I hope that we all know how far ultra-conservatives can go in their denouncements of feminists and how ridiculous their claims are. Feminists are not necessarily lesbian, they don’t advocate a man-less society, they don’t encourage women to leave their husbands or neglect their children and they do not, as a rule, practice witchcraft.
But has feminism done anything negative to the fabric of society or to women themselves? Here are some of the criticisms I’ve heard over the years and my personal response to them:
1. Feminism is exclusionary. It excludes all women who do not toe the party line (and men altogether.)
It may feel this way from the perspective of those who do not consider themselves feminists. But feminism is for all women, whether or not they agree with the feminist ideology. As for men, feminists believe that what is good for women is also good for men.
2. Feminism has marginalized women of color. It is basically a white, mid- to upper-class movement. Minorities need not apply for positions of influence and leadership.
This objection has had some validity in the past. The reality was that white women had the means and influence to get the movement going. That does not excuse them for not seeking to join forces with women of color, but it is a fact of life that people tend to come together with people like themselves to work toward achieving their unique goals. Feminist ideology, however, demands unity and any feminist worth her (or his) salt is completely open to working with all women.
3. Feminism rejects tradition. It asserts that anything traditional is tainted by the patriarchal system in which we live.
It is true that feminists are critical of patriarchy and feel that it is a system that needs a severe overhaul. That does not mean a rejection of traditional values, but a reworking of ways to express them.
4. Feminism goes against biology. It ignores the natural differences between the sexes and seeks conformity to a model that is gender neutral.
This was more true during the ’60s and ’70s than it is today. Today’s feminist acknowledges the role of biology but contends that much of what seems to be biological differences are actually the result of socialization. The feminist goal is to free both men and women to be who they want to be, regardless of social expectations.
4. Feminism is anti-male. It promotes a world run by women to benefit women. Anything masculine is ridiculed and reviled.
Feminism may seem this way, especially to men, because it challenges the status quo and makes them feel threatened. No one likes change, let alone being forced to change, so there are often bad feelings between men and feminists. Man-hating, however, is not a feminist tenet.
5. Feminism is divisive. Not only does it drive wedges between men and women it also creates hostility between women who are married and unmarried, working and non-working, lesbian and straight, and mothers and childless.
Again, people tend to side with their own and to see everything through that group’s lenses. This is as true of feminists as it is of anyone. But the truth is, one of feminism’s main goals is to build bridges among all women, regardless of marital, parental or working status.
6. Feminism is anti-female. Traditionally female, that is. Women are not supposed to beautify themselves or act “like women” in any way for fear that they may be buying into the idea that they are sex objects and servants, i.e, male-oriented.
Not wanting to be seen as a sex object or manservant does not mean that feminists are anti-female. On the contrary, feminists believe that women don’t need to remake themselves to someone else’s specifications to be valued for who they are. Younger feminists are more likely to claim their right to be as “girly” as they want to be, as long as they are doing it for themselves and not because men won’t accept them otherwise.
7. Feminism is anti-life. It is pro-abortion. Enough said.
While this seems to be a clear-cut issue, it really isn’t. Feminists believe that all women should have decision-making power over their own bodies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are for abortion. Most feminists would be happy to decrease the number of abortions, as long as women aren’t forced to go through with unwanted pregnancies.
8. Feminism is anarchistic. It seeks to tear apart the very fabric of society. It is against all forms of authority, which it insists are male-dominated.
Feminism seeks wholeness for all people, but knows that change is often necessary to bring that into being. Change can seem like anarchy at times. And while feminists do not throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to authority, it does urge women to question the restrictions that are put upon them by others.
9. Feminism is anti-religious. Not only is it against religious values, it is also not sanctioned by any of the major religions.
Whether a woman can be religious and a feminist has been argued for ages. There are definitely clashes between religious and feminist values. But they are not insurmountable. Feminist ideology does not rule out being religious; it only seeks to sort out the parts of religion that are damaging to a woman’s well-being as well as to her relationship with God. And while religions may not come out and sanction feminism per se, most do uphold a person’s right to seek equality and human dignity.
10. Feminism is unnecessary.
This is an old, old argument. People have always insisted that women have it good, that they like things the way they are, that there is no need for emancipation. Tell that to the women who were “kept” by their husbands, who couldn’t own property or enter into contracts, who weren’t even allowed to vote until 144 years after the establishment of this country. Okay, you’re thinking, that was almost a hundred years ago; what do women have to bitch about now? Well, answering that question is the point of this blog–so keep coming back!