According to a poll taken by the Washington Post, only 43% of American women consider themselves to be feminists. Unsurprisingly, the rates of men who consider themselves feminists are even lower, sitting at a mere 23%. So whats the sitch? Do a majority of Americans actually refute the concept of equality of the sexes? I think not.
Dating back to its inception, the word feminism has had some terrible pieces of history attached to it– including, but not limited to: excluding black women and POC, fighting exclusively for cis-women, and in its truest form, advocating solely for upper-class white women. I could see how this would make some people feel unwelcome in the political movement that is supposedly advocating for “all.” In an interview, Willow Smith was asked: “On previous episodes of Red Table Talk, your mother Jada made it clear that she doesn’t identify as a feminist. Do you?” She responded, “I don’t support the exclusion of African American women from the [feminist] movement, but I do support all movements that support women—all women.” You can read more about white feminism here.
Knowing the dark history behind the earlier feminist movements, one would assume that people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other minority groups which were initially excluded from the movement would be the ones openly and continuously objecting to the label of feminist. Surprisingly, I have found that these are the people who have accepted the term with open arms. What excuse do privileged white males have?
A vast majority of those considering themselves to be anti-feminist also identify as republicans, typically citing the issue of abortion as their leading argument against feminism. The term feminism has become extremely partisan in nature, but does this mean that women in the Republican party believe that we should dust off our pearls and start practicing “yes dear” and head back to the 50’s? Again, I think not. (Actually, maybe.) But I do believe that most of those who consider themselves to be anti-feminist hold their views either on the basis of political affiliation or fear of being socially ostracized.
I decided to dive deeper into this concept. I turned to my community and published scholarly journals for some answers. Here’s what I found…
In “I’m Not a Feminist, But…” Popular Myths about Feminsim, renound author Penny A. Weiss lists 5 of the most commonly cited reasons as to why people are afraid to admit they are feminists:
1. Feminists are seen as radical.
2. Fear of social rejection.
3. They don’t want their sexuality questioned.
4. Being seen as “anti-male.”
5. Being considered aggressive, pushy, harsh, or one-sided.
Perhaps it’s not about being able to find your place within the movement. Perhaps its about the fear of what people will call you for challenging men in a historically male dominated country.
According to an Instagram poll that I ran, I found that 63% percent of my followers consider themselves to be feminists. Admittedly, I prefer to surround myself with mostly progressive, like-minded people, so I’m not too sure that this poll gave me statistically accurate answers.
I did, however, run a questionnaire, where I asked: “Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?” These responses were far more thought provoking, in my opinion. Understandably, most of these responses were pro-feminist. (I would assume my argumentative nature deterred my anti-feminist friends from responding. )
Most of these responses were what you’d expect:
“Yes because I want equality for all!”
“Yes because I believe in equal rights and respect for both genders.”
“Yes! Because I believe in equal rights for men and women duhh.”
“Yes because women’s rights are human rights.”
One decided to delve a little deeper, writing: “Yes- I think the ‘femme’ prefix scares people but at the end of the day it’s just about equal treatment.” And, “I consider myself a supporter of feminism in the sense that I fully support women’s rights across the board. But I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘feminist’ in an active sort of way.” And finally, one lone brave soul decided to respond with, “No. All Lives Matter.” We know, Brad. Every history book you will ever read will tell you how much men matter.
I don’t think that one’s refusal to identify as a feminist automatically makes them anti-equality. I understand and acknowledge that feminism has some deeply problematic ties, and that marginalized groups have every reason not to identify with the movement. But, if your reasoning for not identifying as a feminist stems from not wanting to be called “radical”, “pushy”, “anti-men”, or have your sexuality questioned, then perhaps you’re hanging with the wrong crowd. (Or your conservative parents brainwashed you into thinking that more rights for women = less rights for men.)
Whatever your reasoning is for identifying as anti-feminist, I urge you to look deeper into why you believe the things that you do. And at the end of the day, if you just can’t bring yourself to identify as a feminist, I hope that you still openly and continuously advocate for equality.
“We need to reach beyond a politics that views feminism as a struggle of women against oppression by men for a solidarity politics that seeks to end all forms of oppression—patriarchy, racism, classism, homophobia, able-ism, neocolonialism, species-ism, etc.—from our movements, and from our economy and society.” – Julie Matthaei