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Stop Fem-Splaining: What 'Women Against Feminism' Gets Right
The latest skirmish on the gender battlefield is “Women Against Feminism”: women and girls taking to social media to declare that they don’t need or want feminism, usually via photos of themselves with handwritten placards. The feminist reaction has ranged from mockery to dismay to somewhat patronizing (or should that be “matronizing”?) lectures on why these dissidents are wrong. But, while the anti-feminist rebellion has its eye-rolling moments, it raises valid questions about the state of Western feminism in the 21st century — questions that must be addressed if we are to continue making progress toward real gender equality.
Female anti-feminism is nothing new. In the 19th century, plenty of women were hostile to the women’s movement and to women who pursued nontraditional paths. In the 1970s, Marabel Morgan’s regressive manifesto The Total Woman was a top best seller, and Phyllis Schlafly led opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. But such anti-feminism was invariably about defending women’s traditional roles. Some of today’s “women against feminism” fit that mold: they feel that feminism demeans stay-at-home mothers, or that being a “true woman” means loving to cook and clean for your man. Many others, however, say they repudiate feminism even though — indeed, because — they support equality and female empowerment:
“I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy.”
“I don’t need feminism because it reinforces the men as agents/women as victims dichotomy.”
“I do not need modern feminism because it has become confused with misandry which is as bad as misogyny, and whatever I want to do or be in life, I will become through my own hard work.”
Or, more than once: “I don’t need feminism because egalitarianism is better!”
Again and again, the dissenters say that feminism belittles and demonizes men, treating them as presumptive rapists while encouraging women to see themselves as victims. “I am not a victim” and “I can take responsibility for my actions” are recurring themes. Many also challenge the notion that American women in the 21st century are “oppressed,” defiantly asserting that “the patriarchy doesn’t exist” and “there is no rape culture.”
One common response from feminists is to say that Women Against Feminism “don’t understand what feminism is” and to invoke its dictionary definition: “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.” The new anti-feminists have a rejoinder for that, too: they’re judging modern feminism by its actions, not by the book. And here, they have a point.
Consider the #YesAllWomen Twitter hashtag, dubbed by one blogger “the Arab Spring of 21st century feminism.” Created in response to Elliot Rodger’s deadly shooting spree in Isla Vista, Calif. — and to reminders that “not all men” are violent misogynists — the tag was a relentless catalog of female victimization by male terrorism and abuse. Some of its most popular tweets seemed to literally dehumanize men, comparing them to sharks or M&M candies of which 10% are poisoned.
Consider assertions that men as a group must be taught “not to rape,” or that to accord the presumption of innocence to a man accused of sexual violence against a woman or girl is to be complicit in “rape culture.” Consider that last year, when an Ohio University student made a rape complaint after getting caught on video engaging in a drunken public sex act, she was championed by campus activists and at least one prominent feminist blogger — but a grand jury declined to hand down charges after reviewing the video of the incident and evidence that both students were inebriated.
Consider that a prominent British feminist writer, Laurie Penny, decries the notion that feminists should avoid such generalizations as “men oppress women”; in her view, all men are steeped in a woman-hating culture and “even the sweetest, gentlest man” benefits from women’s oppression. Consider, too, that an extended quote from Penny’s column was reposted by a mainstream reproductive-rights group and shared by nearly 84,000 Tumblr users in six months.
Sure, some Women Against Feminism claims are caricatures based on fringe views — for instance, that feminism mandates hairy armpits, or that feminists regard all heterosexual intercourse as rape. On the other hand, the charge that feminism stereotypes men as predators while reducing women to helpless victims certainly doesn’t apply to all feminists — but it’s a reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism.
Are Women Against Feminism ignorant and naive to insist they are not oppressed? Perhaps some are too giddy with youthful optimism. But they make a strong argument that a “patriarchy” that lets women vote, work, attend college, get divorced, run for political office and own businesses on the same terms as men isn’t quite living up to its label. They also raise valid questions about politicizing personal violence along gender lines; research shows that surprisingly high numbers of men may have been raped, sometimes by women.
For the most part, Women Against Feminism are quite willing to acknowledge and credit feminism’s past battles for women’s rights in the West, as well as the severe oppression women still suffer in many parts of the world. But they also say that modern Western feminism has become a divisive and sometimes hateful force, a movement that dramatically exaggerates female woes while ignoring men’s problems, stifles dissenting views, and dwells obsessively on men’s misbehavior and women’s personal wrongs. These are trends about which feminists have voiced alarm in the past — including the movement’s founding mother Betty Friedan, who tried in the 1970s to steer feminism from the path of what she called “sex/class warfare.” Friedan would have been aghast had she known that, 50 years after she began her battle, feminist energies were being spent on bashing men who commit the heinous crime of taking too much space on the subway.
Is there still a place in modern-day America for a gender-equality movement? I think so. Work-family balance remains a real and complicated challenge. And there are gender-based cultural biases and pressures that still exist — though, in 21st century Western countries, they almost certainly affect men as much as women. A true equality movement would be concerned with the needs and interests of both sexes. It would, for instance, advocate for all victims of domestic and sexual violence regardless of gender — and for fairness to those accused of these offenses. It would support both women and men as workers and as parents.
Should such a movement take back feminism — or, as the new egalitarians suggest, give up on the label altogether because of its inherent connotations of advocating for women only? I’m not sure what the answer is. But Women Against Feminism are asking the right questions. And they deserve to be heard, not harangued. As one of the group’s graphics says, “I have my own mind. Please stop fem-splaining it to me.?
