I’m Not a Feminist.


After learning more about feminism at university, I am now aware of my past mistakes. However, I am also more aware of the inequality within mainstream feminism.

Coming to university I paid little concern to my comments around women. While I was and am not sexist, I used to make lots of sexist comments and jokes. You name a female stereotype and I definitely used it and abused it. I fell into that ‘lad’ culture, where you’ll find ‘banter:’ rating women from 1 to 10 and calling your mate ‘gay’ if he does something not seen as ‘masculine.’ This could be anything because anything your mate does is ‘gay,’ and that’s just the way it is. This was just how I was, none of it was malicious or serious.

University opened my eyes. I began to realise how my comments were being received in a far more mixed environment. I began to realise how intimidating it can be when someone such as myself, who is often loud and confident, makes jokes about women – especially when all the guys in the group laugh leaving the girls feeling mocked. I also began to notice that my comments were genuinely hurtful for a lot of women. This didn’t go down too well with me to start with, I thought it was just girls being ‘girls’ and not having a sense of humour.

However I soon realised it wasn’t that at all. I’ve learnt a lot at university and one thing I’ve learnt is to appreciate how women feel in a society dominated by men, and that certain comments and jokes can be hurtful. I can also say that along the way I’ve learnt a lot about the position of women in society and the problems they face, for example sexual objectification, inequality in the work place, certain expectations on them and so on. I like to think I have genuinely developed a greater appreciation of the issues championed by feminism and now I find myself actively challenging sexist remarks. During the electoral debate a close friend kept on referring to Natalie Bennett as a ‘stupid bitch’, and it struck a chord with me – something I doubt I would have paid much attention to two years ago – and I ended up getting into quite an argument with them.

But, I’m not a feminist, it’s not for me. As someone who comes from a working class background, I know that sexism isn’t a joke, and I began to realise that feminism, or rather the feminism I’ve encountered during my time at university, isn’t really for the working class. For me, of what I know of feminism, this is a great betrayal. If women face inequality compared to men and the working class face inequality compared to the middle and upper classes then surely working class women are the greatest victims of sexism? Yet they remain widely unrepresented by mainstream feminism.

In terms of the feminism I’ve been exposed to, what I’ve come across mostly is ‘manspreading’, sexism in the media and famous people or people in authority saying sexist things. Pay inequality usually focuses on higher salary jobs and the gender imbalance in workplaces like parliament. I don’t see arguments in support of young mums who’ve had children when they were very young and now suffer discrimination. I don’t see articles about how young girls in housing estates are put at a disadvantage in life because of their social background. I don’t see these underprivileged women, who had a rough upbringing, who were failed by their school and are now either working in a dead-end job or living on the dole as full time mothers, being represented. Quite frankly, I feel the people who need feminism the most are simply being ignored.

The best example in this university that I can think of is the whole Uni of/ Solent rivalry. Yes, I understand you’re going to have rivalry between two similar groups if you put them close enough together. But the sheer relentlessness with which we bombard Solent with abuse is morbidly impressive. On the other hand, I see sexist statuses on Tell Him/Tell Her being shot down for being ignorant and sexist and if I had a penny for every, ‘it’s not okay to grab my ass in a club’ post then I’d probably be able to buy a pint (you need a lot of pennies for good stuff). Whereas there’s not really many champions of Solent. No one really cares when they’re mocked and a good Solent post on Tell Him/Tell Her is going to get over a hundred likes.

This takes me back to where it all began, how I ‘innocently’ used to make overt sexist comments without really understanding their impact. What I see with this Solent rivalry is a mass effort to ridicule people, women included, based on a perceived  inferiority linked to negative stereotypes of the working class. So, while there is only around ten percent more students from working class backgrounds attending Solent then the University of Southampton, the women who attend Solent now face discrimination based on their gender, perceived social class and their educational choices. I don’t see them being represented by feminism here in this university.

What I do see is a middle class-dominated movement called feminism. After a simple Google search I realise this idea is becoming a trend. So I’m not a feminist. I acknowledge the presence of gender inequality and I wholeheartedly support gender equality, but I see inequality in feminism. I see middle class women worrying about middle class issues, forgetting about the masses of working class women who suffer the same and arguably even greater discrimination. My experience of feminism so far at university has led me to this view and, while there may be a platform for working class feminism (of which I am unaware), it seems to be almost devoid from our institution.

Although, for what it’s worth, I am more conscious of my manspreading.

