The conversation continued: feminism

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Senior Madeline Barry walks with a professor's child down the Mall. Photo by Kaity Chaikowsky.

When I tell people I am not a feminist, they immediately ask, “Do you believe men and women should be treated equally?” to which I unhesitatingly respond, “Yes.” This exchange is followed by a softening of their face and a reassurance that “That is all feminism is; so you are a feminist.” This Catch-22 is used almost universally by feminists, but not only is this an incredibly poor argument, it is simply wrong.  

Equality is a loaded word historically, and feminism is about more than just equal rights; it is about the way the group believes women should attain those rights.

The first-wave feminists believed that women should have the same legal rights as men, and they accomplished their goal through protests and demonstrations. There is a racist underbelly to parts of the original movement, such as Planned Parenthood’s founder Margaret Sanger’s close ties to the Klu Klux Klan and Nazi sympathizers. The first-wavers may be better understood as fighting for ‘white women’s legal equality with white men.’

The second-wave feminists believed that women should have equal opportunities as men and should not be restricted from participating equally because of their biological sex. They achieved this goal by demanding legal action in the form of Title IX, the Equal Pay Act, and Roe v. Wade.

As the civil rights movement brought an end to much of the structural racism accepted by the first wavers, a new problem arises for me in the second wave — Roe v. Wade. I am pro-life, and on top of that find the arguments presented in the actual court case to be sloppy. Though I have to admit that Roe v. Wade was an effective, though cheap, solution to guaranteeing all women a chance to escape the life of a housewife. Sexual freedom was very important to the success of  this movement. I recognize that it was this quick separation of women from the household and motherhood that allows me, only 40 years later, to live the career life of a modern woman.

Third-wave feminists believed that women should not have to conform to stereotypes, and that all people regardless of race or economic background should be invited to participate in their fight against inequality. They attained this by inspiring the individual to speak up and by  developing sub-categories like ecofeminism, pro-life feminism and pro-choice feminism. This kind of feminism sounds like something I would have loved to be a part of. Had the young women who began this movement continued to prioritize individual opinions and beliefs I would not be writing this today. Sadly for me, and perhaps shockingly to those of you who don’t follow this movement as closely as I do, this movement is thought to have ended when I was about 15.  

The fourth-wave feminists believe that there is an agenda that each and every feminist must promote or they don’t believe in equality. I have been excluded from this wave of feminism because I am pro-life.

Last year pro-life groups were kicked off of the board for the Women’s March. This was not a shock in the feminist community, nor, honestly, for many pro-lifers. The conversation changed, and feminists have decided that “being a pro-life feminist is like saying you are a vegan who likes chicken. It’s just not possible,” as Pamela Merritt explained to The Washington Post.

I don’t believe the future of equality lies in a movement that depends on abortion to keep women free. I believe that all women and races should have equal opportunities and feel safe in their communities. I do not believe the way to get there is to destigmatize the porn industry or, as one fourth-wave feminist podcast suggests, raise all children as completely gender neutral until they are old enough to decide what non-gender-specific role they would like to have in society.  

The feminism conversation is far from over, but it has nothing to do with whether I can  be tricked into admitting I am a feminist. It is about a different set of beliefs regarding the best way society can progress toward equality. I do not support the feminist agenda, and therefore I refuse to be associated with them simply because I believe in equality. I invite the many people who feel similarly to me to embrace that they can no longer be feminists, and that is okay. One can believe in equality without supporting modern feminism.  

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