Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why I am not a feminist

CTRESS Kirsten Dunst is apparently taking a beating in the media this weekend. Interviewed for the May issue of Harper's Bazaar UK, Dunst made some supposedly-controversial comments about the nature of gender (aka sex) roles in modern society:
Dunst is surprisingly outspoken on the subject of gender: "I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued," she says. "We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking -- it's a valuable thing my [mom] created. And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armour. I'm sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That's why relationships work..."
Erin Gloria Ryan, writing for feminist blog Jezebel, considers these comments -- which for hundreds of years were merely commonsense wisdom about the sexes -- to be so abysmally stupid as not to be worth taking the time to refute with logic. She writes a mere 120 words on the subject (most of them shopworn middle-school clich├ęs about Dunst being blonde and "kind of dumb") and dismisses the rest. Nice work if you can get it.

So apparently feminism is all about women choosing to do whatever empowers them and makes them happy -- unless what empowers you and makes you happy happens to be championing the values of traditional femininity. Then the nurturing sisterhood, as one, becomes a pack of raging harpies to turn on you and tear you apart -- as Ms. Dunst could certainly attest.

But before feminists dogpile all over themselves in the race to shove Kirsten into the corner and crown her with the Dunst cap, could someone take the time to inform me what precisely was so shameful about what she said? Certainly it wasn't the sentiment. She took time to honor the contributions of her own mother, who made the choice to be a homemaker. She admitted that men and women need each other, and that each has something unique and valuable to contribute to a loving relationship. As far as I can tell, the source of all the ugly here is the suggestion by Ms. Dunst that men and women have different natures. Well, OF COURSE men and women have different natures. The most honest feminists already know this, even if they are loath to admit it -- after all, if men and women were exactly the same, all feminists would welcome men to their cause with open arms instead of calling them beastly, patriarchal oppressors, suggesting that women need men like fish need bicycles, and repeatedly excluding them from the girls-only treehouse. Solidarity, rather than segregation, would be the order of the day. Instead, even men who consider themselves ardent feminists are sometimes treated with suspicion and disdain, simply because they are male.

This controversy is one of many reasons why I don't call myself a feminist. Yes, I'm in favor of being able to own things in my own name, walking around in public without a chaperone and having basic control over my own body. But if you ask me, these things no longer make one a feminist -- only a member of a modern free republic. Due in part to the work of early feminists, ideas once grouped under the status of "feminist beliefs" are now widely considered to be commonsense beliefs. You know, I'm also in favor of adult women being able to vote, but that doesn't make me a suffragette. Women's suffrage, at least in my country, is a done deal; the American people have long since realized that it was wrong to force adults to be subject to laws which they were not allowed to vote on, simply because they were female. Furthermore, if there were a modern suffragist movement that wanted to extend voting rights to girls as young as age 6, I would be adamantly against it; such a move would effectively liquidate the democratic process. Likewise, I'm not a feminist because most of the early equity-feminist goals have been achieved, either through legislation or encouraging social change. And these days an alarming number of people who call themselves feminists seem to be attempting to rend and destroy the culture in which they live. I see much that is worth saving in my culture, so I cannot stand with those who would shred it to pieces for the sake of pulling down "the patriarchy."

The thing I find most odd about the behavior of the modern feminist movement is the way it seems to push back against individualism. Feminism is supposedly about women's liberation, about women's rights. To me, that includes the right to be free not to call yourself a feminist, the right to decide for yourself that you're already liberated, the right to choose to be a wife and mother first if that's what you really want. I see in this something akin to the process of raising a child; your ultimate goal as a parent is to work yourself out of a job, to help shape a healthy adult with her own thoughts and ideas, one who can live independently of you. Of course you miss the child, but you also take pride in the adult your child has grown to become. But this goal -- to glory in the triumph of strong, capable, well-educated, independent women in society -- seems to have been lost in the modern feminist movement. Far from their stated goals of female liberation, feminist leaders seem to panic at the idea that there are strong women in the world who have declared themselves mature enough not to require the support structure of a political movement. They seem to need a cadre of perpetual teenagers, constantly fearful of having their rights snatched away by the looming specter of the Male Chauvinist Pig, and never quite able to think or act independently of the Cause.

So the question now before me is whether I need feminism, or whether feminism needs me. More and more it seems to me that the latter statement is more true than the former. As a political movement that needs the power of the masses to effect its goals, modern feminism is trying to pull in as many women as possible by trying to convince them that if they believe in such commonsense notions as women voting, owning property, not being sexually harassed at work, etc., then They May Already Be Members! But I don't accept that notion. And I'm just enough of an old-fashioned rugged individualist that I don't believe political and social change only takes place by stirring up the emotions of well-choreographed mobs.

Sorry, ladies. I'm standing with Ms. Dunst on this one.


MarieC said...

You, me, and Kirsten! Hope there's room in the corner.

Anonymous said...

Well-written, and I very much agree. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great post!

Nathan Shumate said...

Shorter feminism: "Men and women are just the same, and it's too bad that men are too stupid and brutish to understand that."

Soozcat said...

Nathan: heh. I suppose that's one of the other reasons why I'm not a feminist -- I object to the notion that it's somehow needful or desirable to bash and denigrate men in order to elevate women. Sexism -- whether misogyny or misandry -- is an ugly thing.

Chrys Houghton said...

So true! Women are acting really stupid these days. And a message to all women: "Use the stinkin' brains that God gave you to good use and think for yourself, and be your own individual self! Because the most interesting person to be is yourself."