too.

Now don’t go running in the other direction. I promise you, feminism is not a scary or intimidating thing. It’s empowering, enlightening, and still so needed in the society we live in today. I know not everyone has access to women studies classes or even people who know much about feminism but there are great resources to shed some light. If you’re interested in feminism (or are just looking for a good read) here are some fantastic books that cover an array of topics to open the doors and get you started.

(Just click the image to learn a little more about each book!)


  1. Thanks, Elisha, I'll be reading some of these books!

  2. Bell Hooks is an excellent feminist scholar, all of her work is AMAZING! Great Post! Follow my blog about women and media @



  3. We’re all a bunch of butchy man hating dykes.

    ^ That is so offensive. The fact that you say that means that feminists can't be "butchy man hating dykes". Being a butchy man hating dyke isn't wrong for feminism YOU ARE and in actuality, a lot of feminists do hate men and for good reason and a lot of feminists actually are bull dykes. By you saying this, it makes you seem as though you are above these types of people and it's actually very hurtful to feminism. Feminism has its stereotypes and while it is still important to challenge people's perspectives, it's equally as important to get people to be understanding and accepting. Because there honestly is nothing wrong with not shaving your pits. What's more important is to get people to see why feminists hate men as a greater whole. Being a "butch dyke" is really important to a lot of people's identities. By the way, women already have the right to vote.

  4. To Anonymous-

    I'm not the one who wrote this entry, but I think I understand what Elisha was trying to say there. I highly doubt she was saying that butchy girls and lesbians in general, can't be feminist. No way! I think she was just saying that it's really close-minded to assume that all women who classify themselves as a "feminist" are gay, because I think all of us who know anything about feminism know that is false. I personally have gotten that a few times. I say I'm a feminist and the person I'm talking to then assumes I'm gay. And while there's obviously nothing wrong at all with being gay, there is in fact something wrong with that assumption.

    Maybe those weren't the best words for her to choose though, now that you mention it, I can see how it may sound like she is saying she's above these types of people. But knowing her, I can assure you that's not what she meant! I personally, and I think Elisha would agree with me here, see all feminists as on the same level. No matter sexual orientation, gender, race, or if they are a CEO or stay at home mom. A big part of feminism to me is women having the ability to make choices for themselves, no matter what those choices may be. And I know there is nothing wrong with shaving your pits, and she does too! I don't shave on a normal basis, or some parts ever.

    The only thing I don't agree with you about is that feminists should hate men. Because that's what it's sounding like you are saying. If it's a womans personal choice to hate men, okay. I don't think it's healthy but okay. But to put a feminist stamp on that is very dangerous for the movement, in my opinion. Men play a huge role in feminism as well, and you cannot achieve equality when hating the whole other gender. Of course there are things feminist can and should hate about the stereotypical man, but not every male is that stereotypical, not at all. Men should have the right to call themselves feminists just as much as women do. I know my boyfriend is a bigger feminist then majority of the females I've met in my life. He's very educated on the subject and does a lot of activism as well.

    So appreciate you commenting about your concern, I encourage that, but I hope you can see things from my way point of view as well. And I hope I cleared a few things up.


  5. I find a lot wrong with this post for a number of reasons...and some of them I may have difficulty putting into words.

    I agree with the above statement by anon that when you are saying, "I'm not a butchy man hating dyke" or "I shave my pits." that you are being pretty heteronormative and offensive. Just because you don't personally identify as a man-hater or "dyke" doesn't mean that you should diss all of the fantastic women and trans/genderqueer folks that are fighting for gender liberation. You dont need to sell out everyone else in your movement in order to get new recruits....perhaps you could point out all the fucked up things that patriarchy does to women (and THATS how you phrase it...patriarchy, not men, because gender oppression is systematic and institutionalized).

    Do you ever notice that when you are in a meeting, in class or at a party men seem to dominate the discussion? Did you know that men make up about 85% of the senate? Or that 1 in 4 women are affected by sexual violence? You don't need to even address the "man-hating" issue. Also, keep in mind that many women have good reasons to hate men -rape, other forms of violence against them, other traumatic experiences. Maybe its not the most productive way to liberate women, but you need to respect it and their experiences.

    I definitely think men should identify as feminists, but also realize that just because they call themselves feminists that they don't still need to work on unpacking their privilege.

  6. Anonymous -

    I feel no need to apologize to an anonymous disrespectful comment. My article was not meant to be offensive and I think you may have wrongly interpreted the context of it. Not once did I say that being a "butchy man hating dyke" was wrong. Nor did I say shaving your arm pits was either. Or that if you do/are any of these things you can't be a feminist. If you do/are any of these things, than that's great. There's nothing wrong with any of it.

    I wasn't putting myself above those types of people or trying to disassociate them from the feminist movement. Women of all shapes, forms, and backgrounds have contributed to this movement and I have respect for every last one of them. No offense was meant at all. I simple meant that this is the typical stereotype associated with feminism that was CREATED BY MEN in order to turn feminists into something that was "unacceptable" by normal social standards.

