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Saturday, 21 March 2020

It's Perfectly Okay Not to Be a Feminist

...and equally okay to self-identify as a feminist. However, many feminists (similarly to political activists and religious fundamentalists) insist upon those around them also becoming feminists. This is because whenever a person is part of a group that holds strong, core principals, part of those principals is to inevitably bring other people into the fold. I can describe it as similar to whenever I insist those around me watch Game of Thrones (which is my personal 'religion'). When we care passionately about something, and believe it to be a force for good in the world, it is only natural to want others to join in.

But what if people just don't want to? There are many, many women all over the world who are perfectly happy NOT self-identifying as feminist, myself included. It is interesting for me, because I did identify as a feminist in my teens, so I can always see both sides.

People aged 16-25 are incredibly vulnerable when it comes to being recruited by outside organizations. We don't have much life experience yet, our brains are still developing, and everyone is trying to greedily seduce us into being part of their absolutist cause. (Okay, that was a tad dramatic.)

By early 2016, I was truly certain that I was not a feminist, and have since been met with this phrase, time and time again, from feminists:

"You've probably misunderstood what feminism is."

This condescendingly assumes that I have done no research into feminism, or that I am incapable of being able to decide for myself what my personal views are. It's ironic, because researching and exploring feminist ideals and texts is precisely what stopped me from labeling myself as a feminist.

If feminism is supposed to be about giving women choice, then it should also give women the choice not to call themselves feminists. If feminism is supposed to be about female empowerment, then how is it empowering to knock down other women for choosing to not agree with one distinct ideology? 

One study found that only 34% of women in the UK identify as feminist. The same study found that 80% of men and women believe in gender equality:

This article states that more than half of US millennial women (born between 1980-1995) do not identify as feminists:

If all these women are confidently able to decide that they do not want to be associated with feminism, why do feminists insist that they are 'confused' or 'misunderstood'? 

If feminism is about female empowerment, then a 'true' feminist should say: I respect your decision, even though I may not agree with it -- your choice is your own.

But no. Below, I have a list of famous career women who are or were not feminists:

Phyllis Schafly:

Erin Pizzey:

Tash Sultana:

Margaret Thatcher:

Cassie Jay:

Shailene Woodley:

Lana Del Rey:

Sarah Jessica Parker:

Susan Sarandon:

Kelly Clarkson:

These articles below claim that some of the above mentioned women are 'confused' or 'misunderstood' for not labelling themselves as feminist:

Condescending article about Kelly Clarkson's vocal stance on feminism:

Shailene Woodley claimed not to be a feminist, but this article took it upon itself to ignore her and say 'no, you really are one, you can't think for yourself so we'll think for you' (because forget freedom of choice):

Lana Del Rey is not a feminist, but this journalist believes that she is 'deep down':

And on a more hyperbolic note, somehow being anti-feminist or choosing not to identify as a feminist is a gateway to 'white nationalism':

Okay, so why choose not to be a feminist?

One of my biggest problems with feminism is how reductive it is. It claims to be a movement for gender equality, yet only looks at issues concerning women. That is not gender egalitarianism, because true gender egalitarianism would equally look at the issues concerning men and women and seek to balance them out together. 

Feminism is not the same as gender equality or egalitarianism, and these articles express this pretty well:

Both women in this article make a distinction between 'egalitarianism' and 'feminism', by clarifying that feminism focuses on gender inequality issues that specifically impact women, whereas egalitarianism focuses on issues between both genders. 

There are multiple factions of feminism. There is radical feminism, which seeks to eliminate all forms of 'male supremacy' and 'patriarchy.' There is intersectional feminism, which seeks to eliminate 'oppression' for 'all marginalized groups', and is highly critical of 'traditional, white feminism', which is viewed as exclusionary to ethnic women, working class women, and transgender women.

This photo always makes me laugh.
There is equality feminism, which focuses on how women should be equal to men. Lipstick feminism celebrates traditional femininity, including make-up and sexuality, and says that feminism doesn't mean that women should lose their feminine appeal (this is also where girl power and sex positivity tend to fall under).  Socialist feminism is one of the most political factions, as it seeks to dismantle a capitalist society while also 'smashing the patriarchy'.

Elle Woods, proof that a woman can be
smart AND feminine.
Like in Christianity, feminism hosts a variety of sub-groups which all hold their own ideas about what feminism 'really means' and what 'it's really about.' The radical, man-hating feminists spurn the lipstick wearing girly-girl feminists, and the equality based feminists shun the man-haters and spend most of their time 'femsplaining' and insisting 'no, that's not what feminism really is, it's the same thing as gender equality!'

