Is anyone surprised at this title? Well, rest assured that this is clickbait of the highest order. I would like to preface this blog post with the fact that I am, undoubtedly, a feminist. This post is a response to Suzanne Venker’s ‘7 Reasons Why I Am Not A Feminist’ (https://www.suzannevenker.com/single-post/2017/09/19/7-Reasons-Why-Im-Not-a-Feminist), which I have been asked about a couple of times in the past few months. So, that said, let’s debunk these seven reasons and discuss what it truly means to be a feminist woman in today’s society.
1. I love men. I love being around men. In fact, I find them remarkably easy to be with compared to women—who can be both gossipy and catty. With men, what you see is what you get. I like that. And no, I’m not saying this because I’ve never had a bad experience with a man. I have. But I didn’t hold it against half the human race.
The point that I would like to make here is that women who do not like other women are just as misogynistic as men who dislike women. The trope of the ‘I am not like other girls’ badass heroine is one that I cannot relate to. In stating that men cannot all be defined by a few bad ones, Suzanne Venker is setting a standard that is one of the tenets of modern feminism (I hope that the irony is not lost on you), to not judge a gender based on only a few individuals. Not all men are bad, that is absolutely true. But by the same logic, not all women are gossipy or catty. One can love men and women – and I say that as both a bisexual woman and someone who values friendships with all genders. Some of my friends enjoy gossiping and some are as blunt as safety scissors, this is not a gender issue but a personal preference.
I would also like to add that Suzanne Venker is speaking in a binary manner and gender is not a simple matter of two halves. It is widely considered to be a spectrum and if one is assigning characteristics to men and women then I would also think that the same should apply to people who are neither – or both. Additionally, if you state that gender is defined by a strict set of characteristics then you are actually promoting the idea that there are spaces in between, which I do not think Venker intended to do. Nonetheless, bonus point for the non-binary people.
2. I don’t have Daddy issues. My father was an extremely good and loyal man. He was old school (born in 1922), so he was a hands-off type dad and never told me he loved me until he was on his deathbed—and only by my prompting. Still, I never once doubted my father’s love for me, despite his formal nature. That’s just the way things were then. He was still steady as a rock.
Point of information! This is entirely irrelevant and seems to support feminism rather than deny it. One of the biggest criticisms of liberal-minded people is that we let our emotions cloud the truth. However, in stating that she ‘does not have Daddy issues’ as one of the reasons that she is not a feminist, Venker is bringing in a completely unrelated point to support the idea that she is a balanced person. A straw-man argument by any other name…
However, to address this point, it sounds like her father would have benefitted from the idea that men are allowed to express their emotions in the same way that women are – another tenet of modern feminism. Men do not have to fit the standards of being emotionally closed-off just as women do not have to fit the stereotypical ‘mother/housewife’ depiction. In this way, our society is blending and beginning to allow people to be whoever they want to be and not be controlled by what it means to be the ‘traditional’ depiction of their gender.
Personally, I find it heart-breaking that a grown man could not tell his daughter that he loved her until he was dying, but that is none of my business.
3. My mother wasn’t a feminist, and she was as strong and independent as they come. My mother received a master’s degree from Radcliffe College in 1952 and was brave enough to enter the male-dominated world of stock traders at Merrill Lynch. When she faced sexism, she didn’t whine about it or give up; she went to work at another investment bank, where the men were happy to have her. Lesson learned: smart women forge ahead in the face of adversity— they don’t stop to complain about being mistreated. As my mother always told me, “There will always be people who want to drag you down. Don’t let them.”
Good for her, I guess? However, this does not counter the point that both Venker and her mother have benefitted from the feminist movement. Just the fact that she was allowed to go into tertiary education was a huge leap in women’s rights. There would be public outcry if someone stated that they wanted to take women’s rights to vote, get married/divorced on their own terms, or earn equal pay – and these were all earned by feminists who fought sexism rather than avoided it.
4. I don’t assume that the way things were in the past was a result of sexism. It’s true women didn’t run companies in the past the way they do today, but this wasn’t because men and society were holding women down. There were sound reasons why things functioned the way they did in the past. Until technology and the mechanization of housework came on the scene, just getting through the day for a woman meant barely leaving one’s kitchen. The birth control pill was another obvious factor. Americans love to associate “the Pill” with feminism; but it, along with machines of convenience, was invented before the 1960s—by men. It was the contributions of men that gave women the time to work outside the home in record numbers. Indeed, women should be thanking “the men who came before us”—not feminists.
6.4% of the U.S.’s biggest earning companies are run by women (that’s 34/500). This is the highest proportion of female CEOs that has ever been seen in the US – and the numbers are below 10%. For a majority gender, it does not seem that women are being represented in the highest tiers of their jobs. Another interesting fact is that none of these women are African American, meaning that employment-wise, there is a huge divide between black women and white men. But yes, we should thank the men who came before us for allowing women to rise up through the ranks and take equal shares in their companies.
Venker also seems to be confused with the idea that men can be feminists, too. I have no idea about the feminist history of the pill but it does seem to stem from the idea that women can have control over their bodies, which does not seem anti-feminist. Moreover, some women did work in STEM fields before the 1960’s, though their contributions were belittled and unappreciated (I am still bitter about Rosalind Franklin, okay?).
5. I’ve always known the sexes are equal but different. ‘Nuff said.
That makes perfect sense (as a feminist, anyhow). Equality is a core part of what it means to be a modern feminist, and we should embrace what makes men and women different as well as the same. ‘Nuff said.
6. I have the utmost respect for motherhood and all that goes into that extraordinarily difficult yet rewarding task. As a result, I’ve never once asked a new mother, or even an older one, “What do you do?” If you have children at home, I KNOW what you do.
By the rules of feminism, people are allowed to be mothers or career women, or both, or neither! That is why it is so important that we remember that women have the right to be whatever they want. I will elaborate on this in the next response but I think that women do so many things that it is a little strange that anyone should assume that they know what a woman does just by virtue of the fact that she has had children. Parenthood may be time-consuming but mothers are allowed to do more than just mothering.
7. I never expected to have it all. I knew early on that nothing mattered more, to me anyway, than having a happy home. So every decision I made along the way, since I was 18 years old—from whom I married, to where I’d live, to which career I’d pursue—was made with that in mind. The secret to the ‘having it all’ conversation is the ability to look forward, into the future. If you know you want children, you should know in advance they will change the entire course of your life. It comes down to priorities, and to planning your life around motherhood rather trying to squeeze motherhood into an already full life. If you do the former, you’ll be much happier.
Again, this is a partial argument. Not every eighteen-year-old knows that they want children (personally, I don’t even know what I want for supper tonight) so planning your life around them from such a young age is a personal choice. Feminism is all about choice, the choice to be whoever you want to be – regardless of gender or sexuality or age. Yes, it is a valid choice to become a housewife or mother but it is important to remember that without feminism, women would not have the choice not to fit into these roles. That is why feminism is something that is still needed around the globe. Until all women can choose their own destinies, feminism will not be an outdated movement.
Ultimately, feminism is about women being there for other women and for that reason, I do not condemn Suzanne Venker for her beliefs. I do, however, condemn her for partial and incomplete arguments (and a complete lack of facts and statistics). As stated, feminism is about choice, and the very fact that women are able to choose to be or not to be feminists of housewives shows just how far we have come. For that reason, it is my belief that you should be a feminist, for the movement needs people in order to make changes for those who are oppressed.