As a thirty something woman in Ireland, I think I have it good. I come from a family in which the matriarchs rule the roost, and I’ve unconsciously carried on that tradition. Up until this week, I’d considered myself a feminist, based on the premise that I believe in equal rights and opportunities for women. Though, if anyone asked me outright, I would answer with “I’m a feminist, but not a mad feminist”. By that I meant the radical feminists who blame males for all evils, while simultaneously failing to take responsibility as women for other difficulties. This week, I had a conversation with a friend who told me I was not a feminist, I assume because I don’t blame everything on the patriarchy. “Who do you blame for women’s difficulties in Ireland?”, she asked. “The feminists”, I answered. “Or the mad ones anyway”.
Exasperated, she started to discuss the politics of feminism. I sat and thought about this, and then I called her. I’m writing a piece where I’m going to be critical of feminists. You might not like it. We laughed a bit about why it might not exactly be popular. “The men will be glad to have you on their side” she said wryly.
Why do I blame feminists for some of the problems? Because, in my view, the loudest ones in Ireland are collectively a whiny group, who peddle negativity like it was going out of fashion. To listen to them you would think that we as women are always going to be victims, with no chance of escaping the mantle anytime soon. When was the last time you heard a positive message from any women’s sector group, who also espouse the feminist line? I cant think of one positive women’s campaign, though I stand to be corrected. Im thinking…Nope…Nada.
There are surely many positive things about being a female in this country. We aren’t treated in the way in which women in Afghanisatan are, for example. We have equal access to education, and the trends show that over the last number of years, women have consistently more chance of being employed than their male counterparts. If anything, males are now underrepresented in employment fields such as the “caring” professions, administration fields, and the public and professional sector. But let’s not focus on that, the Irish feminists say, let’s keep focus on underrepresentation of women in politics, and the airwaves – careers which are not exactly open to many anyway, and keep chanting the slogans blaming men for abuse, while simultaneously ignoring the uncomfortable fact that women can also be abusive.
Which brings me onto another reason why I blame the mad feminists. No introspective look on the ills of society. The old mantra of men being perpetrators of abusive situations gets trotted out and we are left with the annual promotion of scary statistics of domestic violence, and rape campaigns, without anyone doing enough about it – except to use the sticky plaster approach once it has occurred, for the vast majority of victims.
Sure it’s a huge problem, and women are mostly at the receiving end. But feminists need to confront the realities too. Research shows that sons who witness domestic violence against their mothers, show a propensity in later life to also abuse, but there are rarely national campaigns aimed at this target group in an effort to stop the cycle. Men are also victims of domestic assaults and sexual abuse too, just as women can be perpetrators of both physical and sexual abuse. Why do feminists rarely publicly confront this reality? Why do we not see campaigns aimed at women who become trapped in a cycle of abuse, urging them to take responsibility for their own lives and bodies, and reclaim autonomy? Why is it not pc to attach some responsibility for child abuse for example, onto those females who facilitate horrific acts under their own roof, by turning a blind eye to the perpetrator? Because women, in the eyes of the people who run these campaigns are the victims, harmed by men across the board. The women who commit violent acts also. Feminists give them a get out clause by looking into their backgrounds to find something which must have caused them to act in the way they did. We negate from focusing on responsibility when the cycle is continued – and focus instead on prolonging vulnerability and weakness by enabling.
This will be unpopular, Im sure, because I’ve broken the golden rule, sisters. You cant be critical of feminists. If youre a critical male, youre sexist. If youre a critical female, well, you must be either brainwashed by the patricarchy, or ashamed of your own femininity.
So when does a feminist who believes in equality of both rights and opportunity stop becoming a feminist in Ireland? The answer in short is when the feminists say you aren’t one. When youre the “wrong type”, or when you don’t identify with much of what that brigade of feministas have to offer.
I don’t have a label to fit my feminist views. Im not a radical, reformist, or socialist feminist. Im not a conservative, a separatist feminist, or a liberal feminist. I’m just a woman who believes that no one, male or female should be discriminated against on the basis of their gender, and who also believes that it is important to teach my own children to have autonomy over themselves, their bodies, their fertility and their worth as they grow up – hopefully into rounded, responsible human beings.
If that doesn’t fit in with the sisters agenda, then I don’t need to belong to a band of people who believe that if you don’t tick the boxes, you’re not in the club. This is one sister who is quite happy to do it for herself.