“I’m Not A Feminist . . . But”

14 January 2008

Am I the only person who gets really enraged by this statement, which I hear or read so often?  It’s usually followed by “Why should I do all the housework/women should have equal opportunities at work/childcare is not just the prerogative of the mother/there should be more women in Parliament etc etc”.

When did “feminist” become a dirty word, or did it never become a respectable one and I didn’t notice?  Why are intelligent, well-educated women so loath to admit that they’re feminists?  Are they confusing it with being feminine? 

Some Suffragettes died fighting for women’s rights and they at least got us the vote and the right to own property.  By the 1960’s we hadn’t moved much further down the track but a huge vocal movement gave us all legal and employment rights that even the Suffragettes wouldn’t have dreamt of.  The situation hasn’t just changed beyond recognition in my lifetime, but in my ADULT lifetime (and I’m not THAT old).  I was refused the first two jobs I applied for because they “wouldn’t consider employing a woman” and these weren’t even jobs that I would imagine anyone would now consider to be in any way “manly” (computers and market research) – I wasn’t trying to become a miner or deep-sea diver. 

So please, next time you’re thinking of uttering those words – “I’m not a feminist, but…..”  DON’T, unless of course you really do believe that women should hold an inferior status to men.   

For the rest of you, I’ve got news for you, sisters:  YOU ARE.  



  1. I recently saw a rant in the Herald that referred to feminists as ‘hairy-legged’. I can’t believe that these stupid old myths still exist (and why is there anything wrong with hairy legs anyway?) The ahistoricism of the general population is astounding – I swear that most Australians have completely forgotten (if they ever knew!) that it just wasn’t done for married women to work outside the home until about the 1970s, when suddenly it became compulsory, whether you had a brand-new baby or not. (How did that happen, anyway?)

  2. We females have made many gains, acquired many things over the last 30 years, but we have also paid a price.

  3. In 1975 (!), even though I was the wage earner in the family, I wasn’t allowed to buy bicycles on credit for my two children for Christmas without my non-earning student husband coming to vouch for me and sign as guarantor. Stand in line here if you want to go back to those days….

  4. Couldn’t agree more. I have several colleagues who teach undergraduate subjects who are quite convinced that feminism is now the “other F word”. This after trying to initiate tutorial discussions on topics which involve feminist perspectives on current health issues. They haven’t given up though – students now have to write an essay on the area instead!

  5. Petunia, if you’re still reading, I’d like to know what price you think we have paid. I dont’ feel I’ve lost anything myself, but there may be things I’ve not noticed or thought about.

  6. It’s weird, I think. And closely related to the whole ‘oh, feminists are hairy legged ugly lesbians who can’t get a man’ jibe that some women seem to find so threatening. Things do seem to have got even more image focussed of recent years, I wonder if that’s a factor?
    (Agree re legs, BTW. There’s even been a discussion in Ravelry – big issues! – about shaving, and lots of women seem to feel that they are executing entirely individual choice, unaffected by society when they decide to depilate. Which always sounds like deforestation to me, and rather disturbing, though I am affected enough by current ideals to do it).

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