I personally cannot and do not like to associate myself with organizations that follow a collective, hive-like set of common goals and characteristics. That's just not who I am. I can agree with certain viewpoints, but once we get into 'it's all about this' 'no, it's all about that' I just can't join in. It makes me uncomfortable, and I prefer harmony and solidarity as opposed to pointless arguing.

I (and no other woman) should have to feel apologetic at choosing to not associate ourselves with feminism, or any other staunch ideology. Why does anyone have to 'be' anything? I'm just Zarina. I write books and I play music and that's enough. I can't imagine being like this lady, who digests all elements of her life through a feminist lens:

Men and women are biologically different, and that is totally fine. We have evolved to be different. There is nothing wrong with a man choosing to take care of his daughter; sister, wife, girlfriend. Men are naturally wired to protect and provide for women, just as women are naturally wired to be compassionate and nurturing. What is so wrong with that?

I love this video from 'The Take', one of my favourite YouTube channel for analyzing movies and TV shows. Cinderella has been criticized by modern feminists for being too 'delicate' and 'being saved by a man.' Kindness and compassion are positive traits, and Cinderella never actually went to the ball to 'find a man', she just wanted a fun night of freedom away from her abusive family.

Credits to 'The Take.'

Why are traditionally feminine attributes like being empathetic, sweet, caring and demure so looked down upon by (some) feminists? Why do (some) feminists take issue with women choosing to stay at home and raise their children? What is so bad about wanting to get married or wanting to be taken care of by a man? Being 'taken care of' doesn't mean you become some passive servant, or that you allow a man to beat the crap out of you and mistreat you. It just means compromise. It means celebrating gender differences.

We all have a mix of masculine and feminine energy within us. Men are more masculine and women are more feminine, and these traits were not defined by 'society', but by how we naturally are.

And what I keep asking is, why is this a bad thing? Why is it bad for men and women to be different? Why are gender roles viewed as bad? I find it incredibly strange (and sexist) that (some) feminists are the ones who typically criticize traditional femininity as being 'soft' or 'weak'. How is that pro-women? You want women to be empowered by acting like men? What about all the powers of female inner strength and feminine allure?

Feminine power is a lot more subtle and understated than masculine power. It enables women to get what they want from men, sometimes playfully, sometimes through exploitation. Women can get free things from men without having to do anything. Is that not a form of power?

(Note: I'm not posing an ethical conundrum about whether that is wrong or right, I'm simply describing how feminine attributes are so often overlooked by feminists.)

Nature made us to be different. It doesn't mean that women can't take charge and be in control and have careers -- I've published five books, do I look like someone who thinks that women should just sit at home all day and bat their eyelids? Nah mate. And equally, masculinity doesn't mean that men need to go around beating people up and showing off their bravado. A simple, positive example of masculinity is a man calmly sitting by his wife as she gives birth. He is there in body and spirit, staying calm and quiet while she wails.

No one says that women can't be more masculine or that men can't be more feminine. Plenty of people are androgynous in appearance and attributes, and that is totally fine. But it's equally fine for men to display traditional masculine qualities and women to display traditionally feminine qualities, as long as these don't translate into becoming toxic.

Anyway, I'm going to conclude this decidedly long article by what triggered me to write this post. I recently had my latest YA fiction novel Around Midnight reviewed by somebody who labeled the book as 'feminist', and then sought to critique it through a feminist lens:

Writing strong and relatable female characters doesn't mean that one automatically has to be associated with feminism. A woman can be successful and intelligent without it being in the name of feminism. I think it does a disservice, actually, when a woman is successful and hardworking, but then is also pressured to call herself a feminist. Her success and hard work should be enough on its own, without it needing to be attributed to a movement.

A movie that explores masculinity, like Joker or Taxi Driver, can be done so without being labeled 'meninist.' Why can't the same be said for a book or movie that explores issues concerning women? I can write about the female perspective because I AM female. When you add the lens of feminism, it glazes over what I am actually writing about; personal growth, following dreams, overcoming toxic situations and people. I write about the feminine experience, I write about female issues, I write about womanhood and female sexuality and coming-of-age, as a human, or a 'humanitarian', if you like. But not as a feminist. And I think that is perfectly okay.

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
I've also published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: