I know I write about feminism kind of a lot. Off an on.
The reason I write about it so often is I feel immense pressure to be a feminist (ALL acceptable women are feminists, apparently), but at the same time, I feel an immensely strong gut reaction telling me feminism is not healthy for women. But the logic and spoken aims of feminism are very compelling, and some of the problems they are addressing are very real and need to be addressed.
So I feel conflicted, and I write to try to address that conflict, to resolve it and help myself understand why I can't be a feminist of any stripe despite the social pressure and the work that needs to be done.
Before I say anything else, I do know that I'm oversimplifying by using the word "feminism" and that there are many kinds of feminism (and I actually am not opposed to all of them.) I also know that there are many problems that women face that need to be fixed. And I also am saying right up front that I know many excellent feminists that this absolutely does not apply to.
Here's my latest bullet list of reasons feminism is making me uncomfortable, based on my own observations. (I add that because feminists are incredibly aggressive--to the point of cruelty--at defending their positions, and whenever I post stuff like this, they come out to tell me that my observations are wrong and mean and destroying women because feminism is the only path to success for women. So I'm saying up front: These are my own personal observations from my own personal life. They in no way are blanket claims of always truths, but they also are the things I've seen over and over and am making judgments based on--and that's probably unfair but it's my reality. And the fact that I have to put this in here should tell you something about why I can't embrace being a feminist.) So, my list:
• Despite protests to the contrary, feminism publicly is still often anti-man, anxious to belittle and condemn men and deny the masculine nature in order to elevate women. I don't think this helps anyone.
• Feminists still use men as their "measuring stick" of what is success and where we are aiming to be. I don't see any way to succeed if we make men the measuring stick because we are not men and never will be, so we will never quite measure up. It puts women in an inherently inferior position, and it forces women to deny their nature in order to succeed. This harms women rather than helping them.
• Feminism often belittles women for intelligently making the best choice they can for their own lives, claiming that if they don't decide to conform to some money-based evaluation of "success," they were manipulated by society and couldn't possibly be making these choices of their own free will. That actually makes it harder for women to be what they want to be, not easier. (You can see this in the pressure women have put on them to not choose a caring profession, to choose a science or math major even if they really love history, etc.)
• Feminism makes faith and having a relationship with our Father in Heaven noticeably more difficult for women. For some reason, Feminists often seem to have an automatic distrust of the motives of every man, and not of women. Consequently, they find it hard to trust and act on instruction from God. I have a hard time embracing anything that makes faith harder and more complicated, and that interferes with women's ability to form trusting relationships with God and Jesus.
• Feminists are often obsessed with power and who has it, to the detriment of understanding and interacting with their world. This is a very narrow way of looking at the world--very reductionist--that does not tend to show a whole and fair picture. It is, absolutely, one piece of a big puzzle. But it's a mistake to say you understand the whole puzzle completely based on observing one piece, or even a cluster of pieces.
• Feminism distorts thinking, and in a way that leads to greater unhappiness in life and a limited ability to interact with society in a way that will actually make changes to things that hurt women. Feminism is not a paradigm through which to view the world if you want high life satisfaction. It pushes finding offense and power imbalance in every single thing you see--but only if you are on the lower side of the imbalance (never if you have more power, and especially never if you are misusing it). There are other distortions to the thinking as well.
• Feminism elevates women to a more perfect status that they actually have right to claim (with claims like, "If women were the bishops, nobody would ever be offended in church" that are patently untrue and also ridiculous), elevating themselves to ridiculous and foolish heights, while simultaneously laying claim on and denying the existence of feminine traits. (This is really part of the distorted thinking, isn't it?) On the one hand, they say there are no inherently feminine traits but it's all social constructs, and on the other, they restructure school to take advantage of the way women think and work to the detriment of boys. All while saying we need to act more like men to succeed. (The danger of saying there are no inherently gendered traits is that in doing so, they are accepting male-ness as the default and denying female-ness exists at all.)
• Feminism not only ignores but denies that sometimes women have a role in their "problems." (For example, sometimes women bear the burden of the "thinking work" in a household because they are so sure only women can do it right that they actually refuse to let men carry that burden at all out of certainty that the men will do it wrong. And then they complain that the men aren't carrying the burden. Or, in a less negative light, sometimes women make less money than men in the same jobs because they women put higher priority on family time and refused to make the family sacrifices that put them in the top positions at work, eligible for the top raises. So they make less money, but it's a direct result of the good choices they made.)
• The sociocultural demands that feminists have put on women in the name of "freedom" have made it harder for women to embrace and enjoy motherhood (especially of raising many children) and do it well. The only valid contribution to society is measured in dollars and cents and positions at work. That's just a shame, and its wrong, too. Anyone can make money. Only women can mother. (Men can contribute, but they father--which is also vital. Just different.)
• Feminists don't understand what women actually are and what will make them eternally happy in the greatest senses. (Really, only God can know that for anyone, so it's not their fault.) But, despite this lack of knowledge, they work very hard to not only define but enforce a single right "path" to life satisfaction that they not only offer but demand that all women walk. They deny they do this, but actions and social pressure speaks louder than words.
• Feminism is essentially inward-looking. But God has asked us to spend our lives looking outward, not inward: serving others, loving others, using our talents to build His kingdom, having charity, etc. Humility is impossible if our entire paradigm is inward. The nature of feminism is in opposition to the nature of "Forget yourself and get to work." Feminism is often selfish and rooted in pride, and that is not a path to anything good.
• So much of feminism is whining and complaining, indulging in anger and celebrating being bitchy and obnoxious. I'm not interested in those things. That's not who I want to be, and that's not what I want to spend my time or energy on.
• Feminist approach to problem solving is counterproductive. It practically forces people to dig in their heels and defend their position rather than productively leading everyone to greater understanding and change. This is weird because the much-maligned "Feminine Nature" is actually supposed to be good at gently leading people along to change and understanding, but feminists are particularly bad at this, coming across as rude, selfish, obnoxious, and aggressive instead of as a safe way to learn and change and fix problems. (For example, complaining, having mean letter-writing campaigns, and protesting against the Brethren is far, far less likely to cause change than simply asking the questions. "Why don't women do _____?" is way way more effective than "Women Must be allowed to do _____!")
• Feminism leads to a particularly narrow view of the world. It thrives in and loves the echo chamber. For example, any time there is a change they hoped for, they think, "We did this! It's because of our voices!" without even a thought for, say, the global nature of the Church, the fact that there are other voices that were speaking out in more effective ways, that God had something in mind, etc.
• In acknowledging that there is pain and unfairness in the world, feminism seems to reinforce and rejoice in it. It comes across as the ultimate "girls crying in the bathroom" clique that ever existed, and seems to love the victimhood more than the possibility of healing. And in trying to hear and love the victim, they often are cruel to those who were not hurt.
And now that this is written, I'm always afraid to post these because of the inevitable backlash. No-one is more capable of being cruel and needling to the heart of a woman than an angry feminist. No-one has more "need" somehow to lash out and address every slight and every insult than an angry feminist. And feminism teaches women to see hurt and be angry all the time. Feminism, in practice, is often the glorification of the bitch. And I have been treated cruelly so many times by feminists that I'm afraid to even post this, anticipating backlash (and for some reason they feel compelled to attack, not just brush it off and think, "She's wrong. I'll just go on with my life and ignore it."). But I want myself and my kids to understand why I can't join in, so here it is. Again. (I write about this stuff SOOO much!)
Ultimately this is my bottom line: Throughout my life, I've had times where I looked at a group of women (returned sister missionaries and mothers of many children come to mind right off the bat) and saw characteristics I wanted to have. I found myself saying, "I want to be like them," and I knew I had to embrace the same experiences and ideals they had in order to gain the benefits they had that I wanted. There is no other way to get the deep, calm, wise patience of being a mother of many children than by mothering many children (whether they are your own birthed children or others you mother). There is no other way to get that particular kind of confidence and class that returned sister missionaries have than by going on a mission. When I look at feminism and the women it produces, I don't think, "Gosh, I want to be just like that!" In fact, I often think, "Oh my! I hope I'm not like that!" That gives me very little incentive to embrace feminism.