I, dear readers, am a vocal feminist on the internet (and in real life). And often, I am quite an annoyed one. This, every so often, exposes me to the vast and wonderful world of People Reacting To Feminism. Women who wear their feminism on their sleeves tend to attract two different types of responses: high-fives from fellow feminists, which are wonderful, of course; and the less wonderful buffet of insults, faux concern, and "logic" presented by anti-feminists. From attempts at conversion to concern for my wellbeing to radical condescension, these anti-feminist responses delight me equally, because they show the power of feminist thinking; but there's no escaping the fact that some of them are just a bit creepy.
I'm not talking about outright aggression or death threats. Those things are not "creepy;" using that term would trivialize them into something that vaguely scary, rather than something deeply and genuinely threatening. As a woman in the world, I'm sadly used to strangers immediately referencing gender violence when they get angry at me. So it's the more insidious stuff that can make my skin crawl. I'm discussing the stuff that just gets uncomfortable: the weird assumptions about personal situations, the easy dismissal of female opinions, the unsolicited advice or one-sided arguments.
Here are seven of the creepiest things people say to vocal feminists, which run the gamut from weirdly personal, to absurd, to dismissive, to just a bit demented.
1. "Ah, So You Hate Dudes"
Yes. You have uncovered our secret! Every single woman who just wants to get an equal pay check, not deal with harassment and rape culture, and get equal treatment and respect from the media, healthcare and their employers, is just making a fuss because they're gender-haters. Penises: clearly evil implements out to destroy the world.
No, my anti-feminist friend, we do not hate dudes. Many of us marry them, date them and have them as friends; some of us even are dudes. What we don't like? Shitty societal structures policing a patriarchal version of female behavior and enforcing the idea that women are weak and inferior. That sh*t can go get bent. So the notion that that people genuinely think like that about us is actually a bit upsetting.
2. "But What About When You Get Married?"
As a Feminist Person Who Is Married, let me, dear person who has no relation to my life and absolutely no right to pry into my private affairs, reassure you of the reality of the post-marital state: nothing changes. And if I'd married somebody who for some reason wanted me to very vocally stop believing in female equality because I had a ring on my finger, I would very rapidly no longer be married. Thank you for your concern. Yours sincerely, go away.
3. "You Feminist Chicks Are All The Same"
Yup! We are legion. We are one. We are Feminism.
Actually, if the sorts of people who said this did any research into feminist theory, they'd recognize that there's actually significant diversity and disagreement within the feminist community itself; the movement for intersectional feminism, for instance, came into existence because so much 20th century feminism focused on a white, straight, cis female perspective, and needed desperately to be more inclusive of other kinds of people. There's also a lot of argument about "choice feminism," which regards the free choice of a woman as inherently feminist, regardless of what the choice is. (The argument against this, of course, is that a giant load of female choices are consciously and subconsciously mediated by societal structures, so we're actually also responding to societal messages and strictures about ideal female bodies and behaviors when we make certain choices — a disagreement which really, really makes the point that feminists don't all think alike.)
What people mean by "all the same," of course, isn't that our ideologies are all united by a common theme. They mean "you're a group that I don't like, and I'm going to dismiss you personally as unoriginal because of it."
4. "I Don't Think We Need Feminism Any More"
Let me tell you why this is creepy: compared to some of the things that land in my Twitter mentions, you'd think that the charming, "let's have a decent argument about this" dudes (it's always dudes) who'd like to explain their position about feminism's lack of utility would be preferable. But they're not.
It is creepy to provide real statistics about discrimination and then have someone tell you that they're not true. It is chilling to give proof after proof, only to have them dismissed because "that doesn't happen where I live" or "I've never seen evidence of that" or "are you sure?" Ever argue with a brick wall? It's angering, sure, but it also makes my skin crawl, because these people never really understand the point: that constantly undervaluing and questioning the documented evidence provided by a woman because, hey, she's not a reliable source because she's a woman, is exactly the problem.
5. "You Should Soften Up So You Don't Scare Dudes Off"
This, I think, is the assumption that overlays the denials of people who espouse everything that feminists believe in without actually wanting to be seen as "feminists." Some people perceive feminism as "scary." It's "unattractive." It supposedly "puts people off," particularly dudes.
This, you see, is because angry ladies are not feminine, and should just do what their ancestors did to maintain their grace and elegance for their suitors: take off their lace gloves, dig a deep hole, scream into it, dust themselves off and go have unbearable, interminable teas with condescending male relatives. (That, or immediately die in childbirth.) The purpose of our lives, obviously, is to remain suitably charming and unthreatening until we lure a partner, and then restrain the urge to suddenly spring our feminism upon them like some kind of malevolent jack-in-the-box with Equal Rights written on its breasts.
6. "Let Me Explain How Rape Culture Is Not A Thing"
You know what's deeply uncomfortable and creepy? A man explaining, at length, to a woman whom he does not know and has no personal relationship with, how the treatment of women who've made allegations of rape or sexual assault (which, in case you aren't keeping up, usually involves slut-shaming, blame and suspicions of perjury) is perfectly fine and not an endemic problem.
Riddle me this, kind gentleman: if it's not an issue, if it's all isolated incidents, then why the hell does it keep happening? And by "it," I mean the under-reporting, the poor conviction rates, and the way that survivors of sexual assaults are terrorized for reporting or speaking up about their attacks across the country, particularly on college campuses. If I have to have one more argument with some myopic nonsense-dude about "why the victim didn't just go to the police" or "why she was wearing that short skirt if she didn't want sex," I am going to go to bed for a year.
7. "Feminism Is A Conspiracy/A Ponzi Scheme/Didn't Get Me Laid"
These comments are unsettling if only because they're so detached from the actual realities and problems of feminism. I can understand peoples' genuine gripes with feminism: it's historically been a very white movement, it has many internal divisions, and there are often issues with how it deals with the huge contrasts in women's rights abuse around the globe. (Though for the record, just because "things are pretty awful in India/Bangladesh/etc" doesn't mean "things are absolutely perfect here"). But the people who want to explain to me that feminism is, as an ideology, somehow on par with the Illuminati as a world-ruining, personally debilitating bit of poison are... well, bizarre.
I've had people blame feminism for their lack of a job, a partner, a satisfying sex life, or respect from women in general. I've had it anger people so considerably that they threaten me with vague violence. I've had people say, with a straight face, that feminism is "what's wrong with the world" — because terrorism and climate change are definitely both clearly tied to some ladies demanding that people stop treating them like hell all the time, right?
If you don't agree with something I'm saying, THAT IS COOL. Just... don't be creepy about it. Promise you'll try. OK?
Images: Pexels, Giphy