A Feminist on Anti-Feminism

Since I began considering myself a feminist towards the beginning of my college career, I’ve read a number of articles that have gotten me miffed, slightly enraged, or just had me wondering, “What are you thinking?” However, it’s been a while since I’ve found an article that made me as angry and frustrated as “I Am a Mother of Two Children and I Cannot (and Will Not) Support Feminism”.

Writer Tara Kennedy-Kline says that she cannot consider herself a feminist because she has two boys and she feels feminism is basically out to screw them over. In her words, “feminism has become something degrading, offensive, accusatory and opposed the morals and messages I am teaching my kids.” She then goes on to speak about different parts of the current feminist movement, such as #YesAllWomen, Hollaback!, that she takes issue with.

The idea of a woman rejecting the idea of feminism, especially for the “benefit” of her children, makes me angry enough. However, what really got me fuming while reading this article is that the author clearly has no idea what any of the campaigns she references truly stand for. In fact, she doesn’t seem to understand what feminism truly is and what we feminists stand for. First of all, feminism, despite what the author says, has nothing to do with women hating and everything to do with achieving equality of men, women, and folks who don’t fall into the traditional gender binary. That’s all, nothing about knocking men down or emasculating them.

Seeing as the writer doesn’t grasp what feminism is on a broader scale, I can imagine it must be nearly impossible for her to understand how some of the smaller movements are also seeking equality of all genders.

One campaign that the author looks at is Hollaback!, one that looks to end street harassment through exposing it, creating conversation around the issue, and finding ways to ensure what the organization calls equal access to public space. Street harassment and catcalling are big issues for women. In my own experiences, it has made me weary of going anywhere by myself or in some occasions, even in a small group of girls. If a guy starts yelling perverted comments at me and making unwanted verbal advances, it scares me to think what kind of physical advances they are capable of making. This kind of intimidation needs to stop. However, Kennedy-Kline leads readers to believe that this group is all about suppressing men and turning them into perverts.

In her article, she says that if either of her sons were to say “hi” to an unknown woman or make eye contact with them, it automatically makes them a predator. However, Hollaback! isn’t looking to go quite that far, nor is feminism as a movement. They’re looking to stamp out sexual remarks and harassment, not harmless pleasantries and courtesy.

It is also clear that she does not understand that feminism does not mean that men should be chivalrous towards women at all. They should open doors for others and carry things because it’s the polite thing to do for anyone, not just women. There’s no problem with that kind of behavior and feminism is certainly not out to tell girls that they should tell men to “fuck off” if they want to be chivalrous. It’s telling women that if a man is doing something that makes her uncomfortable, such as trying to hold her hand when she doesn’t want to be touched, she should be allowed to say that she isn’t ready for it and that decision should be respected.

The author also discusses slut shaming in a way that, as I should come to expect, makes it the women’s fault and does not acknowledge that men play a big and problematic role. One specific movement she targets is the #freethenipple, a media project and grassroots campaign meant to stop oppression of the female body, particularly in the context of breastfeeding in public, though it does address the broader issue of unequal censorship of men and women in the media. Kennedy-Kline says that this campaign looks at the exposure of a woman’s body and it takes issue with the men who look at them and are not able to control their sexual urges. To this I say…isn’t that exactly what is and should be going on? When looking at breastfeeding in particular, it’s kind of important that women are able to feed their children and for many, breastfeeding is their preferred way of doing so. Why is it then, that in many states, this kind of childcare is illegal? I’m not going to say it’s strictly because of men and their inability to control sexual urges, but I think it may definitely be part of the issue.

Before the article is finished, she talks about her problem with #YesAllWomen. In Kennedy-Kline’s eyes, this campaign turns all men into rapists and automatically makes her sons a threat to women. That’s not the campaign’s goal at all; the point was to spread awareness about the kinds of harassment and assault that women experience, as well as the ridiculous precautions we are forced to take in order to avoid getting raped and arousing men at times when they cannot handle it. It points out double standards and at the end of the day, all of the inequalities imposed upon women. As one woman eloquently tweeted, not all men harass women, but all women have been harassed. In my humble opinion, this author almost seems to push the fact that so many women are touched by sexual assault, only to spare her children from having to go through life as “rapists”. This is despite the fact that, if taught well, her children will never do anything to earn them that title.

Another thing that gets me with this section of the article is that she says her boys will have to live with being considered rapists, when a number of men who actually are rapists go on living their lives without any repercussions. Look at instances such as the Steubenville High School rape case from 2012. A high school student was sexually assaulted by a group of peers and everything was documented on social media. While the assailants were charged (a rarity, by the way), the news media framed them as young men with promising futures and expected us to feel sympathy for them. The woman whose life has been forever changed because of this traumatic incident was never once framed in such a way.

This is also only when the assailants are prosecuted. The number of people who report their assaults is small in comparison to the number of people who are assaulted, while the number of rapists who are punished is absolutely dismal. Basically, the chances of your sons actually raping someone, getting away with it, and continuing to live their lives without punishment are pretty high. Tell me we don’t need feminism.

It makes me wonder what this writer’s experience with men has been like throughout her life. Has she never dealt with catcalls and unwanted advances? Has she ever felt disadvantaged because she is a woman? Is she simply not fazed by any of this? That’s the truly concerning part of this article for me, and when other women take issue with the feminist movement in general. What is your life like that you aren’t asking for things to get better for women? Must be nice, whatever it’s like.

Funny enough, at the end of the article, she Kenny-Kline says that she preaches to her boys that equality is important and that we should be working to achieve that. At the end of the day though, isn’t that exactly what feminists want? Perhaps she simply doesn’t understand what it means to be a feminist, or maybe despite what she says, she doesn’t really want true equality after all. Either way, I can guarantee one thing: no matter what events may occur in my life, children, marriage, what have you, I will never stop considering myself a feminist until true, 100% equality is achieved.

Also, some pretty great articles have been written in response to this and similar articles. They all do a great job of putting some of the points I attempted to make in this post a bit more eloquently, as well as bring up other problems about the original article that I never thought about. I highly recommend checking them out:

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One thought on “A Feminist on Anti-Feminism

  1. Writer Tara Kennedy-Kline says, “feminism has become something degrading, offensive, accusatory and opposed the morals and messages I am teaching my kids.”

    And you respond with, “In fact, she doesn’t seem to understand what feminism truly is and what we feminists stand for.”

    You defend feminism with examples where feminism is not degrading, offensive, accusatory and opposed to morals. Hoping that no one notices that you missed the point. You take great care not to engage Tara on any level, but instead frame her argument as ignorance.

    Thanks for being so eloquently dismissive.

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