Hannah ActonPublished in January 2020 / Updated in January 2021
I’m going to stop right here and tell you one thing.
It’s okay to want to be loved. And to feel desirable. That doesn’t make you any less of a feminist. Or any less of a human being, despite what people may say.
I am fully aware this this is a contentious issue, but it’s the truth.
I am not a feminist. That does not make me a bad person, or any more flawed than the rest of us.
I’m not going to pretend that life is always going to be sunshine and daisies, dear readers. The simple fact of the matter is that sometimes life sucks, and it sucks hard. Sometimes, people have truly damaging ideologies. That’s not me, trust me. My rejection of the term ‘feminist’ is not a rejection of the principles of equality, equal rights, and international, intersectional support. Please don’t take this article as a fascist rejection of all the Western philosophies of freedom.
Feminism is a term that comes with a lot of baggage
The term ‘feminazi’ famously made the rounds in the mid-2010s, and it is a charge that only carried the same joking grounds as ‘grammar nazi’, and yet it is a charge that the movement has not truly recovered from, ten years on. It’s so easy to latch on to a term – be it egalitarian, proletarian, furry, or republican. These terms can all be arbitrarily assigned to a person and then the world presumes to label them even more. Let’s not do that anymore, it’s 2020. Some vegans are bad, some gay people are bad – just as some women are bad, and other marginalised groups. It doesn’t serve as a rejection that most men and white people internalise and barely acknowledge a lot of their born privilege, but the feminist movement often struggles with overcoming this inherent bias.
Of course women everywhere have been subjected to the social, economic, biological, and psychological hardships that come with a society inherently functioned to view women as the default. I am not denying this, nor the importance of what is being fought for. Yes, the differences in wording are pedantic, but it’s important that we don’t feed into a social dynamic that allows people to use ‘feminist’ as synonymous with ‘dramatic’ or ‘irrational’. All that succeeds in doing is letting other groups using feminised, belittling terms that we are fighting against in the first place. We need to distance ourselves – not from our female identities – but from the stereotypes that people cling to.
Here’s an example of misapplied feminism
I’m not sure that there is an emotional experience more frustrating, heart-wrenching, guilt-tripping, or generally horrible than unrequited love. If you remember feeling like Rosaline in Romeo and Juliet – the brief object of his whims only to be side-lined for the flashier, younger model – then you’re in the right place. It is so hard to find value and validation in who you are as a person without reciprocal feedback from another person. Indeed, if your feelings of worthiness stem from the emotional support of another person, as so often it does, that person is, for better or worse, responsible for your state of mind and sense of self.
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy. Not because, as the world thinks feminists think – that Romeo was stupid and the Friar was foolish – but instead that two young, promising lives were lost. Including a female life, together with a male. No one party can ‘claim’ that tragedy, or try to reinterpret it in ‘feminist’ or ‘antifeminist’ terms. A move towards equality should look to the future, so why are feminists so often looking back? In allowing yourself to be defined by a label, you will always have to try and defend yourself and reorganise history to make the presence make sense. Surely we need more than that?
It’s not the people who call themselves feminists’ fault, it’s society. But it’s also not my fault and please don’t demonise me for not chasing to categorise myself in this way. We all have our reasons.
Also, in labelling ourselves as feminists, that’s an inherently exclusionary dynamic. It gives people the power to say that some people are or aren’t feminists – like people who are in relationships, or love being submissive, or housekeepers, etc.
Feminism has a few lessons to learn before I will self-identify as one.
Desiring romance is not weak or ‘anti-feminist’ – It shouldn’t need to be said, but it does. I’m going to say it again louder for those of you that didn’t hear it at the back: whatever your political agenda or goals, no way of life or worldview should invalidate your need to be loved. We’re fighting for equality for all, not isolation and island-mentality.
It’s okay to want to be desired and feel desirable
Again, even if you are subscribing to the male gaze, or your feet hurt in those shoes but you know your legs look great, you don’t need your every moment to be symbolised or politicised.
You are valid and worthy to want to be wanted; everyone wants to be wanted.
People might show that in different ways, but doing so in an apparently ‘anti-feminist’ way isn’t weak or misguided – it’s your prerogative to make those decisions.