by Zarina Macha
“You’re not a feminist!” they gasp, foaming at the mouth. “But why?”
I identified as a feminist aged 14-18 (I am now 24, so have been a proud non-feminist/egalitarian for six years). I considered myself a ‘liberal’ feminist, someone who believed in gender equality. I saw feminism as synonymous with gender equality, and I was part of a feminist club at my sixth form. However, I disagreed with so many elements of feminism: I thought that modern-day ‘third-wave’ feminism was often extreme and misandric; I didn’t really believe in ‘smashing the patriarchy’ or that our society was oppressive to women, I didn’t agree with the concept of ‘rape culture’ because I never thought our society normalised/glorified rape, I didn’t view gender roles as ‘socially constructed’ and instead saw them as both the result of biological differences and social reinforcements, and I definitely did not dislike men.
I always saw feminism as a women’s movement for women’s empowerment, and thought that it just meant treating both sexes with equal rights. I supported what I saw as ‘first and second wave feminism’: voting rights, property rights, equal pay.
I read How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer, and Misogynies by Joan Smith. I read about the history of feminism. I considered my approach to feminism to be open-minded and non-extreme. The feminist group I was in advocated for certain things I privately disagreed with. One of their goals was to ban the sale of pornographic magazines in newsagents on our high street, known as ‘lad’s mags.’ I privately disagreed with this as I personally thought (and think) that it is the choice of the newsagent to sell lad’s mags, and that banning this is authoritarian and un-called for.
The problems with feminism
1) Feminism is a divided movement with so many factions, and the word means something different to everyone who uses it. To one person it just means equality, to another it means fighting the patriarchy, to others it means female empowerment. Some feminists support prostitution as a woman’s personal choice, while others say prostitution sexually objectifies women. Some feminists say that being a housewife and stay at home mum is ‘oppressive’, while others say it’s personal choice.
Because feminism has too many variations and definitions, I can’t support it, as it’s often hard to know what I am even supporting. I find it easier/more sensible to call myself an egalitarian/humanitarian as I believe in equality of opportunities for all people regardless of gender, race, sexuality etc.
2) Feminism is a collectivist movement which tends to go hand-in-hand with socialist/communist/Marxist ideals of revolution and state ownership. I don’t subscribe to that school of thought as I believe in individual liberty. I support capitalism with social reforms (i.e., social democracy): public healthcare, free education, state funded schools, state funded prisons, welfare for those who need it, etc (which we mostly have in the UK, and is very present in Scandinavia).
3) All of the rights we have in society, (voting, equal pay, abortion) which feminism has claimed to fight for, really had nothing to do with feminism. Three examples I will list below are abortion/contraception, sexual liberation, and the so-called wage gap:
- Those who oppose abortion and contraception tend to be strictly religious. It is thanks to scientists, not feminism, that we have the birth control pill, which was invented in the 60s, coincidentally around the time the feminist movement kicked off. Same with abortion: in the USA abortion was made legal in 1973 due to Roe vs Wade and was ruled by a Supreme Court of men (of which over half were Republicans). This was on the grounds of privacy and a woman’s right to choose (i.e.; individual liberty not collectivism). Moreover, abortion in the UK was made legal in 1967 to reduce dangerous backstreet abortion clinics. The broader feminist movement didn’t really have a hand in it.
- Sexual liberation ties in more with society becoming less religious and more secular, and more embracing of sexual open-mindedness and sexual openness (including being tolerant of homosexual sex). While the sexual revolution was a part of the feminist movement, feminism has ironically shown itself to be more prudish and policing of sex and attitudes towards sex than it claims (with the exception of sex-positive/lipstick feminism).
For example, western feminism claims to want women to be ‘sexually liberated’, yet in the same breath slanders prostitution, porn stars, page 3 pinups, and sexy women in the media. Feminism claims that these women are all ‘buying into the male gaze’ and ‘being sexually objectified’ rather than viewing these women as individual women with freedom of choice and sexual agency (which again ties into collectivism vs individualism).
Women are the ones who are more likely to judge each other for sexual behaviour. Women are the ones who slut-shame each other. Feminists (with some exceptions) are the ones who shame and police female sexuality, as well as male sexuality, by shaming men for enjoying spaces where those women have freely decided to make themselves sexually available to men and are getting paid for it. (But again, feminism tends to be anti-capitalism.) Feminists will proudly go on slut-walks, but then shame men for being attracted to women who have chosen to show off their bodies. Pretty manipulative if you ask me.
(A good example are the feminist groups who lobby against the restaurant Hooters, by saying that Hooters ‘objectifies women’, rather than allowing those women to have the choice to work at Hooters. A good example of hypocrisy within feminism, and why feminism isn’t really pro-women, it is pro-feminist women.)
