“I’m not a feminist, but…”

A pet peeve of mine is when someone (usually female) says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist but…” and then rails against some indignity. When did feminism become a dirty word? If you believe that human beings are equal regardless of gender, you’re pretty much a feminist. You may not be a feminist of the placard-carrying, writing to politicians variety, but you do hold feminist views. That is not a bad thing.

By decrying feminism, we are turning our backs on our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and anyone else who fought for such rights as the right for all to vote, the right to decide whether or not to have a family, the right to work and so on. As the writer Linda Grant wrote on her revealing International Women’s Day twitter feed, “Whatever rights you have are because feminists went out and grabbed them for you. Feminists, not shoe designers or chocolate manufacturers.” If you are a woman who works, has an education, takes the Pill and votes, you have feminists to thank.

Although I was brought up in a family with strong feminist leanings, I became a self-identifying feminist in my early twenties, oddly enough through knitting. I had just moved to Brighton and my aunt taught me to knit in the hope that I would make some friend (not that I’m anti-social, but I didn’t know anyone when I moved here.) Through learning to knit, I discovered Debbie Stoller, who not only wrote the beginner knitter’s bible, but also edits the feminist magazine Bust. My conscience was awakening and I devoured everything I could on what it meant to be a modern feminist and I’ve since gone on to write for feminist websites and magazines. Interestingly, when I wrote about crafting and feminism last year, I was roundly, viciously criticised by someone on my Facebook page for not writing about ‘serious’ issues relating to the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia… a bit random, considering that I had been asked to write a fun piece about something I knew lots about. Of course, there are serious issues in feminism which we should all work towards eradicating, but sometimes, even feminists have to have fun. Although, as the great Suzanne Moore said recently, “The thing about being a feminist is you never run out of people to disappoint.” I guess I disappointed someone on that day.

I am proud to be a feminist. I am a skirt-wearing, lipstick-applying, writing-to-my-MP feminist. I think that everyone, regardless of the genitalia they were born with, should be paid the same money for doing the same job. I think that men should have more rights when it comes to paternity leave. I think that women and girls around the world should be equal to their male counterparts. I wish we didn’t live in a society where the sexualisation of young girls is commonplace. There is still so much to do.

Happy International Women’s Day.





2 thoughts on ““I’m not a feminist, but…”

  1. Divya Narayan says:

    I’m a woman. I’m not against feminism per se, but I just cannot stand it when women demand special treatment simply because they are women. How many times have we seen mothers and housewives say,”I do so much, and this is what I get in return?” Hello, but life’s tough, you know. Do you look after your family only becuase you expect something in return? If yes, then you are not fit to be called a mother, ‘cos your love is clearly NOT unconditional (you expect, no, you demand something back from your family simply because you look after them). But then, looking after the family is what you are supposed to do. If that is so much of a problem, well, go ahead, divorce your husband, put your kids in foster care, maybe then your life will be much more comfortable. Your kids did not force you to give birth to them, you did it out of your free will (feminists are supposed to be pro-choice, right??), so you have no right to complain. Plain and simple.

    Also, since women believe so much in ‘feminism’, can someone please tell me why women employ the use of makeup as a CRUTCH (that is what I will call it) to make themselves feel confident? Is confidence such a cosmetic quality that it can simply be achieved if you wear makeup? I thought that confidence came from feeling good about yourself wholeheartedly (physically, mentally, emotionally), and having a positive attitude about life in general, makeup or no makeup. Or is obtaining a positive attitude so simple that it can easily be achieved through wearing makeup?

    • stephaniepomfrett says:

      Your comment brings up some interesting points.

      There are some women who claim special rights to being a woman- but true feminists believe that feminism itself is about equality, right? I think that the women you are talking about who complain are a minority; ultimately those women made their choice. Does it impact on you? If not, you can tune out of their complaints or walk away- you have that right. If it annoys you, check out http://www.stfuparents.com which deals with some of that sort of stuff in a humorous manner. (It is pretty funny, if a bit gross at times!)

      As for makeup, I see it as clearly an ‘each to their own’ kind of thing. I wear makeup because I like it. It’s not a ‘crutch’, it’s something I do because I like playing around with the way I look. It’s not to make me feel better about myself or to ‘obtain a positive attitude’. Some women, who happen to be feminists, wear makeup. Some, who aren’t, do too. It’s a personal thing. And yes, sometimes, some women wear it to make themselves feel better; I think the key thing is to avoid making broad judgements/generalisations. If you don’t like it, don’t wear it. If others wear it, it’s their choice.

      You can be a feminist, wear makeup and have hairy legs, or wear dungarees and burn your bra. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’m a feminist because I believe, wholeheartedly, that everyone, regardless of gender, deserves to choose the way they live (as long as it doesn’t hurt other people.)

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