Why I'm Not a Feminist
From time to time I am asked if I identify as a feminist and my response is, no. Not too many years ago I would have called myself a feminist or would have responded that I am pro-feminist. These days I am reluctant to make such claims.
My hesitancy has nothing to do with not wanting to be associated with the movement(s). I support feminism(s) (I say feminisms because it is not one singular movement with a singular vision).
So where does this hesitancy come from? It puzzles some people because I think, read, and tweet about issues closely associated with feminism on a daily basis. Many, if not all, of the issues that concern me are issues that feminists have been talking about and tackling for decades.
My issue boils down to my belief that feminism is a movement of and by people who identify as women with the goal of women’s liberation. I can work in solidarity with feminists, but I have not earned a right to a seat at the table. It’s not time for that.
There are several reasons why I feel that way: first and foremost is my belief in the need for women-only spaces. All who identify as women need space to organize and discuss issues, plan events or just simply time to get away from everyday sexism. When men join a movement they tend to dominate the discourse and want to take over and/or derail the discussion by addressing their needs and desires over the needs of the group.
Another reason I support and encourage women-only spaces is that women and feminists exert a great deal of energy dealing with sexism and misogyny, coming mostly from men. Many women are survivors of sexual assault and almost every day most women experience street harassment. Men being present in feminist spaces may be triggering for some, but more importantly, when women are organizing against sexual assault and/or sexual harassment the last thing they need is for the work to be derailed by some guy blurting out, “Not all men.” This diverts the focus from ending Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment to dealing with men’s hurt feelings.
Because of these reasons I believe that men do have work to do ending various forms of male violence including domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape. I believe men must do this work before requesting a seat at the table. This work is in solidarity with feminism. Feminists built the network and created the required resources for responding to men’s violence. Men have done little to end this violence. Men can take on this challenge without demanding access to feminist spaces. We have a mess to clean up in our own house. We owe this to women and to feminists.
It is important that men taking on this work learn from the incredible work women have done and the accomplishments they’ve achieved against all odds. However, we must learn from women without expecting women to hold our hands and give us guidance. There are many lessons to be learned from the history of feminist struggle. We can study, learn and carry these lessons into the work that we do.
None of this is to imply that women and men cannot work on issues together. Solidarity work is required if we are going to take on the challenge of ending male privilege and dismantling patriarchal institutions and systems. If men make a serious dent in ending violence against those who identify as women and girls that frees up time for women to work on other important issues rather than being forced to expend a lot of energy dealing with sexism and misogyny.
We have a lot of work to do. Let’s get busy educating and acting against sexism and misogyny, but let’s do so without demanding a seat at the table.