Why I Am Not a Feminist
Where to start? This is a huge topic and it would be easy to bore people by giving all the historical background. So I’m just going to jump in midstream and flow with it.
I believe that the 2nd wave feminist movement and accompanying sexual revolution have not been beneficial to women, men or children on the whole, though there have been victories for some. More than anything else, women have choices. Primarily, we have educational choices, career choices, and the choice to have or not have children and when; with the bonus option of choosing whether or not an involved father is necessary for raising a child. We tend to glorify choice for it’s own sake and it leads people (Western women) to think that because they have more options, that they are therefore happier. Psychologist Barry Schwartz has written about this false notion in his book The Paradox of Choice. He argues the downsides of too much choice during a TED Talk. The reality is that happiness is not derived from the choice between two options but from the actual content of one’s life.
A longterm study on the happiness of women shows that women report less happiness today than they did 40 years ago. http://www.nber.org/papers/w14969 Across races, nationalities, ages, class, religion, and professions, consistently, the choice women want to be available to them is marriage and children. That’s not to say that that’s all women care about, but it is a major perennial theme among women. The recent sociological movements have made obtaining and succeeding with this particular option more difficult because:
–Women are taught early that motherhood is inferior to professional accomplishment and therefore prioritize career over family, though their longterm priorities suggest that family is more important to them than career. Young women learn that being “just a mother” is not good enough. So during the time when most women are most attractive, surrounded by male peers, most easily able to have children, they are not taking advantage of it for the sake of other things. I don’t really see this as a blame thing, but readiness for marriage is not really taught and learned.
–The labor force was flooded with more workers, therefore depressing wages for everyone (supply of labor outstrips demand, pushing down the price of labor). Most women still want men who are their financial equals or above, and yet less men occupy the positions that would satisfy that desire. When women “marry down” other problems arise, and studies continue to show that men on the whole do not respond well to those situations (NY Mag published an article about this.) Also, income inequality in general increases because the high earning couples pair up with one another, accumulating more resources within one family, whereas before, those two high earning positions would more likely be spread over two families.
–We cannot assume that men and women are wired the same way or want the same things. Marriage is one of those things that we cannot assume men are incentivized in the same way as women to pursue. The availability of casual sex definitely disincentives men from settling down early with one woman. Also, while women clearly enjoy sex, that doesn’t mean the sexuality of men and women is the same. Aside from women being vulnerable to out of wedlock pregnancies and more physiologically vulnerable to catching STDs (vaginal tears), a woman’s number of sexual partners is also correlated with divorce later on. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/1…444.x/abstract
–No-fault divorce makes it easy to split families even when no extreme situation exists (there were already provisions for adultery and abuse, for instance). The impact of divorce on children is well documented and has a lasting impact. It also raises the likelihood of a child living in poverty.
When it comes to work, really examine what jobs most women hold. They actually aren’t particularly notable. The day in and day out of a 9-5 is not immensely rewarding for most people. The fact that a minority of women get the opportunity to do something truly interesting does not mean that most do. In fact, the nature of our economy is such that those really interesting positions (like the ones occupied by Sheryl Sandberg, Justice Sotomayor, Representative Congresswomen, etc.) are necessarily limited to a select few. But such women put up as examples of what women can accomplish in a way that is simply not possible for most. Most working women are just in the daily grind. The most common occupations for women are:
Secretaries and administrative assistants
- Registered nurses
- Elementary and middle school teachers
- Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides
- Retail salespersons
- Retail supervisors/managers
- Maids and housekeepers
- Customer service representatives
As it turns out, the vast majority of women are doing pretty much what they would have been doing before 2nd wave feminism came along. If you add up all the total number of doctors, lawyers, Congresspersons, research scientists, professors, engineers, business leaders, veterinarians, economists, physicists, top business leaders and so forth, even if women represented a full 50% of each of those occupations, the number of jobs available would only be available to about 5.3% of working women. That means that for every 20 women in the workforce only one would have one of the types of jobs that young women learn early that feminism won for them. (I compiled my own list of 30 different job categories–you can see the number of jobs for every occupation at the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
I should be clear. I am not saying that it is bad for women to have these occupations. Given that I earned a law degree, that’d be fairly hypocritical. What I am saying is that the priorities of women are shaped from an early age often to prioritize the dream of an interesting career that is, statistically, only available to few. They also learn that their influence and accomplishment in the workplace, in politics, or in school/academia is more important than motherhood. Today, many have reframed the issue as another one of choice–affirming the choice of some to pursue a career and the choice of some to stay at home. My point is that choice has little to do with it. Motherhood itself has been devalued such that women often feel that maintaining professional lives is of greater importance than being available to nurture their little ones.
Finally, in a more patriarchal society, men were not happier than women. Nor were most men living self-actualized lives of freedom and opportunity. People tend to view men in pre-feminist America as the Thomas Jeffersons, John D. Rockefellers, and Thomas Edisons. Yet most men in this country, white, black, Asian…did manual labor and didn’t have “careers” or accomplishments of note. Especially given the country’s agricultural emphasis in the past, most women kept house while their husbands farmed (Ancestry.com). Husbands and wives were working together to meet the needs of their households. This does not mean that there were not problems. However, not all change is progress. I believe that at the core of feminism is an insistence on sameness between men and women that has left our society worse off and men and women more confused about themselves than before.
I cannot go into a lot of detail on each point, as the topic is so wide-ranging. This is just a jumping off point. Christina Hoff Sommers’ articles at The Atlantic are worthwhile reading.