- The ‘wage gap‘ has been disproven multiple times; women are not paid less for doing the same job and equal pay acts have been legal in UK and the USA since the 1960s. A female Harvard economics professor plus academic Christina Hoff-Sommers (a self-described feminist) have both spoken about the pay gap. Differences in earnings between men and women are more to do with women typically working less hours, choosing jobs that pay less, and opting for more part-time work when they decide to start a family.
4) A large part of feminist philosophy is ‘smashing the patriarchy’, and while I can’t speak for other countries, the UK is not a patriarchy. There is no legal right a man has in England that a woman does not have. In fact, the UK is probably one of the best countries in the world to be a woman: we have free contraception thanks to the NHS, girls in the UK are more likely to do well in school and go to university than boys, and child custody and divorce greatly sides in favour of women.
5) Contemporary feminism in the present day has shown itself to be radical and misandric as well as ignoring men’s issues, while simultaneously claiming to be for ‘gender equality’. A good example are slogans like ‘the future is female‘ (evidence that mainstream feminism wants female supremacy, not equality), or the widespread ‘ban bossy‘ campaign which involves the policing of words.
Rather than campaigning for genuine women’s global rights such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, or widespread rape of women in India and the Middle East, western white feminism chooses to cater to the western elite and complain about things which can be dealt with on a social level, not a political one. An example is catcalling, something which individual women should be able to deal with. The government doesn’t need to get involved with policing behaviour that isn’t causing severe harm. Plus, I don’t think women are so fragile that we can’t choose how we respond to being catcalled/chatted up on the street.
6) Gender differences between men and women are normal and natural, not ‘socially engineered by the patriarchy‘. In 2006, neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine authored The Female Brain, a book which discusses neurological differences between men and women. It is a very pro-female book as it talks about some of the unique qualities of women’s neurology, including our higher levels of communication and empathy. Unfortunately, there are plenty of negative reviews on Goodreads from feminists who claim that this scientist (who has compiled two decades of research) is spouting ‘sexist’ ideals.
This is because feminists tend to view gender differences as ‘socially constructed to keep women down’. Yes, society has reinforced some harmful gender stereotypes, but these stereotypes are usually derived from an already biological difference, and nowadays this is not as much the case as people have a better understanding of human psychology thanks to scientific advances.
Unsurprisingly, feminism tends to blow biological gender differences out of proportion and then use these to point fingers at society and the nasty patriarchy. It is a scientific fact that women have more oestrogen in our brains, and due to our complex menstrual cycles, we experience more emotional fluctuation which naturally makes us a bit more emotionally charged. Feminists will then say that ‘society says women are too emotional’, which is an incredibly simplistic interpretation and distortion of the actual truth. Ironically, many feminists (namely extremist ones) display overly emotional and irrational behaviours when one challenges their viewpoints (a tactic commonly used by manipulative gaslighters).
7) Western feminism has historically been very white-centric and ignored poor, working class women or women of colour. Intersectional feminism has co-opted a very complex and serious issue of race and put it in the same category of gender, when it is not the same. In the US, African Americans were genuinely oppressed up until very recently (and are still fighting for their rights in many ways). Gay people genuinely did not have any rights up until the 60s in the US and UK as homosexuality was illegal.
The fact that white western Anglo-American feminists co-opted the genuine systemic struggles of African American women alongside their own has led to many hardships for the African American and black British communities. In the UK and USA, black folk tend to be among the poorest of the population and black children are among the most likely to be raised by single-mothers. Since 60s-70s feminism, there has been a rise of black men in America rejecting relationships with black women, leading to the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype and the ‘jungle fever’ craze of more African American men having relationships with white women and rejecting black women.
Of course there is nothing wrong with interracial relationships, but the point is that due to feminism trying to place itself in the same category as racism (through the theory of ‘intersectionality’), feminists have ended up contributing to a division between black women and black men. The saddest part is that black women should be standing in solidarity with black men against racism, rather than teaming up with the angry white middle-class feminists who don’t give a toss about black men or the ways in which American society has treated them at all. (Even early women’s movements like the Suffragettes have been cited for their racist/ignorant attitudes towards black folk.) This is why many black women opted for womanism instead of feminism, which was more spiritually focused and about standing in solidarity with black men rather than fighting the wealthy white woman’s fight.
Not to mention, western feminism completely ignores the matrilineal tribes of pre-colonial Africa (such as in Ghana), which was much more spiritually focused. In Ancient African societies, men and women worked together and loved together. The man and women were both strong. But feminism, being a Eurocentric white women’s lobbyist movement, doesn’t care about this, preferring instead to serve a narrative that paints women as ‘having been oppressed since the dawn of time’ and needing feminism to save us women from ourselves (very similar to fundamentalist Catholicism claiming that all humans are sinners who need to repent and be saved from the flames of Hell). Is it any surprise that these are all tactics commonly used by narcissists and psychopaths?
