by Furry Girl


The left tends to have a very neurotic concept of the past.  Supposedly, one must be either eternally grateful or eternally guilty about things that "your" gender/genetic ancestors/nationality did or didn't do decades or centuries before you were born, things over which you have zero control and possibly even zero knowledge.  This isn't to say that I don't believe it's important to consider the ways in which privilege shapes our lives and society, but the obsession with gratefulness or guiltiness doesn't make people anything but defensive, motivating them to lie about their background and refuse to actually think about their privileges.

Perhaps the most popular "look at how clever I am, proving you a hypocrite!" comments that I receive are people who argue that because I have benefited from the work of feminists, I should to be obsessively grateful to all of feminism as a whole, forever.  Since I can vote, earn money, own property, be granted divorce, and get birth control or an abortion, I am an ungrateful little shit for not being a feminist now.

There were women (and men!) who fought long and hard so that future generations of women could vote and do other important things.  I don't dispute that.  But why is it that in order to express my thanks and solidarity for their hard work, I should be a feminist?  That's a strange thing to cherry-pick as the belief I should adopt to honor those who fought for women's basic rights.

Almost all of the early activists for women's rights were Christians, motivated by "liberal" religious beliefs as much as what one could call feminist beliefs.  Why is no one telling me to convert to Christianity in order respect these early activists who did things that have benefited me?  Thanks to Christians, women can now vote, own property, and have all sorts of equality!  We all owe Christianity big time.  If you are a woman who votes or owns property, but you're not a Christian, you are an ungrateful little shit!



  1. I hear this more as a response to "feminism is awful, it's just whining and bra-burning" type comments. Or "you feminists are all angry man-haters". To which "actually, feminists fought for rights you consider basic, and now fight for things that make you angry when they affect you, like pay discrimination". If you changed the headline to "you're mistaken to dislike feminism after all it's done for you" I'd agree wholeheartedly.

    So I'm sort of agreeing with your headline but disagreeing with your article.

    Comment by Moz — August 15, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  2. I got a lot of that when I was in my women's studies class. I tried to bring up that the guilt they push on white people/men/straights/etc. just alienated potential allies and made them defensive at best. At worst it constitutes racism/misandry/heterophobia/etc. I don't deny that feminism in the past has done great things, but in the present I don't see it providing much service, especially as feminism fails to come to terms with transgendered people and gets caught up in male-bashing and anti-porn rhetoric.

    PS. I understand that not all feminists are all of the above, but in the class I took I never saw a single person who didn't have at least one prejudice while claiming to be the bastion of the right's movements. Hypocrisy is bull!

    Comment by Azura Rose — August 15, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

  3. It's absolutely true that everyone, men and women, have benefitted from feminism. I agree that guilt over bad things that your ancestors may have done is pointless but like you said, recognizing that the mistakes of our ancestors still shape our world and privileges is important to realize. I'm half black, and don't expect every white American to personally apologize to me for slavery. I do expect every white person to recognize their privilege, though. But the majority are still working on that.

    Are you going to write about the Madison Young issue on twitter? I'd love to see your thoughts explained about what happened.

    Comment by Jade — August 15, 2011 @ 6:44 pm

  4. e problem is that there is considerable disagreement as to what Feminism IS. Ever since Susan B Anthony made the tactical decision to ally with the WCTU, there have been reactionary aspects to it. In order to be a Feminist, must one really be eternally grateful for Prohibition, the Drug War, anti-sexworker groups, etc.? That's the thing, one faction says yes and another say no. With so much factionalism, Feminism is about as definable as "Mother, God and Country" - nice thing to say your for, but means different things to different people.

    Comment by Roy Kay — August 16, 2011 @ 4:29 am

  5. My stock answer usually references the Protestant reformation and demands everyone become a Lutheran out of gratitude.

    Comment by Belle de Jour — August 16, 2011 @ 4:37 am

  6. Can I say persoanlly as a man I love that argument.

    By the same logic feminist women have no right to be angry at men given men were to the ones who voted to give women suffrage, and have created a scociety where you dont get dozens of intestinal parasites every time you drink the water.

    Comment by lujlp — August 20, 2011 @ 8:41 am

  7. There is nothing more boring than debating "the true meaning of true feminism," so I'm going to skip some of the stuff said in the comments. I used to get all hot-and-bothered for the topic when I was younger, but now, it's like watching stone teenagers navel-gazing over "what does the color blue REALLY look like?"

    Jade: It might be your belief that every human has benefitted from feminism, but that's just your opinion. If someone argued that "everyone" has benefitted from Islam, or Communism, or any other belief system, I'd shoot them down just as quickly. No belief system has benefitted all humans.

    Comment by Furry Girl — September 10, 2011 @ 7:30 pm

  8. "....given men were to the ones who voted to give women suffrage, and have created a scociety where you dont get dozens of intestinal parasites every time you drink the water."

    Wow. Men "gave" women the right to vote? Actually, no. The minute we created a society that included voting, women automatically had the inherent RIGHT to vote and were simply being prevented from doing so. Then, after much struggle, that wrong situation was corrected. Men did not "give" women the right to vote in their own society.

    As for the internal parasites thing, I have no idea what exactly I'm supposed to be thanking men for on that one. Unless you're saying men are solely responsible for the development of modern society. Which would be a hilarious and weird argument on so many levels.

    Comment by Heather — February 24, 2012 @ 12:08 am

  9. Heather: whether or not you and I believe that women *deserve* the right to vote doesn't change history. Women would not be allowed to vote had they not been granted that right by the men in charge. You can claim that it immoral, unethical, patriarchal, or whatever (and I'd agree), but that doesn't mean men were not the ones in charge at the time.

    Comment by Furry Girl — February 24, 2012 @ 12:11 am

  10. Quite. History is history - use it to inform your arguments and to learn from its mistakes. But what was true then is not necessarily true now, and what was important then may well be irrelevant now. "What has feminism done for me lately?" is a perfectly reasonable approach in my book.

    Comment by cwol — March 3, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

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