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How can I reconnect with feminism?

(193 Posts)
Chemicalromance Mon 03-Apr-17 12:48:28

Sorry for any mistakes-this is my first thread and I'm using the appsmile

Im in my very early twenties, and I really struggle to connect with the feminist movement. I'm absolutely pro-equality and ensuring the global rights for women, but my experiences have left me feeling uncomfortable about calling myself a "feminist".

When I was at school, women's issues and feminism were never discussed, so my first awareness of the movement came from websites like Tumblr and EverydaySexism. These websites were quite radical, and I struggled to identify with issues such as 'man spreading', 'mansplaining' and the general man-hating subculture that seemed to be present. It felt to me like a group of quite privileged, fortunate western women looking for reasons to complain despite there being so many serious women's issues to deal with around the world, and there was a lot of talk about the western world supporting "rape culture", which I don't believe to be true, so I grew up feeing like feminism wasn't for me.

When I got to university, I attempted to get involved in the feminism society, but found that most of the events/talks centred around 'trans liberation', 'micro aggressions' and trigger warnings/banning topics or events that might be triggering. When an infamous male misogynist was scheduled to have a talk at the university, I was excited at the opportunity it would open for a real debate on gender and equality, but the feminist society held a rally and protest that ended up causing the visit to be cancelled, which I felt was a waste of a good opportunity and probably not a great move in terms of free speech. I eventually left the society when I was openly mocked at an event about future ambitions for saying that I would like to be a young mother. Over time, I completely stopped calling myself a feminist or having anything to do with the feminist movement.

Recently, I've discovered Hannah Witton's youtube channel, and although I don't agree with everything she says, I have found her videos talking about sex, relationships, women's bodies and what it means to be a woman to be really interesting and encouraging. I've been inspired to read more books and interact with more information about feminism and women's issues, and I really want to start reconnecting with my own female identity and feeling proud to be a woman again.

The only problem is that I really don't know where to start. Can anyone recommend some influential women, works or materials that I can look into, or tell me some of the things that make them proud of being a woman and a feminist?

GenderEqualityAdvocate Mon 03-Apr-17 12:53:51

Why do you feel the need to define yourself by gender? A world with gender neutral terms and no discrimination has to be the goal now. Feminism is an ideology of the past. Like Marxism it has been tried and shown to not work.

Chemicalromance Mon 03-Apr-17 13:02:02

@GenderEqualityAdvocate I'd argue that it most certainly has been shown to work - the valuable work of suffragettes and women's liberation movements in previous generations mean that I, as a western woman, live a particularly free and happy life. There are women in counties around the world who suffer purely for their biological sex, and as fellow members of that sex, I think that it is important that women stand up for and support them.

Your view points and username are quite interesting to me - if you don't believe that genders are a concept we should still use, why do you advocate equality between them?

TiredCluelessMummy Mon 03-Apr-17 13:02:34

Gender and sex are two different things, Advocate. It's entirely possible to explore your identity as a female and to identify with women's issues without conforming to traditional gender stereotypes. Or do you think that there are no such thing as women's issues?

AssassinatedBeauty Mon 03-Apr-17 13:02:51

You can't go far wrong with The Female Eunuch, imo. I read it in my teens and it had a big impact on my developing understanding of being a women and feminism. Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender is also a good read, probably her new book too although I haven't had chance to read it yet.

The kinds of people who mocked you are not representative of all feminists, and I'm sorry that you were treated like that. Don't let it put you off claiming feminism for your own.

IAmAmy Mon 03-Apr-17 13:02:56

I'm younger than you so perhaps not able to give you much in the way of useful advice. I do disagree with a fair bit of your third paragraph - I don't think Everyday Sexism is minor: street harassment, for example, was brought up a lot there and is pernicious and intimidating. Feminism has to be a worldwide movement for all women but to think there are no issues in the "west" is wrong in my opinion and "rape culture" is definitely something I feel exists, both from cases I've read of and through experiences of some I know.

Your next paragraph I very much identify with much of as I think so many young feminists now seem entirely preoccupied with the trans cause. I'm also not much of a fan of "no platforming" - how it's being used now to silence any kind of dissenting voices shows it's pretty dangerous.

There are many better placed than me to reply but things which make me feel proud are reading of all the magnificent women who've achieved so much against so many odds over generations (often having their achievements written out of history or appropriated such as Rosalind Franklin and Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin), so much technology we take for granted now due to women such as Ada Lovelace) and women in my own life who inspire me.

