Feminism, Politics

I’m Not a Feminist—Even Though I Attend a Women’s College

As a student at Barnard College, one of the few women’s colleges in America, identifying as a feminist is de rigueur. Just like lamenting the cost of tuition or complaining about dining hall food, feminist ideology is a hallmark of the conversations here. Yet, I adamantly shun the contemporary feminist movement that sweeps liberal arts campuses like mine, and you should too.

Feminism is purported to be a movement towards equality. Fair enough. Most reasonable people support that. But feminism manifests itself differently; instead of the focus on rights and equal opportunity, it is on personal victimhood, political correctness, and attacking others. And, as with all movements, the parameters of feminism are defined by the loudest voices. It is this dominant ideology that I cannot associate myself with.

Contemporary feminism inculcates adherents into a cult of victimhood and exquisite vulnerability—it panders to women’s traumas and teaches them that they have been victimized solely because they are female. Women’s only sin? Living in a world dominated by the patriarchy. The remedy, especially for college students? Trigger warnings, safe spaces, overblown statistics on assault, intolerance of dissent and vitriolic attacks on men.

***

I was once an obedient soldier in the crusade against the patriarchy. My indoctrination into the feminist orthodoxy began when I was 15 and still in high-school, while taking classes at Cleveland State University. I signed up for Women’s Studies courses, and after reading books written by feminist luminaries like Gloria Steinem, I was hooked.

In one year, I took three Women’s Studies classes. My professors taught me that, because I was a woman, I was victimized and oppressed. Prior to enrolling, I did not see myself that way. Students were told that we are supposed to be angry. Rage was a “normal” reaction. To dismantle the systems of oppression, confrontation was required. For me, and many of my peers, these classes made us feel heady with righteousness. The more strongly we identified with these feelings, the closer we came to a sense that liberation was possible. My growing awareness and attachment to the feminism movement felt powerful, exhilarating, and even erotic.

Yet, after a while, I became disillusioned. Mentioning anything that didn’t support the notion that females were unilaterally oppressed would be akin to blasphemy. Offer a more nuanced reading of the pay gap?  Traitor! Bring up the topic of males who suffer violence? That doesn’t matter! Suggest that the term  “rape culture”  is inflammatory and doesn’t reflect reality? Off with your dick!

In an exquisitely dazzling climax to one of my classes, after weeks of throbbing tension between the (white) professor and an outspoken (black) female student, the student accused the professor of being racist. (In contemporary intersectional feminism, notions of class and race are collapsed into the struggle for gender liberation). The student claimed that the professor was singling her out for inappropriate use of her laptop because she was black.  Instead of defusing the student’s accusations, (as was her responsibility as an adult and teacher) something extraordinary happened. In a paroxysm of indignation, the professor defended herself by saying that it was she that had experienced “the most” oppression in life, since she “once was a woman in the STEM field.” The professor  then claimed she could not have been racist, because she was “from Italy.” Some students joined the argument, taking sides. Tears were shed. The professor lost control of the classroom. What began as a midterm day devolved into a match of Oppression Olympics.

***

I did not set out to attend a women’s college. However, as a first-generation student from a welfare household, I was on the hunt for colleges with generous financial aid. Barnard fit the bill. I brushed off my prior uncomfortable entanglements with feminism (or “social justice,” the more inclusive term), and gave it another chance at Barnard. However, not only did the same paradigms manifest themselves that I saw in my classes at Cleveland State, in fact, it was worse. The overarching narrative of victimhood and vulnerability pervaded itself through all parts of campus life, from the school newspaper to the conversations I had with other students.

My first week, for example, I was warned never to go to “East Campus”—the Columbia University residence hall where “all the rapists live.” [It is important to note that Barnard and Columbia share a campus and have intertwined academics] Men were all potential rapists, especially Columbia men. When I brought up the fact that I was probably more likely to be assaulted while in my urban home neighborhood than on the pristine Columbia campus to a friend, I was told I was definitely wrong. “Columbia protects rapists,” and “rapists live here,” I was told. My rebuttals and questions fell on deaf ears.

In keeping with the paradigm of victimhood, students here often volley the question to peers: Should I report my professor for not using a trigger warning? For being classist? Unfortunately, some students feel so vulnerable that when a professor says something even marginally offensive, the immediate solution is to tell an administrator. Nevermind trying to solve the problem yourself. Nevermind thinking about the potential consequences of alleging wrongdoing, especially towards adjunct  professors who do not yet have permanent employment in these institutions.