Once again, the reasons for widespread misogyny and homophobia across the African continent (and across the globe in general) is largely due to Abrahamic religious fundamentalism, and as society has become more secular, it has moved away from religious zealotry and embraced secular liberty (and those who are religious take a more spiritual/liberal approach to religion rather than a dogmatic/fundamentalist approach. We can thank the Enlightenment for that).
Ultimately, I view feminism as a radical, collectivist, divisive, white women’s movement, which uses sexism and theories based on emotion rather than science. I 100% support female empowerment/girl power, humanitarianism and gender equality, but I do not support feminism and actively reject collectivist ideals.
(If I did support any kind of feminism, it would be what is known as ‘lipstick feminism’ which is about supporting sex-positivity and feminine ideals. However to go back to the first point, I cannot support a movement that is too divided.)
I think society would be better off without feminism (and organised religion in general), but as someone who practices freedom of speech, I believe that feminists have a necessary voice in this world (as does everyone).
I think that feminism should be kept out of mainstream politics, just as religion is kept out of politics in England. Religious folk across the UK are generally pretty liberal and tolerant (although Islamic extremism has become a growing concern across Europe in the last decade. Once again, mainstream western feminism fails to speak out against the misogyny in Islamic theocracies and how this greatly affects women in Middle Eastern countries. More evidence of the hypocrisy of this so-called ‘women’s’ movement.)
Thankfully, feminism is not rampant in mainstream UK politics, and feminist spaces tend to be either at universities or among arts circles. I have no issue with this, and if feminism were just a subculture adopted by a few women in their own private “Riot Grrl” circles, then there would be no need to speak out against it.
Unfortunately, feminism is awash in the mainstream media, and so many high-profile female celebrities rally in favour of feminism (Oprah, Beyonce, Adele, Emma Watson, Taylor Swift, Lena Dunham, Jennifer Lawrence to name a few). Those who actively reject feminism are looked down upon/demonized by the mainstream media. Simply look up any woman who says she isn’t a feminist and you’ll see the condescending way in which this is handled within the article. (Examples: Lana Del Rey, Bridget Bardot, Tash Sultana, Kelly Clarkson, Kaley Cuoco, Erin Pizzey, Shailene Woodley, Judge Judy.)
In my personal life, I have often been treated well as a woman. I cannot relate to women who talk about experiencing ‘constant sexism.’ I have definitely had bad experiences with men, few women haven’t, but my bad experiences with women (from being bullied as a child to experiencing/witnessing toxic female friendships) far outweigh my bad experiences with men. Not to mention, just because I’ve had a few bad experiences with men, doesn’t mean that all men are bad. (Honestly, most men I’ve come across in my life are laid-back, easy going, and have a good sense of humour.)
Society has been good to me as a woman, and I see no good reason to be a feminist.
Zarina Macha is an award-winning independent author of five books under her name. In 2021, her young adult novel Anne won the international Page Turner Book Award for fiction. She currently resides in her hometown of London, UK. Visit Zarina’s YouTube channel to stay updated on her work. She also has a blog, https://thezarinamachablog.co.uk/
A Suffragette view on feminism: https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/dont-call-feminist-says-84-1860546
Roe vs Wade:
Abortion in the UK: https://navigator.health.org.uk/theme/nhs-family-planning-act-and-abortion-act
The Pill: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/the-team-that-invented-the-birth-control-pill/380684/
Equal Pay: https://www.nps.gov/articles/equal-pay-act.htm
WW2 empowering women prior to feminism: https://www.history.com/news/how-world-war-ii-empowered-women
Feminists vs Hooters: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/apr/11/women.business
Wage Gap (differenes in pay between men and women are because of hours worked and types of jobs worked, not because of ’employer discrimination’):
In some cases, women earn more: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Gayle_Golan_Miller_2011_gender-differences-executive.pdf
The Female Brain: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23968.The_Female_Brain
Black men vs black women gender relations:
White feminism: https://chacruna.net/how-white-feminists-oppress-black-women-when-feminism-functions-as-white-supremacy/
Intersectionality effect on black men: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/real-men-dont-write-blogs/201809/intersectionality-and-the-tragedy-the-black-male
Ashanti women in Ghana: https://repository.usfca.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=listening_to_the_voices
West African Matriarchy: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2784870?seq=1
Matrilineal societies (many of which were African and Asian): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_matrilineal_or_matrilocal_societies
White Feminists vs Islam: https://femoid.com/feminists-dont-challenge-radical-islam-because-real-misogynists-are-terrifying/
Shahrazad Ali discussing how feminism has impacted the black family: https://urbanareas.net/info/how-feminism-destroyed-the-us-black-family-shahrazad-ali/
More on Feminism and the effect on black families: https://www.city-journal.org/html/black-family-40-years-lies-12872.html