Is It Bad Not To Be A Feminist?

I am constantly wondering what it means to be a feminist. I thought it was merely the idea that women should be equal to men. However, there are so many variations of this simple first embodiment, I mean we are in the FOURTH wave of feminism currently.

This current wave is about justice for women, but I guess my issue with feminism in the first place is not the idea behind it or the reason for it, but the fact that so many people think of it differently. I see it as respect, justice, and equality for everyone. But, what if someone else sees it differently are they not a feminist because they don’t agree with me?

“Women don’t act as one. The question is why so many people are still surprised that they don’t” -Susan Chira

I have seen over the years women attacking women for being feminists and vice versa. What I wonder is if the term itself is getting in the way. The term is, at least as I believe, trying to be broad enough so any woman can resonate with it.

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From: Webster’s Dictionary

However, I think it takes away from the idea that not every woman has the same feelings or beliefs in life.

A recent article I saw from the New York Times got me thinking even more about all this.  The article, written by Susan Chira, a senior correspondent and editor on gender issues for The New York Times, titled Women Don’t Think Alike. Why Do We Think They Do? talks extensively about how women have different viewpoints on issues constantly facing the feminist movement. She specifically discusses sexual assault, as that is a main issue for this wave of feminism, and tries to understand why women voted for Trump, or supported Brett Kavanaugh.

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Photo: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

She discusses the frame they are looking through is what they choose to believe in. In the case of Kavanaugh woman who have sons or husbands sympathized more so with him, rather than Dr. Ford. While this is a very controversial issue and I have very strong opinions about it, there is a point beyond just this current topic.

Everyone is different.

I can’t say that every viewpoint or opinion I have aligns with every other woman who claims they are a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a feminist. Doesn’t everyone have the right to decide what they believe and choose to stand up for? There is no way every single person in the entire world will think the exact same way as everyone else. So, maybe we should stop expecting that from everyone and just empower and support people who align with those views, rather than put energy and effort into tearing people who do not down.

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To me feminism has always been about empowering women. Let’s get back to that and stop condemning women just because they don’t agree with “us”. Focus on the progress being made, not the number of women, because not EVERY woman has to be a feminist.

 

19 thoughts on “Is It Bad Not To Be A Feminist?

  1. Unpopular opinion, I feel the word ‘feminist’ is constricting and I don’t really consider myself to be a feminist. The term feminism has negative connotations to it as the “white loud women who hate men” ESPECIALLY throughout the feminist movement which silenced the voices of people of color. I think feminism needs to be intersectional in the sense that although it is easy to just fight within our comfort zone of topics, it is crucial to look at the world and at issues from both your own lens but also by putting ourselves in the shoes of other individuals. The idea that feminism is an only cis-white female issue needs to be combated and made clear that every person no matter what they identify as are welcome and that one their voices will be heard, and two, that their rights matter as well. And I agree, not everyone has to be a feminist, but I do believe every individual has a role to play in the world and that change will not happen without communal nor global efforts to change it.

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    1. I’m just curious if that has been your personal experience with feminists you know? Why write for a feminist blog and not consider yourself a feminist? What about the potential of opening up the term to be more inclusive rather than not identify with the term? These are rhetorical questions, of course.

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      1. I do not just solely consider myself a feminist, that’s the thing. I like to think of myself as an intersectional feminist and like to think that I participate in intersectional feminist discourse. Growing up, I was told that feminism and the term feminist had negative connotations to it so therefore I stayed away from it. I’d only hear about white feminism and not global feminism or non-white feminist discourse. It didn’t mean that I did not care about women’s rights, or equal rights for marginalized communities or didn’t care about equality for all, I did, but I did not think that my love for learning about individuals in other countries and different communities were categorized as feminism. So, I hid (figuratively) and I kept my voice to myself because I had not realized that feminism could be intersectional. To answer your question about why I became a blogger for a feminist blog, I write to promote such intersectional discourse, to expand the boundaries that history has placed feminism to be under. I try to shed light on issues that people would never deem to be in nature, feminist like immigration. I think it would be amazing to have Shout Out! become a source of intersectional feminism that doesn’t just shed light on cis-gender issues or issues that only pertain to white women but instead transgress that stigma, so to speak, into a more global and nuanced setting. To have individuals who identify as feminists to push past their comfort zones and be more aware of their surroundings and the world around them.

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        1. *when I said my love for learning, I am coupling that with being an advocate for those issues; to which I did not realize could be feminism. Basically what I’m saying is that I prefer to use intersectional feminist rather than just solely a feminist because by saying, interesectional feminist, it’s transgressing the historical bounds that the word feminism has within the white feminist movement and making it more intersectional than the traditional feminist label.

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    2. I think there is a long way to go for feminism and at this point I think it is definitely more exclusive than inclusive. That was the intended point of this piece that it is difficult to create something that resonates with every woman’s experiences. I think the issue is that people are too fixated on the word instead of the purpose of it and I think it has a different meaning for everyone and we need to accept and value that.

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    3. Thank you for sharing that! I completely agree there needs to be more of a shift towards intersectionality. By making everyone feel heard and acknowledged to ensure that something that was created in order to bring people up is not putting peopled down as well in the process.

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  2. “Focus on the progress being made, not the number of women, because not EVERY woman has to be a feminist.”

    I would have to disagree with this statement because it assumes that progress is indeed being made, which I am not sure it is. I would be curious to know what progress is being made and if all women are different if they experience that progress in the same way? While not all women need to agree with the ephemeral “us” that assumes there is an “us,” which I do not think there is. It is quite idealistic to think that PoC, queer folx, working-class folx, those with disabilities etc feel like they are a part of the “us.” Of course, empowering women is a huge part of feminism, but not at the cost of marginalized groups, sexual assault survivors, or racial/economic justice. We don’t all have to be feminists but we cannot be concerned only with the empowerment of women or ourselves at the expense of others.