This dynamic manifests itself in student to student interactions as well. While the Resident Assistant’s primary duty is to ensure the wellbeing of students, I have seen them used as ‘higher-ups’ for students to deal with roommates who express controversial opinions or who fail to follow the conventions of political correctness. In the name of social justice, the loudest feminists (which are the minority that give the majority a bad reputation) often seem to be the ones that viciously attack dissenters, hush the concerns of men, and focus resolutely on the plight of women. If attacking someone through Facebook isn’t satisfying enough, there’s always an administrator or higher up to complain to.

Let no-one get the wrong idea: I don’t support racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of the other forms of oppression. Freedom and equality under the law is not a lofty goal, it is common sense.  Since I am a woman, I should be a feminist. But I can’t explicitly identify myself as a feminist without adopting the baggage that comes from these perceptions. Identifying with a movement whose loudest voices stress vulnerability and injustice feels empowering in the moment. But I have come to the view that it is self-defeating in the end.

 

Toni Airaksinen is a sophomore at Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen

Filed under: Feminism, Politics

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Toni Airaksinen is a reporter for Campus Reform, The College Fix, and Red Alert Politics. She is a junior at Barnard College in Manhattan.

34 Comments

  1. Yes, this is what 3rd wave “feminists” have done with the women’s movement. To 2nd wave feminists like myself, feminism was a political movement whose concern was social justice, and whose goals are to improve women’s socioeconomic and educational opportunities, to rewrite antiquated rape legislation, and to improve women’s access to reproductive health care (such as birth control and abortion).

    3rd wave feminists instead turned it into a religion or dogma whose catechism is “gender is a social construct created by patriarchy to oppress women; we are born as blank slates and all sex differences are artifacts of socialization.” And while they quibble over terms, women’s rights are slowly eroding. Planned Parenthood is under attack and nearly defunded, putting the lives of millions of poor women and their children at risk. Abortion clinics are bombed and closed, there continues to be a steady loss of female talent from the science pipeline (50% assistant professors, 25% full professors, a stat that has been relatively stable for two decades), and women continue to earn less than men.

    In other words, third wave feminists have dropped the ball, allowing rollback of so many of the rights and equities 2nd wave feminists fought so hard to achieve. And they have so badly distorted what the term “feminist” means that otherwise intelligent people of good social conscience distance themselves from the term and the causes that are vital to the lives of every woman.

    • Richard Licker says

      Except that PP is a referral service that does not provide actual women’s health services on site. You get the same results with the health clinic.
      Get out of here with the misrepresentation of a state funded abortion clinic.

  2. Frill Artist says

    Excellent write up. If only more women thought like you.

  3. So glad I left academia before this lunacy became the norm.

  4. Pingback: No soy feminista. Ni siquiera habiendo estudiado en un campus femenino [ENG]

  5. Hillie Ze'evi says

    Wonderful to hear one rational voice among the deafening screams of self centered infantiles. Thank you for writing this great piece.
    After reading some embarrassing and alarming nonsense by Laurie Penny I am relieved to find that all hope is not lost.

  6. Great piece! If only more people with this view had the courage to speak out – I think we’d all see that the rational, equality-supporting anti-feminists are out there. Well written, bravo!

  7. rabbit says

    I wish all students could argue and write this well, no matter what their political views.

  8. Wow they really have gone crazy if they’re saying “Off with your dick” to women now too.

  9. Personal experiences are invaluable in forming judgements but feminism is based on the reality of statistics. One can look at the discrepancy in pay rates alone to justify feminism.

    • Dennis Goos: “One can look at the discrepancy in pay rates alone to justify feminism.” Yeah, if feminism is a version of socialism.

      Classical liberalism allows discrimination (negative freedom). The theories of natural and sexual mean that different outcomes are not (entirely) due to “social construction”. And if you want to promote egalitarianism, you have to determine that women are more disadvantaged than men. Given uncertainty and incommensurability, that’s impossible. You could pursue a kind of egalitarianism that seeks to make men and women the same. While more consistent than selective egalitarianism (including the Capabilities Approach, which is closer to neutrality than feminism), it has totalitarian implications, in terms of means and ends. (This would have to be extended to all human traits, and not just to large groups. It’d do away with individuality.)

