Monday, May 20, 2013

Why I No Longer Call Myself a Feminist: Part Four

All the Little Things

It wasn't some major issue that all the feminists of the world collectively agree upon that made me  finally declare to my husband: "That's it; I'm not a feminist anymore",  but rather
a few small posts by individual feminists that irritated me just a little too much. Yes, these  probably all seem pretty petty, but my frustrations with feminists had been brewing for a while.

After the Oscar's, there was much talk about Seth MacFarlane's turn at hosting, and from the feminist community it was unanimously negative. The biggest source of ire was his 'We Saw Your Boobs' song, which, parody or not, was deemed objectifying to women. That's fine, but there were two articles that showed complete hypocrisy by feminists.

There was this one by Meghan O'Keefe at HelloGiggles (and I do love hellogiggles - Zooey!) who almost acknowledges her hypocrisy by pointing out that she does make entire posts about "Jeremy Renner's butt or Channing Tatum's abs or Aaron Tveit's everything", but then proceeds to claim that it's okay to objectify men because "we live in a culture that has historically sexualized women as objects and denied women the right to sexualize men in return" So we're doing the eye for an eye thing now? This ignores individuality: Channing Tatum did not personally objectify O'Keefe (or any woman as far as we are aware), so why does he personally deserve to be objectified because of the historical sexualisation of women? 

At least O'Keefe is somewhat aware of her hypocrisy, unlike Samantha Escobar at The Gloss. She criticises MacFarlane's sexism, which I had no problem with until I got to the last paragraph:"Can't Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Jon Stewart just host everything? Or Ian Somerhalder's jawline. That would be okay with me, as well."

So after an entire post complaining about the objectification of women, she thinks it's acceptable to reduce a male actor to a jawline. How is that not objectification?

It's either okay to sexually objectify people or it isn't. To suggest that it's only unacceptable to objectify women is to create one of those double standards that feminists usually have a problem with. I also highly doubt that O'Keefe originally started writing about men's body parts with the conscious intention of "leveling the playing field". It is far more likely that she realised she needed to justify it when she decided to write a post about the objectification of women. A better response to the realisation of hypocrisy would have been to reconsider whether it is really acceptable for her to continue to objectify men (which is a good test in general: there are several situations where you can swap the genders to realise how many double standards there really are in feminism - you can see some examples here, starting at the 9th paragraph).

Upworthy is a website that reposts videos, pictures and stories from around the web that are encouraging or share some sort of positive message. There are several different issues that these touch on, such as bullying, LGBT rights and feminism. I usually really like the things that they post, but the people who post them add their own titles in order to be attention grabbing, and it is these titles that often frustrate me.

In particular, there was this post by Rebecca Eisenberg. The woman in the picture is Rebecca Lolosoli, who founded a women's village in Kenya for victims of abuse. Eisenberg's title is "8 Things Women Want that Most Men Take For Granted". These '8 things' in Lolosoli's quote are:

1. To choose our husband
2. To own the land
3. To go to school
4. Not to be cut
5. To make decisions
6. Respect in politics
7. To be leaders
8. To be equal

Ummmmmmm. Yeah.

Yes, I'm sure there are plenty of people who would argue that women in America don't have respect in politics and are not equal, but what really bothers me about the headline is that Rebecca Lolosoli lives in a place where women are nowhere near equal, where they have to worry about female circumcision and being married off to someone they don't even know. Rebecca Lolosoli needs feminism. Rebecca Eisenberg; not so much. To act like women in America are even in remotely the same situation as the women in Lolosoli's village, to make a point about men taking certain rights for granted that every woman in America can also take for granted is to make light of the terrible situations that many women in other parts of the world are in.

Also on Upworthy was this post from Femi Oke. The Everday Sexism Project is a website where women post stories about sexism they've experienced. Oke posts a selection with the title "Why Do Men Think THIS Is OK?" First of all, it's not 'men' who think it's okay, it's the men in the stories (gender swap test! How do feminists react when something negative is applied to the all inclusive 'women'?) Second of all, one of the stories is from a woman who kissed a 'middle-aged, lone Saudi man' on the cheek at a New Year party, and then he groped her butt. He shouldn't have done that; her peck on the cheek was not an invitation for anything further. But there was no invitation for a peck on the cheek, and I could just as easily see someone writing a post for that website about a man giving her a peck on the cheek at a New Year's party. She initiated uninvited physical contact, but when he touched her in a way that she didn't like it was sexist rather than just being a case of miscommunication.

Finally, Feminist Frequency is a video series where Anita Sarkeesian discusses the portrayal of women in media. While I do have some issues with the series (which will require their own post), it was a comment posted on her video "Tropes vs. Women: #6 The Straw Feminist" that made me mad. At the end of the video there is a short list of straw feminists who hadn't been discussed,  among them Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins. ArcaneSky commented that "Mary Poppins is a horrible movie for women in general though; the only adult female characters in it are the absentee mother, the homeless birdlady, and a collection of domestics (nannies and maids)." 

Now, I'm a nanny, so of course I'm going to take offence, but it seriously bothers me that Mary Poppins is somehow anti-feminist because she's a domestic worker. She's a working woman (who may or may not have a little something going on with Bert but she clearly has the upper hand in that relationship) and she makes a genuine difference in people's lives. How is that not feminist? And if being a nanny isn't worthy, and being a stay-at-home mum isn't worthy, does that mean it's only acceptable for men to look after children? What does that say about women and choices?

I know; It's just one person's opinion, but that was it for me. It wasn't 'straw feminists' who put me off, it was the vast majority of feminists who refuse to think critically about what they say, who refuse to consider possible non-sexist explanations for supposed gender inequality, and who think that you can't be a decent person without being a feminist. 

If you genuinely believe in the causes of feminism, then don't be afraid to look at the world objectively and consider putting aside that gendered label. 

Equality isn't just for women.

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