Friday, September 24, 2010

A Small Request

After a year at a women's college, I've come to realize that I am not a feminist.  I don't understand feminist theory, I don't really care much for complaining about perceived slights, it doesn't really bother me that, in the English language, there is no gender neutral pronoun, and I believe that there are a lot of ways that girls have it easier than boys (not that I agree we're completely equal, just that we all have our challenges in life).

But now I have to clarify.  I, personally, don't believe I've had any significant hardships in my life because of my gender, or even any minor struggles beyond those directly related to menstruation (which I'm not asking anyone to eliminate).  However, I know this isn't true in other areas of the world, and issues of women's rights (to food, to life, to a basic education) are issues that I find myself very attracted to.  Which is why, when my mom sent me this video, I was very much interested.

The video portrays the grim, but not uncommon, realities in the future for adolescent girls in poverty.  While it isn't a scholarly writeup on the situation, and therefore has little evidence to support it's ideas, it offers a solution that many have said may be the way to end poverty in the world: keeping girls in school until they have enough of an education to earn a living for themselves.

It's been found that women in charge of the family's income are more likely to spend the money on things for the family, such as food and necessary health care supplies, while men are more likely to spend money on themselves: at the bar, or on prostitutes.  So a woman may be found on the street, holding her child who's dying of malaria because they couldn't afford a $5 mosquito net... while her husband is spending his $5 on beer.

Keep the girls in school, the video says.  Why aren't they in school, you wonder.  Plenty of reasons.  Perhaps she lives in a country where women simply aren't considered valuable enough to educate.  Maybe her family can't afford it, because all the money the family has is going to food, or beer, or education for the boys.  Or maybe she had to drop out, because she didn't have access to feminine hygienic products and had to stay home every fourth week or so and she was falling too far behind.

So lets find a way to educate our girls.  Maybe some amazing things could happen.  Will you do your part?

(The more I write, the more I wonder if there's really anything I can do.)


  1. Your rejection of the feminist theory is a little confusing. You claim that you personally have never suffered based on your gender, but are still concerned about women in other parts of the world who are less fortunate than you. If you were one of these women, faced with these hardships, and wanted better treatment, would you then consider yourself a feminist? Your comment seems to consist of 'situational feminism' which is snobby on your part. In what ways are you better than them? Simply because you don't face the same gender discrimination?

    I also doubt that you don't face any discrimination at all. You may ignore it, but there are plenty of subtle decisions made by society that have directed you away from/towards certain activities and priviledges based on the fact that you are a woman. It may not have impacted you negatively, as you said, but I'm sure it has changed the direction your life has taken. Do you want the lives of other women who are not as passive about their role in life as you to experience these same social restrictions?

    Your post also takes on a hint of man-hating in your portrayal of men (I'm sure many care for their families, and they don't all just waste money on beer). Although some feminists still take this approach, many have shied away from this and focused on equal treatment between the sexes.

    Why not focus on equal rights for all instead of rejecting your false idea feminism (feminism doesn't simply focusing on word usage), yet asking for better treatment of women (something feminists definitely agree with)? You are hiding behind a denial of feminism, yet encouraging feminist ideas to others and claiming in believing them. Make up your mind!

  2. I'm afraid I don't entirely understand where you are coming from, but I will try to clarify my side.

    For one thing, I think it is totally okay for me to be concerned about women in third world countries without identifying myself as a feminist. If you disagree with this, I understand your argument. But this clarification is why I started off by saying that I'm not a feminist.

    I also don't believe it is snobby of me to say I don't feel like I struggle because of my gender, while I know other people do. Honestly, I think it is more snobby for those of us who grew up with relative wealth to complain about our struggles in life while there are people in the world who lack things we take for granted.

    Could you explain to me how saying I have not suffered because of my gender makes me passive about my role in life? I don't believe I have suffered because of my gender, but I am sure I have faced discrimination, gender based and non-gender based. I could point out instances of both in my life. They just haven't made me suffer enough to care; they weren't significant. I also am not saying I haven't suffered, am not saying I haven't acted to make my life better. But I like the direction my life has taken, and if that is due to the subtle decisions of society more than my activist mother and the large number of people in my life who love me and have assisted me in large ways, so be it. I'd rather focus on helping other women find a life they love as much as I love mine, than worry about how society has shaped me.

    I would also like to point out that my portrayal of men was not a generalization. I did not say "all men waste money on beer". In fact, I wasn't even making up my portrayal. I got the information from an article from the new york times ( ... The information is on the fourth page, under the heading about microfinance.

    To address your final concerns, I don't think agreeing with some of the same ideas that feminists do requires me to be a feminist, in the same way that I'm not forcing my friend to call himself a Christian even though he and I believe many of the same things and I do consider myself Christian. And I'm also pretty sure that choosing not to call myself feminist does not prevent me from asking for better treatment of women.

    I hope this helps. If you have any more concerns, please let me know.