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    1. I agree with your response and I’d like to add that this fourth wave of feminism focuses on intersectionality. People are made up of so many different intersections, as we all are complex beings. Therefore, how can we fight for only equality of women and turn our backs on those that don’t identify as a woman who are also oppressed. It’s important to keep in mind that you may be oppressed in one area, but priviliged in another.

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      1. I agree that intersectionality is so prevalent today and thankfully is becoming more prevalent in rhetoric. My view of feminism is equality, respect, and justice for everyone. I will say that the feminist movement was made for women because they are and have been oppressed, however intersectionality has affected this and often negatively for many people. I do agree that there are so many people who are still being oppressed and being a cis gender white women I fully acknowledge I am privileged in many areas that others are not, even other women. I think we (people are privileged) need to do a better job in general to advocate for others and ensure we are not part of the cause of furthering oppression but rather part of the solution.

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    2. I do think progress has been made in the sense that people are more likely to speak up when injustices are taking place. That is not to say that every person feels this way but I think with the sexual assault cases, instances of racism, and sexism are being talked about more than before. While maybe there are not resolutions and progress in that aspect I think the first step in the right direction is having discussions and addressing issues. I will clarify that what I meant by “us” was merely people who identify as feminists which includes anyone who feels this way. I stand by the idea that we need to empower women, that being all women LGBTQA+, PoC, latinx, etc. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  3. I have to admit I felt a little conflicted while reading this post. On one hand I understand that not every woman has to be a feminist, but on the other hand, it bothers me greatly that a woman could possibly not be a feminist. The other week I had an encounter with another girl. This girl asked if I identified as a feminist and was immediately annoyed with my answer. She stated that feminism “is fake and does not exist”. Considering a woman herself made this comment, I was very shocked. She too went on to defend Kavanaugh. The post mentions mothers or wives sympathizing with Kavanaugh. That idea makes me wonder why we go to such lengths to defend the men around us. Why is it easier to sympathize for men and not for women? I agree and understand not sharing the same views, but I find it extremely wild that a woman would not identify even in the slightest as a feminist.

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    1. Thanks for sharing! I can’t speak for that girl, but I think again it is the word that is being too focused on. There may very well be things she identifies with that fall under feminism itself but the connection of those to the word might be difficult due to the amount of changes and interpretations people have added to it 9all speculation of course since I do not know her). I side with Dr. Ford and I too wonder why it is often the men who are more sympathized with. I will say I added the article to show a differing opinion than my own and to see if because they feel a certain way does that mean they do not identify as a feminist or can’t be? However, I truly can’t say what the answer is I just think that sometimes people feel ostracized by the word and the current way we deal with differences of opinion. As Lauren commented below on the idea of having discussions I think people are too quick to judge rather than actually understand or have a rational conversation.

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  4. I loved this article! I agree with you completely. We have strayed away from the idea of supporting the cause of supporting women and turned it into a persecution of the people that do not identify with “feminist.” We need to focus on building each other up and not calling out or belittling the people that do not have the exact same beliefs as us.

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  5. While I agree that we should stop tearing other women down for having different beliefs, I don’t think we should simply allow harmful beliefs to continue to spread. Obviously you cannot change everyone’s mind, but having calm, educated discussions with some of the women (or frankly, just people in general) who hold beliefs that might exclude marginalized groups might help them to see the other side of things. I think society is currently incredibly polarized, and as a result people are prone to either attacking or dismissing the “other side.” Having rational discussions about differing beliefs is the only way to bridge this gap.

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    1. I think there is merit and a great deal of value in having rational and educated discussions. I was only speaking to the idea that we focus on the word feminism and not the actual issues or values people often have. I do not think it is good to have harmful beliefs spread but I am seeing people “attacking” others just because they say they are not feminists not necessarily because their beliefs are harmful. But I do agree we need to move away from the polarization of our society and try to actually affect change to help all women, not just the majority.

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  6. So, I appreciate the post because it acknowledges the fact that a lot of folks don’t identify with feminism. However, I think it’s interesting the differing perspective you have on not being a feminist; the fact that folks have differing opinions on being a feminist. However, while you’re right about the ways folks may not identify with it; I’d be interested to hear the ways you think of the differing effects feminism has had on that reasoning. Whether it be the black community and the historical oppression feminism has had, or the LGBTQ+ community and the historical oppression feminism has had. TERFs are still alive and well, and claim to be part of the 4th wave, yet we’ve failed to acknowledge the fact that even in this wave of feminism, inclusivity seems optional. I think the question shouldn’t be “is it bad not to be a feminist” but rather what are the ways that we’ve contributed to the stagnant oppressive stigmas that drive folks away from feminism, and what are the ways the word historically has given folks a reason to start revolutions elsewhere? Feminism, as I’ve seen, is often a space for white women to soundboard their privilege, and claim a title that still hasn’t included trans POC women in its rhetoric. It’s a good conversation to be had, but I’d be interested to see other folks opinions on this. While we are in a fourth wave, we should also be looking at how a recent change in rhetoric doesn’t change the history, stigma, or damage behind the word.

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  7. I agree that the history, stigma, and damage with remain unchanged but I think that some people are too focussed on the word itself. Most people have their own opinions and values and act on them on their own not because they are a “feminist” I think that is just tacked on in explanations. It was created based on oppression and while that is a certain race’s oppression it is what it was. I still think there is merit behind the ideas of it and bringing women together. I can’t speak for or to other people’s reasoning or beliefs because I honestly wouldn’t know. This was just my take away from what I had been seeing recently and thought on how I disliked this obsession with a term that was seeming to be restrictive and somehow what I thought was supposed to bring people together was creating a divide.

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