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Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

“I’m not a feminist, but…”

Ani’s not an angry girl, but it seems like she’s got everyone fooled. Every time she says something they find hard to hear, they chalk it up to her anger and never to their own fear. Recently, I was talking with a female friend of mine about various songs, and I mentioned Ani DiFranco’s “Not a Pretty Girl,” and she responded that she didn’t like the song and she’s not into “angry” music like that.

I’ve also encountered my fair share of women using the famous “I’m not a feminist, but…” line. My favorite was in college when someone came away from church and criticized one of the praise songs lyrics (“With you, fatherless I’ll never be”) as being sexist and reinforcing of patriarchal traditions. Of course, she prefaced it with the phrase I’m not a feminist, but….

Really? So why are you complaining about sexism and the patriarchy if you’re not a feminist? What is a feminist, then? Why don’t you want to be a feminist? Yes, of course, there’s the stereotype of the hairy, bra-burning, ugly, man-hating, anti-vaginal-intercourse loud lesbian (of course, in all the years I’ve been reading radical feminist literature, I’ve never come across any of these supposed embodiments of that stereotype). I don’t think these I’m not a feminist, but… women are really afraid of being mistaken for that stereotype.

I think they’re just afraid of appearing angry. That’s it. They just don’t want to be considered angry. They want, as many post-feminist millenials and generation-X-ers want, to be fun-loving, positive energy folks. They want to enjoy life and have others enjoy life with them. They don’t want to be downers. They don’t want to be complainers. So, in order to complain and not be considered a complainer, you have to preface your complaints with “I’m not a feminist, but….” The idea is that the person you’re talking to will think “Okay. If you were an angry feminist, I’d just tune out. Since you’re clearly someone who is generally positive about life, I’ll listen to your complaint.”

If you ask me, it’s a cop-out. It’s like in discussions about racism in America, when a handful of Asian-Americans will try to appease the White Americans by saying there isn’t institutional racism or White privilege, and there’s absolutely no need for affirmative action of any kind. That’s their special “I’m not an antiracist, but…” preface for race instead of gender.

Nobody wants to be a downer or a whiner. Nobody wants to be a victim. Feminists are people just like you. Feminists want to enjoy life, and they do. Feminists laugh. Feminists go skydiving, rollerblading, kayaking, and all those other fun things people do in the “I have herpes, but I don’t mind” commercials. The truth is that feminists, like everyone, just want justice. They want people to recognize injustice and do something about it. They’re not going to hide behind phrases like “I’m not a feminist, but…” because they want to be honest.

It’s okay to be a feminist. It’s okay to be angry. People won’t think any less of you as a woman, just because you advocate for equal rights and equal treatment. Own up. We’re all in this together… or we should be anyway.

7 replies on ““I’m not a feminist, but…””

‘Nobody wants to be a downer or a whiner. Nobody wants to be a victim. Feminists are people just like you. Feminists want to enjoy life, and they do. Feminists laugh. Feminists go skydiving, rollerblading, kayaking, and all those other fun things people do in the “I have herpes, but I don’t mind” commercials.’

Beautiful. You just got your first entry in my quotes.txt file.

One man’s view; it’s OK to be a feminist. If you are angry it’s not OK to display that anger toward men most/all of the time. People may not think less of you but your message will not get through delivered by anger. Most men will avoid the angry feminist and so, the message falls on deaf ears. Equal rights and equal treatment are easy to agree on but an angry delivery usually results in loss of reason.

One Man’s $0.02 – no attempt to speak for all men!

aggie75

Sooner or later, with the way women are getting so many extra privileges, I fear that men are going to have to do something similar to these whiners.

Do you know that many matrimony laws in India actually favour women?

Do you know that a married man in India can be arrested and jailed by his wife merely on her word that he or his extended family are harrassing her for dowry without any proof whatsoever?

Do you know how many women’s groups continue to hound innocent men and ruin their lives on the word of a vindictive wife?

Well, sir. I read it and I don’t agree with it at all.

There are many women’s groups whose sole purpose is to torment men’s lives. I know this for a fact…

All I’m saying is that no person can be jailed without proof of crime.

Imagine living in a country where the law gives full rights to a vindictive wife who just has to post a false complaint and you can be deprived of your freedom in a matter of hours.

Having benefited from white privilege all my life, this surprised me:

“It’s like in discussions about racism in America, when a handful of Asian-Americans will try to appease the White Americans by saying there isn’t institutional racism or White privilege, and there’s absolutely no need for affirmative action of any kind. That’s their special “I’m not an antiracist, but…” preface for race instead of gender.”

I had no idea that this kind of attitude prevails when it comes to race. Are there stereotypes too about antiracists then (like, as you mentioned, the hairy-legged feminists)? Kind of like the angry black woman? I find the possibility of the “abominable antiracist” very disturbing and upsetting.

Maybe that’s because I find all the stereotypes about feminism just as disturbing and upsetting. I am in agreement with you; for all the feminists I’ve met, not one of them has been a bra-burning, man-hating maniac. Most of them were just regular people.

BTW, just so you don’t think I’m a creepy stalker or anything, I visited your blog after you left a comment on my “Educating Others on Progressive Change” article. You write about a lot of cool feminist stuff! :D

There are definitely stereotypes about antiracists.

If they’re White antiracists, they’re supposedly plagued by White liberal guilt and not sincere.

If they’re non-White antiracists, they’re angry and have too much of a chip on their shoulders (poor Malcolm X gets this all the time).

As Ani puts it, I am not an angry girl, but it seems like I’ve got everyone fooled. Every time I say something they find hard to hear, they chalk it up to my anger and never to their own fear.

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