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Discussion6 Comments

  1. avatar

    In regards to Femsoc…

    Things SUSU Femsoc did this year:

    1. Meeting and ongoing collaboration with Marxist society. Gender and class oppression inherently intertwined. Literally direct acknowledgement of what we are apparently ignoring

    2. Collecting sanitry items for homeless people (totally no care for anyone but the middle class right?)

    3. Most of us are working class

    4. Where did any of this article come from

    5. Intersectional Feminism (I. E. What feminism should be in a modern environment) is inclusive of class as well as all issues surrounding oppressed women.

    Maybe look up Gayatari Spivak if you want to see the cutting edge of feminism and relevant feminist critique. What about the women who have no access to discourse (the subaltern, think a woman who is “untouchable” in the Indian caste system for example ) – we cannot speak for them, we have to make it so the world will listen to what the have to say, and that’s a huge thing we are concerned with.

  2. avatar

    You’re instigating a hostile environment. Now anything anyone from Femsoc says will be an “attack” if it precedes this comment. If they don’t comment, people will say “yup they don’t care” but if they do, then “God look they can’t let anyone speak they have to attack everything”

    Please. Please try to encourage polite discourse instead of instigating animosity.

  3. avatar
    Steve Adams

    These are all fair points, and I know it may seem easy to see my article as an attack on feminism but it is quite the opposite. It is more what I have found of feminism, so far. For example, I knew of the movement before university but little actual content. My main concern then is how is it reaching the masses of working class women and men for that matter? How does it penetrate through the university bubble and past the few exceptions and into the lives of the everyday average Jane/Joe?

    I do like the concept and I agree with what it stands for which is why I think it is such a shame that to me, based on the people I know back home and the fact that I’ve never heard feminism being spoken of outside my Uni life, it seems to be being squandered.

    But saying that the examples you have given show a clear attempt to right that wrong and I would hope that within the shortest time possible we will start to see feminism openly discussed on all mediums across all classes and boundaries. Perhaps then I will have little merit to deny myself a feminist.

  4. avatar

    A group quick to decry 49% of the population for their overwhelming dominance in society, yet unwilling to accept even a tiny modicum of criticism about some of the shittier aspects and members of their own community.
    You should see the mental gymnastics some of them are going through in the Femsoc group to justify totally ignoring any valid points this article raised. Only one other type of group behaves like this… It’s known as a cult.

    Nobody here has said women should not have equal standing in society,, but often it seems feminists lack even the most basic level of self awareness to consider the possibility that their community has a few bad eggs, without using the tired old excuse that “oh well they’re not a real feminist”.

    Awfully convenient guys: peddle an ideology that sometimes creates horrible people then absolve yourselves of all responsibility for them. Apparently that mentality is horrible when it leads to rape culture but absolutely fine when they need it to excuse the behaviour of radical feminists.

  5. avatar
    Steve Adams

    I have read the comments on Femsoc’s page and for those who you quite accurately point out engage in ‘mental gymnastics’ (I shall be using that term in the future aha) I don’t take any notice of.

    I think it is such a hard topic in which to find a middle ground. As the previous comments from Devin quite rightly pointed out it can easily become a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ discussion.

    As you write, no ones arguing against female equality. However I get the impression sometimes that much of mainstream feminism feels it has a monopoly on the subject of female equality. I believe there are efforts to encompass all sections of society and I was pointed (albeit indirectly on Femsoc’s page) towards the concept of intersectionality. But my criticism of this is just because it exists doesn’t mean it’s a success. The welfare state exists but I wouldn’t say it’s perfect.

    My issue then is that feminism cannot be above criticism. Not only does it create an air of hostility towards it but it actually does more harm than good. If something tries to squash all fair critique, of which I believe this article was, then it will discredit itself.

    Looking over the comments on Femsoc’s page there were one or two fair comments arguing against or trying to make sense of what I wrote but there was also plenty of petty comments and digs and ‘mental gymnastics’ which sours ones reception. It comes off rich that many of the qualms on Femsoc’s page are over quite menial instances of sexism in everyday life and yet some of the response to this article were just as menial as said examples.

    However that’s life. You shouldn’t label them as a ‘cult’ or indeed take advantage to return snide remarks with snide remarks. You should ignore those who fit your description and instead gauge those who would seek intelligent discussion and debate. That’s how we’ll weed out the negatives of feminism and indeed all issues and make progressive steps. Feminism shouldn’t be afraid to accept critique and hold its hands up where necessary just like I won’t shy from critique of my views and resist enlightenment.

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