Dear “Feminism Destroys Things” People

Dear Mr. Nold,

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, but my name is Lauren. I’m a feminist, and I wanted to introduce myself. I say this because I recently read your article entitled, “Feminism hurts modern-day relationships,” and I’m not sure you’ve ever met a feminist before. At least, that’s what I’m hoping, because it’s the only conclusion that leaves you with much dignity after that piece.

So hi. I’m a feminist. Not the kind you’re envisioning, most likely. I don’t have hairy legs because I like how they feel shaved. I love my bras, and am more likely to burn dinner than I am my lingerie. I own an embarrassingly large collection of cosmetics and skyscraper heels. I almost always wear a skirt or dress in professional settings, because I feel confident and like the way they make me look. I like kids (at least, my daughter better hope so). If I ever get married, I’ll probably take my husband’s last name. I’m still a feminist.

Doesn’t quite line up with the women crusading against evil men in your piece, does it? To be fair, there’s not much in your piece that adds up at all.

You’re right that economic modernization has been good to women. We’ll ignore that your justification for said claim was that industrialization created an economy less reliant on manual labor – despite the fact that many women are just as capable as men in such work – and instead focus on some of the good news. Women do make up a larger portion of the workforce than they did before. That’s cool. Except for the fact that they:

  • Still earn $.77 for every dollar a man makes doing the same job with comparable performance and qualifications- a mere 18 cents higher than it was in 1970. On average, that’s a deficit of around $10k a year in pay. That means that if I start working at the age of 22, and retire at 65 (oh, to be so lucky), that’s just under $500k that I don’t get as a woman. 
  • Still only make up 15% of corporate boards, and only 14% of executive roles, for Fortune 500 companies. You’re right that there are more executives than before, but you’re wrong about the pace of the trend- it’s glacial. I’ll admit that some gap here would be reasonable, given the social constructs of family and the decisions some female professionals make about their priorities, but it doesn’t justify a 35% gap. Not by a long shot.

Maybe an employer can’t tell me I won’t get a job because I’m not attractive to him, or that I won’t get a promotion because he’s worried I’ll have kids, but he can still think it. Without solid proof of discrimination, he can act on those thoughts without consequence. I may have a better shot in the workplace today than I did in the 1950’s, but that doesn’t make it a fair shot. I, personally, am lucky to work for a firm where I don’t have to worry about anything of the sort, but I’m lucky. Lucky. Luck should have nothing to do with equal treatment.

Perhaps the knowledge of these facts is why we’re so competitive, as you mention when you discuss collegiate differences between the sexes. To be fair, I wound up very confused when I read this part of your article. You say that men are not earning as many degrees, and their grades aren’t as good, because, “they are no longer being held to a higher standard.” You say this is a result of feminist-driven competition, but (graciously) we shouldn’t blame women for this.

Lolwut?

For starters, you must hang out with some weird guys. I don’t think I have ever met a man who was like, “Man, I’m going to piss away $120k in college loans before interest and get C’s because FEMINISM.

But assuming this bizarro world where your logic holds, you’re right. You should not blame feminism for alleged male slacking, because slacking would be the man’s choice, no? I have no idea why this was in your article to begin with, because it certainly doesn’t support your point. Yep, women folk are gettin’ themselves some edumacation. Which means that while women are more educated and better trained than ever, they are still paid less and promoted less frequently than men. 

Nice try, though.

Then we come to your section on relationships, and this was the part where my brain started to implode a little bit. You articulate an argument I’ve heard more frequently lately than I care to think about, largely because it sounds a great deal like bitter whining, and also because it’s complete and total intellectual slop. Your words:

The fact is women have become so independent and focused on their work many have forgotten how to have a relationship based on mutual understanding and cooperation.

