I have all the credentials of an A-grade feminist. I grew up with a strong, savvy mother who studied in her 40s so she could start her own business before 50. I went to a public school where the oppression of my sex was made abundantly clear to me. I went to university and completed a liberal arts degree taught by feminist, socialist lecturers. I’m now a (nearly) 30-year-old woman with a professional career on my CV, including a dash of management.
So I don’t know how it all went so wrong, how I ended up feeling so completely unrepresented by the modern feminist movement.
It’s not that I’m ambivalent towards it. I quite vehemently feel that at every turn it is undermining my contribution to this world.
I think it started with the brand of feminism I saw around me at university. I simply couldn’t relate. The men being portrayed in the vicious arguments, accusatory statistics looked nothing like the men I had grown up with. My father stepped into the role of home-maker voluntarily to help mum study, after all. My grandfather had never spoken a bad word about my grandmother in front of me, and in fact when her back was turned, would comment on how intelligent she was, or how good with words. My brothers, my uncles, my cousins – not a single one of them ever made me feel as if being a woman made an ounce of difference to what I was capable of doing, and they were all rather traditional.
It got worse when I went to work. I didn’t notice any particular difference between the way men or women treated me. Nor was I ever made to feel that my being a woman would have anything to do with my career potential. Quite the opposite, in fact.
And that’s what started to bother me. I began to wonder if, because I was a mildly competent female worker, I was being targeted for opportunities to make the gender balance look ok.
It was a horrible feeling; that one’s main value lies in having certain appendages.
At that point I knew I had turned my back on my modern feminist sisters. I simply couldn’t hold with a movement that breathlessly claimed gender shouldn’t matter, without realising that making the claim itself puts the gender in the spotlight.
From there doubt only grew. I listened to females around me disparage sexist comments made by men. Then I listened to those same people comment about Dan Carter in his undies. I listened to ladies rave about the men’s club, and thought of trying to crack into giggling groups of teenaged girls upon arriving in New Zealand at the tender age of 13. I heard all about the glass ceiling and I couldn’t help wondering how thick the glass ceiling was for those with depression, or bipolar, or learning disabilities. I read about the pay gap, and then sat in silence as my female friends repeatedly said how much they hated bringing up the pay conversation.
Truly, these days feminism seems to rely on making women feel like the hapless victims of men – unreliable, awful men.
It’s all so sexist and so disempowering.
I am, ironically, a traitor to the modern feminist cause because I refuse to believe women are hapless victims and think instead they are responsible for their own fate.
This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz