For the past several years, there’s been a huge cultural discussion about what a feminist actually is —and then, what kind of feminist a person is. Are you a full-fledged feminist? A partial feminist? A feminist in spirit but not in practice? How about a conservative feminist?
All this back-and-forth about what it means to be a feminist and trying to qualify what kind of feminist a person is shows how convoluted the movement has become, and how confused people are about the subject. I have a theory as to why that is.
In all my years of studying, writing and talking with people across the globe about feminism, what I’ve learned is that most people think they need to associate themselves in some fashion with the movement in order to prove they believe in women. To be against feminist dogma is to be against women. Or so the thinking goes.
Carly Fiorina is the latest to jump on this bandwagon. But if Fiorina wants to be the first conservative woman president some day, she should take a lesson from Margaret Thatcher, who famously said, “I owe nothing to women’s lib.” Fiorina can’t have it both ways.
You can be a feminist, or you can be a conservative. But you can’t be both.
Feminism is a left-wing movement. It is even rooted in Marxism. If that represents your ideology and beliefs, by all means call yourself a feminist. If it doesn’t, then you aren’t a feminist.
The problem is that many women aren’t comfortable labelling themselves anything, at least these days, which I understand since my beliefs aren’t always easily boxed. Still, this needn’t apply to feminism. I have never been a “sort of” feminist, or a special kind of feminist, because I’ve always had a firm grasp of what the movement is about. The more informed you are on this subject, the more comfortable you will be steering clear of it.
Unfortunately, feminists browbeat women to think the dictionary definition of feminism—“equal rights for women”—is all feminism is. And who wants to disassociate from that? But feminism is not about equal rights at all.
It’s about power for the female left.
There are many distinctions between conservatives and feminists. The most obvious is that feminists are pro-government, and conservatives are not. Feminists do a lot of talking about wanting women’s independence and empowerment, but their policies simply transfer women’s dependence on men to dependence on Uncle Sam. Indeed, women are more dependent when they’re single—not less. How is that empowering?
Moreover, the two camps do not share a belief system. If you believe the sexes are equal in value yet different in nature, if you believe believe marriage and family represent the bedrock of a good society, if you believe personal responsibility must accompany freedom in order for freedom to be used well, if you put the needs of children above the needs of women, you cannot call yourself any version of a feminist. Because feminists do not agree with that.
Feminists believe women in the Western world are oppressed and thus need a social structure that affords women the status that has been wrongfully denied them. To accomplish this goal, they generate conflicts in legislatures, in courts, in schools, in universities, in the workplace and between the sexes—and then demand your taxes pay for it. Feminists believe women’s wants and needs should trump everyone else’s. They also harbour a deep resentment toward men and gender roles. Finally, feminists don’t believe in personal responsibility. They believe in Uncle Sam.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how the movement started or when the whole thing went south. This is where we are.
If you identify with beliefs outlined above, you can safely call yourself a feminist. If you don’t, you can’t. It’s that simple.
Suzanne Venker is the author of four books on men, women, work and family. Her fifth, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage: HOW LOVE WORKS, will be published in February 2017.
(Image: Sylvie Pankhurst)