I am not a feminist

Mad intersection

It’s true. I do not call myself a feminist, I do not want anyone else to call me a feminist, and I can no longer justify considering myself a feminist.

What I want to do here is explain why.

Though first, i want to explain why not. I mean, usually when I see people claim they are not feminists (usually on the internet) they are setting up blatant, horrible straw man arguments and making utterly absurd claims about feminism in order to tear it down. Usually the people in question are really quite misogynistic or are women who are internalized a lot of sexism, and it is not at all uncommon for those folks to want to make things go back to how they were in the past when women were always expected to be subservient to men.

I am not one of those people. Not at all. When I encounter those people I generally immediately want to leap to the defense of feminism, as I believe those critiques are entirely unreasonable.

No, the reason I am finally rejecting feminism is because feminism has failed, and is continuing to fail, in regards to intersectionality. It is a very serious problem within feminism, and it is one that I can personally no longer deal with.

I’m going to start with an example that I think people might have an easier time swallowing than my own issue, just because of the way the world is right now. Ages ago, Michelle Obama, the FLOTUS, said “at the end of the day, my most important title is still mom-in-chief”

And boy was there a kerfuffle over that one! Many feminists (white, straight, able-bodied feminists) thought that she was totally betraying feminism and being a bad example of a powerful woman and whatnot. Now, there is a very good write-up of all the problems of that over here that says it all much better than I ever could. I highly suggest you read it yourself, but if you don’t want to here’s a brief excerpt:

Racism, slavery, white supremacy, economic inequality and deprivation forced black women to cater to the needs and demands of Miss Ann and her family. For centuries, we black women ran ourselves weary and exhausted making sure white men, white women and white children are fed, bathed, clothes and content before we could even have a moment to feed, clothe, bathe and care for ourselves and our own families.

To add to this, I just recently read the book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, which is a rare, first-hand account of slavery written by a woman. Of note – even after she escapes, even after she got her children out, even when she was living in New York – ostensibly a free state, even when she found friends who would help her, she still had to get work caring for a white baby while being unable to even live with her own children.

The point here is that the history and oppression of black women is fundamentally different from the history and oppression of white women. Feminism that only recognizes the oppression of white women and expects ALL women to conform to that perspective is totally failing to take into account the different needs of black women. For white women, choosing to leave the home and work was the defiant choice, proving their independence. For black women, who were often forced to leave their children to take care of white demands, it’s the opposite.

Thing is, race is far from the only area where feminism has been blind to intersections. Sexuality is another obvious one. However, the ones that strongly impact me personally and have made it impossible for me to continue to call myself a feminist are the intersections of being female while also being autistic, mentally ill, and disabled. A feminism that ignores the impact of these things is a feminism that has no idea of my needs or the kinds of choices I need to make. This is a feminism that does not even acknowledge my existence.

And while feminism is starting, barely, to notice that there is work to do in regards to the intersections of womanhood, race, and sexuality, they still do not notice or acknowledge the myriad other intersections that exist and matter and make an impact on individuals.

As it is I certainly support much of feminism. I believe in equality for all sexes and genders, I believe that gender is still a major issue in the US, and I believe we still have a lot of work to do. But I am not a feminist, because I cannot be part of a group that is blind to who I am, the choices I make, and how my empowerment will look different from their empowerment.

Instead, I have taken to calling myself an intersectionalist.

I’m sure it will be a thing eventually.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “I am not a feminist

  1. PK

    Very good article, with very valid points – why don’t we all be humanists? I looked up the definition and I like it. Works for me and covers all the bases.
    “Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism).”
    Intersectionalist is good 🙂

  2. Possum

    YES!!!

    And I would love it if you elaborated on the intersections that you see feminism not addressing.

    I also stopped considering myself a feminist (or a progressive) because I feel like both of these are oppressive to me and a lot of other people both like and unlike me.

    I know my reasons but I would love to read about the connections you made if that’s okay with you.

    Possum

    • Well, this post came to mind after a conversation I had with someone who’s generally quite lovely, in which she spent a good half an hour telling me I should just get a job because she’s a “strong feminist.” There was no thought of disability or the myriad reasons why holding down a job is not a possibility for me right now. I need things like accommodation and acceptance and, if I were to work, job training for autistic people and help with job placement. But feminism has no room for that because those are disability things rather than gender things. So my empowerment apparently needs to look like their empowerment, and it’s just not ever going to.

      • Possum

        That makes sense. Not what I thought you meant. Glad I asked. So, you need to be paid to be considered to be “empowered”. Not only have a job but do it like the majority.

        While I’m also on disability, my point of conflict a different aspect, the call to community, which in actuality looks too much to me like a call for everyone to act like extroverts. Too much of this whole connected mess is, take off your physical corsets and put on these mental ones. Made by me for you.

        For me, the strength of your blog is the way you take ideas that are kind of bubbling around all goo-like and give them structure. Yay blog.

        • Well, I did intend to leave it open to any sort of intersection of disability and feminism. I care, a lot, about intersections and this post is sort of a subset of a complaint I have where people are doing more and more talking about different sorts of oppression (which is good) but still very little talking about how they impact each other and the fact that looking at them as though they are isolated from one another means missing a large part of the picture. Gah run-on sentence but I hope you got my drift. So while the story I told you was my inspiration for the post, I definitely did not mean to exclude other specific issues people may face. And the needing to act like an extrovert thing – yeah, that’s a thing I really dislike too.

          Thank you so much for the compliment! I am absolutely thrilled that I am having some success in structuring my ideas. ^_^

  3. ManYunSoo

    “I mean, usually when I see people claim they are not feminists (usually on the internet) they are setting up blatant, horrible straw man arguments and making utterly absurd claims about feminism in order to tear it down.”
    Would you mind elaborating? For the most part, I’ve seen these groups present valid criticisms of the actions prominent feminists have made that are…well, let’s say less than intersectional, if you include “men” as an intersection. Specifically, which straw man arguments do you mean?

    • Excellent question. Much of it comes down to people acting like a few extremist outliers represent all of feminism. So claims that feminists hate men, or feminists want women to take over the world, or declaiming all of feminism because of the actions of radfems (a group which I admit, I do not like at all) or TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists). I very much dislike demonizing an entire group because of a few extremists, and feminists definitely have to deal with this.

  4. Angie rojas

    Great post Andraya! I never considered myself a “feminist” though I have always been strong in my opinion of womens rights. I guess i just felt that term or associating with that group was polarizing myself on one subject when my views on equality are far broader than just women. I however never quite thought about the equality and empowerment of women in different races, ethnicities, social economical classes, and abilities would be different. Quite an eye opener.