Hokay, time out. Aside from the fact that your sentence composition makes me weep for the future of journalism, a few things need to be said:

  1. Wait, why do I need to be in a relationship to begin withNews to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong – relationships with the right people can be great – but I’m fairly certain I don’t stop being a person when I’m single. Actually, I don’t know about you, but I’d always been told that it was important to be your own person, and not define yourself based on who you date. Perhaps that’s why women are so focused on their careers and individual interests – they’ve realized that they are, in fact, people. GASP! Unintended consequences… they’re a bitch. 
  2. If you’re right, and feminists are so competitive they can’t do relationships, you should be happy feminism exists! After all, now you have an easy way of identifying people who will challenge you as an individual, and can avoid dating them. #WINNING
  3. You know, men- for centuries- worked as the breadwinners for their family. They worked outside the home, and they still had relationships. The question is, does ambition and perseverance and hard work mean you can’t grasp the importance of mutual understanding and cooperation? (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.)
  4. Also, since, as you point out, women are such bad ass business people now, you better believe they understand the importance of mutual understanding and cooperation. I don’t know many successful people in business who don’t.
  5. If men are slacking the way you say they are, it’s a damn good thing we’re focused and independent. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees. Or your parents’ basement walls.
  6. I love that your vision of mutual understanding and cooperation is you telling women not to be a feminist and to participate in a relationship according to your worldview. It’s so ironic, it’s like post-hipster. Gnarly, dude.

Alright, bitchfest done. You probably didn’t deserve all of that. But you still needed to hear it.

In all seriousness, this comment is why I was worried you’d never met a feminist. Feminists are actually on your side here. I mean, I’m sure there are a handful who want nothing more than a purse holder in a man, and most of us would caveat the bulk of your writing with more gender neutral terminology (to be more inclusive of the LGBT community- intersectionality for the win), but generally and broadly speaking, feminism has evolved to the point that it’s about treating people equally, regardless of gender. That means they want the ability to participate in a partnership that’s based on mutual understanding and cooperation as equals.  They’re down with the idea that “men and women in a relationship need to value one another equally and agree to their responsibilities to the relationship, together in mutual partnership.”

I’m not sure who you’ve been talking to or reading (outside of a woman whose career is telling other women not to have one). Feminism is very much in line with the ideas you praise.

If you believe:

  • that an equally qualified, educated and performing woman should be paid the same amount as a man of similar qualifications, education and performance in the same job;
  • that assuming a woman will have a family and become an unreliable employee is probably a bad idea;
  • that people should be able to choose whether they want to get married or have kids;
  • that people should not be expected to perform certain tasks around the home because of their gender;
  • that gender has nothing to do with your intelligence;
  • that people should not be made to feel unsafe because of their gender; or
  • that gender should not dictate your treatment of others…

YOU ARE PROBABLY A FEMINIST.

Didn’t see that one coming, did you? It’s like that twist ending in The Sixth Sense… terrifying.

You started your article by telling us that, “Feminism has achieved what it was set out to do.” To be fair, we’ve made progress. There’s no doubt about that. But are we done? No way. Feminism is still necessary because of the reality of economic inequality. Feminism is still necessary because we think access to degrees means everything else has been addressed. Feminism is still necessary because it is viewed as a “threat” to our relationships.

In other words, feminism is still necessary because I’m writing you this letter. Until we stop equating feminism with antiquated stereotypes, stop making statistical apologies for systemic discrimination, and stop demonizing women who have the courage to be themselves (even when it doesn’t fit neatly into someone else’s definition of being a woman), it will always be necessary.

You might be feeling a little scalded or indignant right now. I won’t begrudge you that. After all, this post was the cumulative response to a good six months of showing restraint in the face of other articles just like yours. Perhaps the proper salutation would have been addressed to any of the people who try to argue that feminism is somehow the root of all evil. But you’re young. You can still learn and change and grow. Maybe getting burned will save the women in your life down the line from being subjected to the “feminism hurtz” campaign.

I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you just didn’t realize how wrong you were. I’m going to pretend I didn’t notice the thinly veiled nostalgia for the way it “used to be” found in your descriptions of what you “don’t” mean- PC caveats draped in the bite of a Southern “bless your heart.” I’m going to ignore the #obamabowl tweets, and the fact that you’ve defended some shady stuff in the past in your writing. I’ll just assume you had no idea what a feminist was.

