by Hannah Bressler
Reasons Why A Woman Might Not Call Herself a Feminst:
1. She might enjoy the shout-outs on the street from men. It might not feel like sexual harassment.
2. The main struggle in her life might have been behavior or image policing from other women, not men, so she isn't particularly angry about The Patriarchy.
3. Maybe she feels very comfortable within the limits of her gender role. She might say,
"It suits me to spend a lot of my time and energy looking feminine. The men in my life like it and I like it. I don't feel oppressed by The Male Gaze."
"I like identifying primarily as a wife or mother while my husband handles finances. Financial autonomy is not a value of mine."
"I never even wanted to join the Navy Seals, or go topless in public, or become an actor who isn't asked about my wardrobe, or have my opinion respected as an expert in the field of science, techonology, politics or sports."
"Because I have pretty good birth control or social/financial support if I become pregnant, I'm not that concerned about things like abortion rights or maternity leave."
4. She may feel more strongly aligned with a Womanist view, a position that emphasizes race and class oppression as far more significant that gender oppression for People of Color.
5. Perhaps she never considered getting married and has therefore not needed to examine the historical legal rights and restrictions of a married woman.
6. It's possible that she forgot how recently women were granted the right to own property or vote, even in places like the United States.
7. Maybe she finds certain associations with Feminism (like female aggression, and lesbianism) to be generally distasteful. Maybe she is afraid to align herself with a social movement that seems "Anti-Men" instead of "Anti-Sexism".
8. Maybe she is afraid of labeling herself as a Feminist because she thinks men won't want to date her.
9. Maybe she lives within a community where the social or emotional climate doesn't allow her to claim the lable without risking ostracization.
Reasons Why A Man Might Not Call Himself A Feminist:
1. He might think the word sounds unmasculine or too much associated with women. He might not want to identify himself with femininity, even a little bit.
2. He might actually not want political, social, and economic equality for the sexes. Perhaps he feels overwhelmed at the chaos of re-establishing a new power structure.
3. Perhaps he's confused the idea of "People deserve equal human rights" with "Men and women are basically the same and we won't acknowledge any differences between these two groups."
4. Maybe he's met Feminist activists who want to "fight The Patriarchy" and it feels like a personal attack against his identity and/or his masculinity.
5. He hasn't yet discovered how many women love it when a man introduces himself with "I'm a feminist."
Other Reasons Why Someone Might Not Want to Associate With Feminism:
1. The same reason some same-sex lovers might not label themselves as "gay" or "lesbian", because they don't emotionally resonate with the culture around the idea, but the idea itself (Feminism or same-sex love) came about naturally.
2. A person who doesn't identify with either gender (or perhaps does not even subscribe to the idea of two genders) may question supporting a movement that is only for the rights of women. Why focus on the rights of women when so many people are oppressed in different social categories?
3. If Feminism is primarily academic it can feel inaccessible to the people who might otherwise organize around it.
On the other hand, if we are not "academicizing" something (actually, I mean using a university to legitimize something) then certain ideas might not ever get to the general population. Sometimes just the act of making something academic means that it was deemed "worth studying" and therefore it becomes better researched, better promoted, and more convincing.
4. There is a lot, and I mean A LOT, of information and references about concepts relating to feminism. It feels like a diluted message to me most of the time. Is the sexy dance of Miley Cyrus feminist or not? What did that celebrity say last week in her interview about feminism? "I only believe in equal pay for equal work. Nothing more than that." I think one fear is, if you say you are a Feminist, what else are you agreeing to?
5. There is a common understanding that if you want people to take a political movement less seriously, start getting people to associate the movement with extremism. (For instance there was, and sadly still is, a terrible prejudice associating Arab people and Islam with fundamentalism and terrorism.) The extremists of feminism are a) pretty rare and b) hard to disassociate from.
It can be scary to join a movement who's iconic moments, like bra-burning, feel extremist.
6. Virginia Woolf once wrote that "Society hocs women." Hoc is the term that means to cut the tendon of a horse so it can walk but not run. I think many feminists 'hoc' feminism, because they want it to be more likable, or because they don't want conflict within the movement. For instance, some feminists are against the legalization of sex-work because they feel it is structurally oppressive, while other feminist sex-workers want to reform the legal structures they work in so it is more supportive to the safety and political voice of sex-workers.
I think this conflict of opinions keeps some people from labeling themselves as Feminist.
In conclusion, you do not have label yourself a feminist to be supportive to the movement or for me to listen to your point of view. Please feel free to respond and fill me in on perspectives I might have missed.