Chemicalromance Mon 03-Apr-17 13:08:29

@AssassinatedBeauty thank you very much for your suggestions, I will add them to my list of resources and I'm sure I'll enjoy them! 

@IAmAmy I'm glad someone understands where I'm coming from. As far as your opinion differing from mine, I can respect that experiences and world views, as well as different definitions, can vary greatly within the movement, which is why I'm hoping to learn more about it and open my eyes to different ideas. It might not change my views, but it certainly can't hurt!

@TiredCluelessMummy well said!

GenderEqualityAdvocate Mon 03-Apr-17 13:10:36

So you feel a close affinity to women you have never met in patriarchal societies where many women will still hold very conservative views then you do to your brothers/father and boyfriends in western society who hold most of the same views that you do?

I hate these gender divides. Go out and hug the males in your life and thank them for their valuable contribution to your life. Love all people equally. Do not get caught up in the politics of gender divide and rule. Feminists will seek to cause anger and resentment at the "patriarchy" and then channel your anger into their pet causes.

Stand by both your brothers and sisters and fight for true gender equality

IAmAmy Mon 03-Apr-17 13:13:02

Chemicalromance indeed. I'm what many would consider a "privileged western girl/woman", but that's just privilege relative to women and girls in other parts of the world in my opinion. I still suffer due to my biological sex in a number of ways, not least as I said street harassment. I also know of those who've suffered assault purely due to their sex.

I would recommend reading the 'Everyday Sexism' book by Laura Bates. Also Delusions of Gender as AssassinatedBeauty mentioned is an excellent book.

DJBaggySmalls Mon 03-Apr-17 13:14:35

Feminists define themselves by their sex, rather than their gender. We are women, adult human females.
Peachyoghurt explains the differences between liberal and radical feminism;

Google for your local Womens Centre and do some fundraising for Womens Aid and Rape Crisis. Meet some real women.
Connecting to women less fortunate than yourself will be difficult for you, and an eye opener. Dont discount their experiences. You may see them as 'anecdotal' but you'll be talking to real abuse survivors.

Heres some info about rape culture as its clear no one has explained to you what it actually is.

Perhaps you could research 'victim blaming' and a few famous cases such as Warboys and Ian Huntley.

GenderEqualityAdvocate Mon 03-Apr-17 13:29:25

Alternatively OP your life would be a lot easier if you did not buy into all this gender divide nonsense and just accepted that some men behave terribly but that does not mean that it is fair to tar all men with the same brush.

Surround yourself with good men and do not buy into the feminist viewpoint. Yes you will never be free from the risk of sexual assault and harassment but that does not mean you need to shun men. Surround yourself with good men and learn to value them as much as you do women.

Chemicalromance Mon 03-Apr-17 13:30:33

@DJBaggySmalls thank you for your suggestions.
I have been, personally, a victim of multiple years of domestic physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a partner despite my young age, so I don't imagine that volunteering at a women's shelter would be too much of an "eye opener", but I do agree that it would be a worthwhile use of my time and may help me to feel more connected to other women.
As for your belief that I don't understand rape culture, I actually based my university dissertation on ethnographic studies of rape cultures and gendered violence, which has shaped my own opinions after a great deal of research. I'm sure, of course, that the links that you have shared will be very interesting, so I will look at them regardless.
Thank you for your response! smile

DJBaggySmalls Mon 03-Apr-17 13:30:56

Because feminists never know or treasure good men? OK GenderEqualityAdvocate

DJBaggySmalls Mon 03-Apr-17 13:32:44

Chemicalromance My belief was shaped by your opening post. So you dont believe rape culture exists, or you do?
Perhaps if you made yourself clear people could answer you more effectively.

AssassinatedBeauty Mon 03-Apr-17 13:34:22

I'd also like to hear more about your studies into rape culture in the west, if it's at all possible to summarise what you found?

Chemicalromance Mon 03-Apr-17 13:39:06

@GenderEqualityAdvocate I can understand the point you're making, but I really can't see why you're making it, as I don't believe I have said anything to suggest that I feel an opposition, distaste or disregard for men. Quite the opposite, I've volunteered for a men's health and rights charity for quite a while now and fully appreciate that life is nowhere near as easy for men as some feminist groups would claim that it is. I am also aware that some women are just horrible people.
What I am looking to achieve, just in case I haven't made it clear, is to get involved with a movement that supports members of my own biological sex around the world who suffer simply for the sex they were born as. I am looking to join a movement that encourages members of my biological sex to be content and confident in our bodies, our bodies' biological processes, and what makes us different biologically to men.
If men and women weren't different in even the slightest physical and emotional ways, then biological divisions in sport for fairness, men's and women's reproductive health education, and relationships advice and perspectives shared by opposite sexes on forums such as mumsnet would be unnecessary.

BertrandRussell Mon 03-Apr-17 13:39:23

"As for your belief that I don't understand rape culture, I actually based my university dissertation on ethnographic studies of rape cultures and gendered violence, which has shaped my own opinions after a great deal of research"

I am interested that, following this, you don't believe that there is a "rape culture". Could you say some more about this?

Prawnofthepatriarchy Mon 03-Apr-17 13:40:03

It seems unfortunate to choose as a username a concept you appear not to understand, Advocate. Feminism analyses women as a sex. Gender is a social construct, a tool used to oppress us, but it's not a synonym for sex. Sex is female. Gender is feminine.

BertrandRussell Mon 03-Apr-17 13:40:37

"What I am looking to achieve, just in case I haven't made it clear, is to get involved with a movement that supports members of my own biological sex around the world who suffer simply for the sex they were born as. I am looking to join a movement that encourages members of my biological sex to be content and confident in our bodies, our bodies' biological processes, and what makes us different biologically to men."
Sounds like feminism is the place for you!

GenderEqualityAdvocate Mon 03-Apr-17 13:43:56

I care little for feminist definitions. I want a world free of gender terms. Male/Female. Father/Mother. Brother/sister must go.

I have a dream

IAmAmy Mon 03-Apr-17 13:44:21

Good men wouldn't tell women "ah well you'll never be free from the risk of sexual assault, but stop blaming men". How on Earth are women supposed to know which the "good men" are to surround themselves with, seeing as so many sexual assaults and general violence against women is perpetrated by someone known to the victim?

Also the "good men" in my life are feminists and wouldn't lecture women on how they should feel or act.

GenderEqualityAdvocate Mon 03-Apr-17 13:46:22

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

scallopsrgreat Mon 03-Apr-17 13:48:47

I'm confused as to why you think Everyday Sexism is 'radical'. It isn't. It is a playback of women's experiences. Is it radical to share experiences now? You may not have experienced many of them but lots and lots of women have and for them it is useful and reassuring to know that they aren't the only ones. To dismiss their experiences as "man-hating" is particularly insensitive. It really isn't those women doing the hating. They are just naming the problems. Each incident may be small (a lot of them aren't) but cumulatively they illustrate a wider issue. And you don't know that they were white. WoC are likely to suffer more abuse than white women so there is a big chance that many of the anecdotes were from BAME women.

DJBaggySmalls has given you some great links above by some women who really do know their stuff.

Your opening post did come across as "I'm all right, Jack, why isn't everyone else?" I know you probably didn't mean it in that way but disregarding women's experiences and how men behave towards us shows a bit of a lack of empathy. One of the things that feminism has done is allowed women to share experiences and be able to identify themes such as rape and other male violence; street harassment; domestic abuse etc. Once the problems have been named then we've then be able to work collectively to sort out refuges; change laws etc. Imagine if those experiences by women 30, 40, 50 years were just dismissed as "white, privileged western women" moaning? Because they were - for centuries. women have had fight for every right they now have, every law change, every recognition. Men haven't just said "Here you go. You're right".

Chemicalromance Mon 03-Apr-17 13:49:47

@DJBaggySmalls I do believe that rape cultures exist, but to class the general culture of, say, Britain or Northern America as a rape culture is, in my view, ridiculous and belittling of the experiences of women in cultures that actively support, promote and reward the abuse and objectification of women as a religious or cultural norm. While some communities that support rape and abuse practices do exist in western countries, to say that British society encourages or accepts rape or violence against women is ridiculous.
It is true that rape convictions and legal justice for women is lacking still in the west, and this appalling, but a case being dismissed due to a lack of evidence or ability to declare accountability is not, as far as I am concerned, the same as a case being dismissed for the woman not being of a high enough social standing to deserve justice, a woman being killed for daring to report a rape, or a woman being terrified to report a rape in case it encourages men in positions of power to abuse her more.
The issues we have in this country, I would argue, are not a reflection of a public support, approval or acceptance of rape, but instead the result of a failing legal system that needs a significant alteration, which feminism can campaign for and encourage

DJBaggySmalls Mon 03-Apr-17 13:50:01

I dont want an Orwellian world free of descriptive terms such as male and female, it would make having children or discussing some types of disease impossible.

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