    And when people use this stereotype, it's usually in an offensive form which is not what I was trying to do although I now realize it may have come off that way. And sure, lots of people hate men and for damn good reasons and a lot of women hate women too. But in my opinion, feminism isn't about men bashing or gender bashing. It's about trying to establish equality between genders and how does hate of any kind help in this battle?

    I am fully aware that women already have the right to vote but not all people feel that we should.

  7. First off... hating men is not only hypocritical, but counterproductive. You can't make strides toward equality by promoting prejudice. That's absolutely idiotic. Also, there's no such thing as a good reason to hate all men. That's called a blanket statement. By your logic, if a few Americans rob and kill a few Canadians, that means that every single American is a thief and a murderer? No. That's backward logic and those ideals will only lead to segregating feminism from mainstream movements. I've never raped anyone. I've never supported a patriarchal society. I've never sexually harassed a woman. There are more like me. I promise.

    Also, willifindmyself... what do you imply by saying feminist males need to unpack their privilege? Does the white abolitionist need to discard his independence and welfare in order to empathize with the slave? No. A supporter is a supporter, no matter the standing. Again, logic like this is what drives people AWAY from feminism. No one wants to support a cause only to find them being shunned by the very people they're supporting! Unless you have different meaning in your words than I understand, and if that's the case - elaborate.

    I find that a lot of people are afraid of feminism, not because of what the movement's goals are, but because of how a few feminists choose to treat others. Some of these comments are a great showcase of what those people are afraid of.

  8. I wasn't trying to completely tear you down Elisha, mostly just trying to point out alternative ways to frame this discussion.

    I guess I should avoid using activist speak, as it doesn't always translate. The term unpacking privilege comes from the article White Privilege: Unpacking the invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh (if you google it the first two links are PDF files of the article). I consider it one of the best articles to read if you consider yourself an ally/anti-racist. There are also similar lists/articles that focus on gender, sexuality, class, being able-bodied, etc. I think saying "I've never supported a patriarchal society" is completely ridiculous. WE ALL support a patriarchal society. Just because you haven't raped someone, you have participated by just being a cis-male (I'm assuming you are a cis-male, sorry if I am making an assumption). I have participated for being part of the gender binary and other small things....just like I am racist because I live in a society where racial inequality is institutionalized.
    I can still organize with men, I still have male friends, I can still work with men. I just dont like them as much as women and gender variant folks.

    Here are a few links to check out before you decide you need to make a defensive comment about what i just said:

    I agree that it is sad that feminists can be at each others throats some times...its pretty much been like that from the beginning. Its because we have a different views of how things should be accomplished and what equality really means.

    Oh, and quick fact for those people who diss feminism because of bra-burning...they never actually did that during the second wave...at least not at public actions (http://mediamythalert.wordpress.com/category/bra-burning/_)

    Corey: I'll say it...I don't really like most men. There are a few exceptions, and most of them are gay or transmen. The reason I try to avoid surrounding myself around men is that in my experience they tend to take up a lot of space (physically, vocally, emotionally), interrupt people/women, say things that make me angry and are offensive, are really defensive when I call them out about being offensive/sexist/patriarchal. These are small things that MOST men do and rarely own up to.

    I can still organize with men, I still have male friends, I can still work with men. I just dont like them as much as women and gender variant folks.

  9. I think we both are aware of the fact that feminists never actually publicly "burned bras", it's just an obvious common misconception and stereotype. I really do respect everything that you are saying, *iwillfindmyself, but I can't help but feel like you are speaking with a very holier-than-thou attitude that is kind of off-putting.

    & I just can't agree with you about your feelings on men. They are your feelings and I respect that fully. But I just think saying that men "take up a lot of space" is really rude. I know in a lot of cases it is in fact true, don't get me wrong, but it just promotes hated that I can't stand behind. There is enough hatred in this world and I can't back that. In my opinion, and this is just mine here, feminism shouldn't be about hatred. I think we should be able to bring women up without putting men down. I think that can happen. Or at least I like to believe so. In my experiences, women can interrupt people and say offensive things just as much as men can. And they will get defensive if called out about it too! Hell, I think anybody would! People in general are just way too defensive. Of course there are problems with men and how in control they are, but I just don't think interrupting and saying offensive things are some of those major problems. Women do that just as much.

    The idea of taking a giant group of people and saying you don't like them as much as another giant group of people because of the actions of some is not for me. I'm more of an optimist then that. As fucked up as people are. And with all the fucked up shit that men have done to me in my life, I still know that not all men are inherently bad. And saying that if a man is gay all of a sudden he is an "exception" in you book? I can't grasp that. I don't want to sound like I'm hating on you here, and I apologize if I do, but I just want to explain my feelings like you have explained yours. I respect you, I really do, you sound like a very intelligent woman, but I don't think feminism should be a set of rules. I hope you agree with that. I hope we can fit feminism to what works for us, while keeping the main message, of course.

  10. I happen to think this is a very strong blog that promotes women equality. And respecting the WHOLE community, while finding confidence in ones self. Forget the hate mail and keep on going :D