I haven’t always been good at picking my battles. Often, when someone said something I don’t agree with, I’d arc up straight away, giving them either (a) exactly what they wanted or (b) a face full of forceful Opinion (i.e., exactly what they didn’t want). But I’m getting better at this. I know I’m getting better, because I have heard or read the phrase “I’m not a feminist, but…” at least four separate times in the past three weeks, and haven’t had a single argument.
That’s true self-control, because this kind of statement annoys me on a deep, psychological level. If this article in any way prevents another person from ever using those words, it will be worth every letter.
Most of the time, the people saying it (or putting it in their Facebook statuses) are reasonably well intentioned. I guess. Many of them are smart ladies. (It’s always women). Usually, they’ll put it as the prefix to something, like “I’m not a feminist, but this is really disgusting”, and post a link to the latest gender-based atrocity to come to light. I love that we’re engaging with the issues here, but can we do it differently?
The problem with this as a statement is that it’s not just ‘dissing feminism’, or whatever. No, there are a few issues layered in this little gem.
Firstly? It’s implicitly apologetic. If you read between the lines, all these five words say is “I still want boys to like me, but I have this opinion. Sorry.” Women have a noted social tendency to apologise before or after speaking – “Sorry, but don’t you think that…?” or “I don’t really know, but isn’t it…?” – that is not only sad to listen to but sets us up for submissiveness before we even make a point. I’m including myself in this, because behaviour like this is so ingrained you only realise you’re doing it as or after you’re doing it. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Please don’t call me a bitch because I had the temerity to disagree with you.
Secondly, that apology is unnecessary. Most of the time people preface their perfectly legitimate opinion with the INAFB for no discernible reason. You think Defence Force sexual assault scandals are disgusting? So would any sane person. You don’t like being catcalled on the street? That’s fine. You feel compassion for the Steubenville victims? That is not an opinion you need to apologise for.
Lastly, it’s contradictory. It’s like saying, ‘I’m not racist, but black people are inherently disgusting’. What definition are you working with, here? I’m not a feminist… but I think women should have equal rights and respect? I think they can reasonably ask for a measure of bodily and social dignity? All of that sounds pretty feminist-y to me. All this statement does is (ineffectively) try to distance the person making it from negative stereotypes, stereotypes that are only made worse by repeating, implicitly, that normal, attractive, amiable people can’t be feminists. They can, and they are.
No one is asking you to stop shaving your armpits or taste your period blood or tattoo this apparently taboo F-word on your forehead. You don’t even have to admit to it in public, in case you’re worried people won’t like you any more. But think of it like this: if someone holds being a feminist against you, there’s a good chance they didn’t respect you much in the first place. Their good opinion is hardly worth the effort of typing those extra five words.
So, don’t bother. Just give in to your opinion! Shout it from the rooftops, or write it, or Tweet it – whatever gives you a bigger audience. Enjoy the feeling of caring about something so much that you have feelings about it, and then enjoy it all the more because you’re not sorry about it.
Article by ELLEN DANDO.