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If you rejected feminism as a girl/young woman, why?

(6 Posts)
Woundering2 Fri 24-Mar-17 16:56:09

Have name changed.

Perhaps a strange question for this board, but I don't want the bs of AIBU?

I am asking as the mother of girls who are more vulnerable and easily influenced than most.

As a girl/teen I was not comfortable with feminism.

Partly because I hated my highly abusive mother. Who identified as a feminist, but was very mysogynistic and loved to put down other women.

Partly because I felt my own abuse at the hands of my mother, was silenced by the idea men abuse girls. And while I accept that mostly men are abusers, women do abuse also, and the tiny scale of research indicates at higher rates than prosecution statistics show (although still the minority).

I was told by my absent, passive agressive father that fathers didn't have rights to their children and that's why he never fought for me. (I believed my father was warm and loving when I was a young child, which turned out to be a fantacy). So I felt there were ways in which men were disadvantaged or unfairly treated. As a little girl I projected the pain I felt at not being able to live with my father onto him, thinking he felt the same way about not having custody of me-not true ofcourse- so this felt like a hugely cruel injustice inflicted on men, which ofcourse I now know differently.

In comparison to the above my mother felt all powerful in her victimisation of me, in her profiting off of my abuse at the hands of men, in how untouchable she seemed to me. So I saw my father as powerless and my mother as dominant.

As a teen/young woman-escaped from the above- feminism seemed to silence my experience at the hands of a violent woman. It also 'seemed' to push that men and women were 'the same' and I deeply wanted something to validate how different from boys I felt. I didn't find that in feminism-the little I knew if it- at that age. I also wanted, needed, a way to step away from being a victim. When I went to university what I found was recognition that I was different, vulnerable, that I had needed prior, that 'seemed' to rienforce my victim status.

I also hated the idea that socialisation created any part of me. Somewhat of a rebell I 'thought' I was immune to such influence- and actually I have many old school reports that simultaneously praise me not falling for peer pressure/standing up against others, yet complain that I speak out of turn/answer back/can't be influenced when I have made my mind up. I think because I allways felt so different from others because of the abuse I latched onto the idea i wasn't someone who would 'fall' for socialisation in the same way others would. I saw my typically female traits as linked to my neurodiversity, so neither biological sex or socialsed gender made me 'feminine'. I can't detangler that one yet- but am more than aware my neuro diversity gave my traits that 'makes' me typically masculine also. Speaking out/first/shouting loudest being one of them.

So I am interested in others experience of rejecting or being uncomfortable with feminism. If anyone has one. Because I am aware my experience feels deeply personal, yet I still look at my girls and worry they will similarly find themselves out of sync with feminism. And as they are more vulnerable than most at greater risk because of that rejection of feminist connection. And while I know they have a much safer experience of girlhood than I did I still worry about it. So am woundering if there are other reasons, that I may perhaps find in others narratives if you would kindly share, so that I can proactively address this with my girls. I know I felt more silenced, more judged and more rejected by girls than by boys. And I know I felt angry at the idea we should learn about feminist history (as I did equally about national germany) that was because of how much pain and horror I went through at home on a daily basis. I think I partly felt 'betrayed' by 'women' who 'should' have done more.

THanks in advance if anyone can share.

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog Fri 24-Mar-17 21:07:02

Didn't want to read and run - but there are elements I recognise in your story. I think I would always have identified as a liberal feminist, but I really didn't get radical feminism back when I was in my twenties/early thirties.

This was in part because when I was a young woman I didn't get the idea that violence was gendered - in part because I'd been to an all girls' school and seen plenty of female on female violence. I think it was a long time before I managed to sort out in my head the difference between biological differences as the "material conditions" against which the social construct of sexual oppression can be explained, versus "biological determinism". And I was terrified of anything that smacked of (or in my case was misinterpreted as) biological determinism, because I'd had experience of men saying "you must do X,Y and Z and be A, B and C because you are a woman and your biology says so", and didn't really understand the difference between this and radical feminism saying "you are socially conditioned to do X, Y and Z, and treated as if you are A, B and C, because you are a woman." So in my naivety I thought "Oh no, here comes another bunch of people telling me what I ought to be like." (Of course they weren't saying that at all, but I was on a bit of a hair trigger when it came to the slightest hint of anything proscribing my roles in life because I was female). I think I was wrong, but it took me a long time to realise that.

(There's a great Jackie Fleming cartoon of a man pontificating to camera, saying "I think that biologically I'm hardwired not to like hoovering, but I'm socially conditioned not to like doing the washing up," then a second frame with a woman saying "Frankly, by the time you're married to him, it doesn't matter why.")

I've also noticed that a few of my friends who had borderline or outright abusive mothers are much more likely to be anti-feminist or at least neutral about feminism than most of the women I know. I think getting over an abusive mother is one of the hardest things you can do. (And I've seen the utterly spineless man passing himself off as a nice guy who was powerless in the face of a harridan - when in fact the truth is he was a lazy fucker who could have done something but couldn't be arsed to - in several families I know).

7Days Fri 24-Mar-17 21:29:11

Interesting question. I am sorry that happened to you in your young life.
Perhaps it's simply a numbers game. As a child your immediate family is your whole world. In the 'typical' non abusive family, the mother is the primary carer. She rules your world. Thwarts the child, punishes them, makes all the decisions, has all the power in your small world. As your world expands you begin to notice that a lot of x things happen to y people. Your experiences tell you one thing, society tells you another. But as your confidence grows you place more faith in your own perceptions.
Lots of women find that motherhood has sparked their feminism. As well as doing the fundamentally female thing of childbearing, perhaps their protective instincts cause them to notice threats and unfairness.
Also when you are young you are more likely to be interested in meeting guys etc. Dressing up, experimenting, highlighting your desirability. That doesn't mesh well with a lot of feminist analysis. And it is fun for a lot of young girls and women. Its also - generally - a bit if an I'm all right, Jill time of life. And why not I say. Chasing fun and the self absorption of late adolescence are neccessary waystages towards maturity.

VestalVirgin Fri 24-Mar-17 21:33:52

Well, I can't tell you about rejection of feminism, but perhaps I can still help you.

I was a feminist from the day some boys told me they didn't want to play with me because I was a girl.

The fact that I spent the first years of my life without much background sexism in a pretty progressive big city and then moved to the countryside where people lived about 50 years in the past, probably contributed to me a) knowing that I was exactly as good as any boy and b) realizing that many boys disagreed.

The contrast between the experiences made it very obvious to me that something was seriously wrong with society.

Since you probably try to shelter your daughters from sexism, I would recommend that whenever your daughters do, despite your efforts, witness sexism or are affected by it, you point it out. You don't have to use the word "sexism", you can just say "that is not fair", "that is obviously untrue, here are the real facts", etc.

Euripidesralph Fri 24-Mar-17 21:42:29

If I'm honest I rejected the label of feminism rather than the concept because I was unlucky enough to come into contact with several particularly militant feminists that used the label of feminism as a battering ram

I could find no logic or thought in their arguments but merely a jumping off point for anti men hyperbole

So I identified as meritocrat first and foremost, as I've got older I champion female rights more so and began to identify further withan feminism

I've since balked at again some (not all by any means) feminist agendas that target trans women , whereas the majority I find although they may dislike trans women's encroachment on the female identity they are respectful but I have noticed that particular issue bringing to the fore the militancy I had experienced in my youth that in some cases is based nowhere near fact but as a way to create a divergence of themy and us

I personally value inclusivity and mutual respect and I find the garrulousness of the extremists in feminism off putting. ..so I still find it very difficult to identify as feminist

I do totally accept however that that's a prejudice on my part

Woundering2 Fri 24-Mar-17 22:14:07

I wouldn't say motherhood sparked feminism. I hold the same opinions as I allways have really, more grown up & less judgemental these days, but basicly the same ideas.

It's more that I wouldn't have been comfortable with the idea of feminism as sonething that included me prior, because it felt like it pushed me out

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