Kemi Olunloyo :'I Don’t Experience Orgasms' media personality opens up on FGM
Kemi in an interview with International Business Times, says her sexual life and mental health were affected after she was mutilated as a child.
According to her, the grave act was committed on her at age five when a family member took she and her sister to meet a man who placed them on his lap and “then cut part of our vagina and clitoral area off.
"There was no anaesthetic and a sharp razor blade was used. I remember my sister and I screaming afterwards," she said. Adding, "We went home bleeding. Deep down, mom was not happy for some reason."
Olunloyo told IBTimes UK after years of resentment towards her mother, she finally confronted her in 2012. "She burst into tears telling me that our late paternal grandma ordered my dad to have us do it."
"It was a cultural barbaric act used to decrease the female libido. It caused me post-traumatic stress disorder for life. I don't experience orgasm during sex and when I tried to promote the use of sex toys among Nigerian women, men started attacking me saying I was discouraging African women 'from the real thing." "Sex is not important. I have no libido or urge to have sex and I've been celibate for 10 years. Millions of women in Nigeria go through this, but they cannot talk or be outspoken like me. It is shameful and a disgrace to them."
95 percent of the victims of violence are men. Because women are natural cowards who send men to handle things when they are dangerous.
Suffice to say, Orzel is no fan of radionics.
"If you think carefully about it—it's just amazing that the universe works that way," he says. "But it's not quite as amazing as being able to use your thoughts to do magic. So it's frustrating in the way that it takes away from the wonder of the actual theory [of quantum entanglement]. Because it's not some crazy fictional version of magic. The reality is really pretty awesome in its own right."
It is easy, and typical, to laugh at people who buy into things like radionics. But despite their dubious scientific backing, related ideas have completely crossed over to the mainstream in recent years. The United States government has been so intrigued by the psychic possibilities of the mind that it has expended no small amount of effort investigating it. The 2006 book The Secret, which promoted the idea that sending good thoughts out into the world produced positive results, sold more than 19 million copies. (It was also drubbed in The New York Times.) On a regular basis, my yoga teacher encourages me (and the dozen or so other people in the class, who may or may not think of themselves as "woo-woo") to "set my intention" before practice, and broadcast groovy vibes to someone I love.
So, though radionics is on the fringe, the fringe is coming closer to the center. It's now just something everyone tolerates (everyone who does yoga, anyway). Which does not make it true, or even good. It just means that under the right circumstances we are all probably capable of believing in things that other people think are impossible or ridiculous.
Like anything, a belief in the metaphysical can be passed down through families. Kelly inherited his father's radionics business. Warren grew up listening to ghost stories. A man I talked to who runs an online radionics forum told me his father was a hypnotherapist and paranormal investigator.
But Max says that—if anything—he is rebelling against a straight-laced upbringing.
Here on the bright San Francisco coffeehouse patio, there is little to reveal this rebellion. Max is soft-spoken and modestly attired. Sitting in front of a stack of his papers, we could be a couple of teachers going over our lesson plans. We could be doing our taxes.
Max was born in Detroit. His father worked for IBM and his family moved around a lot (IBM stands for "I've been moved," he jokes.) He got a degree in theater arts and became an audio engineer. He tried New York but ended up in San Francisco where he fell into the late-'70s punk scene, working both on and offstage, playing bass and synthesizer. Eventually Max would go on to do audio engineering for acts like Destiny's Child and tour the world with Daft Punk. He still works as an audio engineer.
Max first learned about radionics while reading science fiction magazines as a kid. He filed it under interesting, but there wasn't much he could do about it then. Then his newly acquired engineering skills collided with the Bay Area's permissive acceptance of alternative philosophies. ("It's hard to be classified as crazy for doing anything in Berkeley.") He got into steampunk, started playing the theremin and—almost on a whim—built a Hieronymus box. He did it as an experiment, as much an art project as anything else. Then he tried to use it and felt the telltale "stick".
Hooked, Max delved into the radionics community. He started a blog ("Aetheric Arts"), he moderates a Facebook group, he went to a convention.
"I found that, for me," he says, sighing, "a lot of the people involved in it are also involved in the kind of fringe I don't have a lot of respect for. There were a lot of anti-vaxxers and anti-GMO people and government conspiracy theorists, and that's not my cup of tea."
He has distanced himself from the community since then, but still experiments with his boxes.
Unlike most of the other people I talked to, Max says he uses the machines for healing purposes and doesn't really fiddle around with the idea of bringing riches or other perks into his life. ("Might as well be praying.") He extends his services to family and friends, doesn't advertise, doesn't charge, and believes the power of radionics to be supplemental to traditional medical care. He says he has helped ease his own neck pain, diagnose a friend's mysterious lethargy (it was a problem with her left ventricle) and treated his 94-year-old mother's constipation, among other successes.
Today, unfortunately, as we sit in the shade, regarding Max's machinery and careful notes, there is not much to be revealed or accomplished by his handsome Hieronymus machine. My aura is just okay, but other than that there is nothing wrong with me, nothing interesting or shocking for the machine to impart or improve about my state of being. But the point of our meeting, really, was not to check out my aura but to give me a chance to investigate the esoteric promises of radionics myself. We did, after all, agree about the relative number of that plant. I felt something (or at least convinced myself I felt something) similar to what Max was feeling.
Was that sensation a cosmic record scratch? If it was, it was anticlimactic.
We chat a bit longer and then I ask him how he would feel if there were a massive scientific study and in the end the verdict was that radionics was all bunk? Would Max be upset, would he feel like he had wasted a bunch of time?
He insists that he wouldn't.
"I would think, what a pretty box I made."
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