But now you know. So stop writing stupid things.

Thanks,

Lauren

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11 comments

    1. Fatima- you took the words out of my mouth.
      Lauren- Thank goodness you’re there. For the last few years, particularly the last year, I have seen the gains that my generation fought so hard to achieve threatened. I find myself saying “But we fought that battle already!”
      I’m old now/ If need be, I’ll fight those battles all over again but quite frankly, I’m thankful for young women like you to carry standard. The cause of equality is in good hands.

  1. Ok, I’m almost sold. The only thing I still need to know is as follows: If I believe that……

    1) If I have a one night stand with a woman, and two years later I found out that she had a child and is after child support from me, I should have the same freedom to choose my level of involvement that she had in choosing to not have an abortion and choosing to not give the child up for adoption.
    2) Intelligent, attractive, confident guys who simply haven’t developed their skills at “the dating game” yet have a right to pursue sexual relations with women they’re attracted to.
    3) If a woman isn’t interested in me romantically, I am under no obligation to be interested in her platonically.
    4) Mandatory enlistment with the selective service should apply to men and women equally.
    5) Mandatory military service for men under threat of imprisonment and execution historically justifies universal male suffrage coming decades before universal female suffrage, as men who fought in bloody, horrific military conflicts are by definition more invested in their country than those who did not.

    …..is official feminist ideology supportive of my position on those issues?

    1. There is no such thing as “official feminist ideology.” I could provide my own opinions, but that’s not necessarily reflective of the community as a whole. Here’s my 2 cents.

      1. Use birth control, and you won’t have this problem.
      2. You have a right to pursue. I have a right to not be interested, and have you respect that.
      3. Correct. If your only interest in a human being is towards a romantic end, I doubt she’ll have a problem with you not wanting to be friends.
      4. Mandatory enlistment shouldn’t exist.
      5. And women suffered under abusive regimes which classified them as sub-human and subjected them to all manner of atrocities for centuries. And one doesn’t need to shoot a gun to be a patriot or support their country. Artificial hierarchies of human worth according to rank of suffering is bullshit anyway. Universal suffrage is a matter of human dignity.

      Not official. But you knew that.

  2. I deal with the misconception of what feminism is all the time, and it’s infuriating. I mostly face it from women who say things like “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist – being a feminist means you want women to be above men” or “I’m not a feminist because I don’t like the connotations it has. The word /seems/ outdated and biased so I wouldn’t call myself that even if I agree with feminist ideas”.
    They are a big part of why feminism has a bad name, and it’s so frustrating. If they, with their ideas of equality, stood under the banner of feminism then they would be helping correct it’s public identity and progress could more easily be made. Instead they actively inhibit progress because they condemn the very ideas they believe in on the basis that it has a name they don’t like. They believe idiots like this guy who declare feminism to be something that it absolutely is not and wielding their ignorance and prejudice they work to destroy the very ideas that they in actually believe in.
    I have no idea how to correct it, how to show them what feminism really is, and more importantly to show them that by condemning feminism they are hurting their own true goals. The only things I have are “Well, sorry, but I have a gender studies degree and this field basically consumes me and you’ve got absolutely no formal education on the matter, so just maybe I know what I’m talking about” or a lengthy explanation of the development of feminism over the past several decades. The former tends to just make people feel like I’m calling them stupid and gets them really defensive and the latter tends to bore them to the point that they totally tune out. Any advice?

    1. Typically, when someone tells me they are not a feminist, or they don’t like feminism, I ask them why. Usually, they give a pretty bad answer. Then I ask if I can pose a few other questions, and present the beliefs outlined in the post. Most people agree with the ideas, and when we’re done with the list, I say, “You may not think you’re a feminist, but your ideals align with feminist beliefs.”

      That’s my typical jumping off place at least, but it depends on the individual. I’m not sure if that’s much help; hope it is.

  3. I’m usually not a big fan of blogs that spend a lot of time on political and cultural controversies, but you’re a really fantastic writer!

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