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What does someone actually mean when they say "I'm not a feminist"?

(317 Posts)
TheFeministParent Sun 02-Jan-11 18:06:47

For me it means that either:
a) they are a man
b) they think feminist means militant lesbian
c) they think feminism has no relevance.

Blackduck Sun 02-Jan-11 18:10:36

d) they think feminists hate all men and think they are rapists (variant on b))

BelleDameSansMerci Sun 02-Jan-11 18:26:42

e) They think men will find them unattractive if they stand up for themselves
f) They are monumentally stupid
g) They do not value themselves enough to want equal treatment
h) They do not realise how much has changed as a result of feminists
i) They do not value independence and would rather be a chattel than an indepedent woman with her own voice

MissHellToe Sun 02-Jan-11 18:37:12

I'm thinking about the question properly, as it's interesting how many women refuse to identify with what feminism stands for. So I'm not going to insult these women, rather try to understand, as women I love and respect refuse to call themselves feminists

I think they enjoy their life as a woman, and the effects of their gender has had only positive outcomes for them and other women they know. They enjoy their 'role' as a female in their family and job, and perhaps some women see feminism as being opposed to a balanced relationship where both members compromise and accept the other's needs and desires - eg in heterosexual sex where power becomes a key issue.

If feminism has limited appeal to some women, we need to unpick why rather than saying such simplistic things as what's above as I'm currently writing.

Gay40 Sun 02-Jan-11 18:42:17

When I hear that, I hear "I am very stupid and submissive."

BelleDameSansMerci Sun 02-Jan-11 18:46:44

MissHellToe - that seems very reasonable.

I find it hard, however, to have much time for women who are happy to reap the benefit of the hard work and convictions of other women but seek to distance themselves from those same women.

SlightlyTubbyHali Sun 02-Jan-11 18:48:46

For me it means they don't understand feminism.

AMumInScotland Sun 02-Jan-11 18:51:58

I agree with MissHellToe - I think a lot of women don't have any real understanding of what feminism is - we need to think about why the negative images of it are the first ones to spring to mind.

noddyholder Sun 02-Jan-11 18:52:21

I think someone who says that either isn't a feminist in any way at all and is going along with a patriarchal lifestyle without question OR is someone who thinks they are not radical enough to carry the 'label'.I consider myself a feminist but enjoy being a woman

AMumInScotland Sun 02-Jan-11 18:54:33

I'd have to say I don't refer to myself as "a feminist" - I believe in equality, but I don't go round labelling myself as an anything-ist as I'd rather talk about what I believe is important and not have people lump me into a category which they think they know the definition of.

Hassled Sun 02-Jan-11 18:54:40

I think it means they are idiots. Too stupid to actually understand what the word means, too stupid to bother to find out, too stupid to use their imaginations re the alternative.

Grumpla Sun 02-Jan-11 18:55:33

What she said - they don't understand feminism.

Also that they don't understand (fully or at all) sexism, the fact that it still permeates every area of a woman's life today.

What I usually think is "you are resistant to the label feminist, you clearly haven't thought this through, let me convince you otherwise!!!" then I get on my soapbox and shout at them until they either change their mind or cross me off their Christmas list forever.

Hassled Sun 02-Jan-11 18:57:18

noddy - you're right, lots of women see the word as being akin to being a "radical". Hatchet-faced, as I believe we were called last night. But there's nothing radical about being a feminist, or at least there needn't be. It's about wanting equally fair treatment - not necessarily the same, but equally fair. That's not a radical want. I don't get why so many people can't see this.

BertieBasset Sun 02-Jan-11 18:57:35

I agree with STH. I can't say I am a feminist as I don't know really what that means? I appreciate I should!

However I am a strong woman with a job in a traditionally male environment and hope my daughter will have every opportunity a man would have. I would fight for this, and have done for myself, and have an equal partnership with my dh.

This is my first post here, and I am genuinely interested in what feminism is, so please don't flame me!

2cats2many Sun 02-Jan-11 19:01:08

I think that some women say it when what they really mean is that they aren't political.

Of course, everything is political to some degree, but plenty of women I know haven't ever thought of their lives in that way.

BelleDameSansMerci Sun 02-Jan-11 19:01:58

Bertie - I think you're probably a feminist... smile

HopeForTheBest Sun 02-Jan-11 19:10:59

I want and believe in fair and equal treatment for everyone (to paraphrase Hassled) but I disagree completely with Grumpla's assertion that
"they don't understand (fully or at all) sexism, the fact that it still permeates every area of a woman's life today" and many other similar statements that I read on this board.

My feelings about being a woman have changed dramatically since I was a teenager/young woman, when I would have described myself as a feminist. Getting older, having a career, getting married and having a child have all fundementally changed the way I see myself and the role of "woman". Much of what I now feel and believe does not seem compatible with the ideas and philosophies of feminism.
At the same time, and contradictorily (??is that a word?!), I also feel that "feminism" is too wishy washy and not defined enough. I am aware that that does not really make sense.

I just know that many of the opinions I read which proclaim to be feminist do not sit well with me.

As such, I do not define myself as a feminist.

MissHellToe Sun 02-Jan-11 19:13:17

I think all women should be (and probably are) aware of how their gender affects their life, and have access to support networks and a sense of perspective on why things work the way they do, and how they can resist, make positive changes or stand up for women in all the little (and bigger) situations in which they find themselves.

Perhaps feminism would benefit from a rebranding exercise like 'gay pride' forces society to see gay people as a happy, positive entity who stand together. At the moment, feminism is definitely seen as out of touch and out of date.

BertieBasset Sun 02-Jan-11 19:14:27

Thank you Belle I shall continue doing what I am doing smile and hopefully learn a bit more about feminism from this board

LeninInExcelsis Sun 02-Jan-11 19:17:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LeninInExcelsis Sun 02-Jan-11 19:18:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MissHellToe Sun 02-Jan-11 19:21:17

Lenin do you not think a decent campaign would work wonders? It does no woman any good for feminism to be a fringe movement. If feminism had more of a voice politically in the uk, wonders could be achieved <dreams of anti-rape campaigns that are targeted at men, decent anti-dv campaigns, full representation at Westminster...>

MissHellToe Sun 02-Jan-11 19:22:26

Women need to feel feminism is relevant to them. That's the point of the OP.

LeninInExcelsis Sun 02-Jan-11 19:22:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

vesuvia Sun 02-Jan-11 19:23:23

HopeForTheBest wrote - "My feelings about being a woman have changed dramatically since I was a teenager/young woman, when I would have described myself as a feminist. Getting older, having a career, getting married and having a child have all fundementally changed the way I see myself and the role of "woman".

Has the change in your attitude with age been influenced by feeling that you have reached a stage where feminism is of no further use to you in your own life?

Do you think you could ever be a feminist again, to help other women who happen to be less fortunate than yourself?

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