      • Isn’t Socialism the name for a political system in which all means of production are owned by the state and all citizens needs are provided by the state? Feminism is about equality of women with men in any political system. Whether in classical liberalism, or socialism, or any other political ideology, inequality can be measured by comparing women with men on all qualia. I chose income as the most obvious measured qualitative difference between men and women. On the matter of inequality in general, the general theory of liberalism, is that all people are entitled to equal treatment under law. That belief is also the foundation of free enterprise and capitalism. Feminism, the pursuit of equality for women under law does not seek inequality nor advantage for women over other groups determined by accident of birth. There are many philosophies that represent preferences for special groups under law that justify opposition to equality under law for women and other groups resulting from accident of birth. Anti- feminists are found in those philosophies.

        • Then a different outcome does not suffice to “justify” feminism. That’s because different outcomes are not necessarily unjust (e.g. in violation of “classical liberal feminism”). One caveat: If you call the attempt to find out *whether* different outcomes are unjust an instance of feminism (let’s say “epistemological feminism” versus “corrective feminism”) then you can get this to work. But, in that case, the emphasis is dubious. (“Epistemological”) Feminism would also have to attempt to find out whether the same outcomes are unjust.

          — That being said, “classical liberal feminism” doesn’t make sense. What sets it apart from classical liberalism? And, empirically, contemporary feminism tends to signify 1) A kind of special-interest pseudo-egalitarianism/socialism; 2) Assumption that there are no evolved psychological sex differences; 3) Assumption that women are more disadvantaged than men. It’s not understood to mean a merely searching, inquisitive type (“epistemological feminism”).

    • Pay gap= men work more hours. Are 97% of workplace deaths (more dangerous jobs). Commute longer, choose higher paying cAreers. Also, women control 80% of consumer spending. Also, the gap between Asian men and white men is greater than the gap between men and women. Do you believe Asians systematically oppress whites?

  10. I’ve been continuously active on FB since November 2007, and in the beginning it seemed like a great place to have debates and discussions, about politics, philosophy, economics, etc. I really felt like I was contributing to discovering hidden truths and getting people to understand each other. It was a heady experience.

    But then ElevatorGate happened, and the regressive feminists invaded. They turned brother against brother, and no one could have a dialog any more without being accused of “microaggression” or being told to “check their privilege” (the thought-terminating cliché of choice, seemingly). I’ve probably had somewhere north of 1000 conversations with feminists, socialists, racialists and other victimhood fetishists in the last four years on FB, and virtually all of them follow the same pattern, without fail: calmly and with (frankly excessive) civility introduce exhibits challenging the victimist narrative, SJWs immediately start screaming, calling names, banning, blocking, doxxing, calling people racist/sexist/Monsanto shill/corporate shill/bigot/Republican/rape enabler/rape apologist, etc. I’ve been told only white males can be racist or sexist, because PAUER, which just doesn’t make any damn sense to me, no matter how I squint my eyes or cock my head. I’ve learned more women’s studies jargon than I ever intended to. Social media used to be a place where people could speak their minds without fear of getting punched in the face (a fear that compels some to hold their tongue in a face-to-face discussion), and the honesty that resulted was intoxicating. Now it’s all landmines and eggshells at every turn; every discussion is seemingly someone playing out the Karpman drama triangle, every thread a new opportunity for some to break their previous high score for doublethink and hypocrisy, every comment from an SJW a trap to get you to write something that can be twisted around and then emailed to your employer, along with a vacuous boycott threat, presumably with the intent of getting you fired from your job. And all thanks to the regressives and their puerile obsession with identity politics and victimism. They have much to atone for.

    Thanks for reading.

    • jim nichols says

      Reply to John Ashe:
      You say you have had over 1000 nonsatisfying discussions with kids. Might be time to put the brakes on and reflect. A good definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
      Like they say, “Kids; you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without being one.”
      (actually, I just made that up…)

  11. Jenny says

    Calling all men rapists doesn’t make you a feminist, it makes you an asshole. My take away from this is that the women who study at Barnard are close minded – which I know is not the case.

    Not sure “equality-supporting antifeminist” means anything except “don’t worry, I’m not crazy” –
    This is like saying I accept Jesus as my lord but don’t call me a Christian because religious people get too worked up about things.

  12. Generally speaking, one requires someone to whom one can be a feminist against. Otherwise it’s a state they “breathing”.

    • jim nichols says

      Precisely, and while we’re at, it what does mean mean ?

  13. Hilary says

    Back in the 80s as a feminist I was after liberation – mostly for me, but also for all people. It was back then the socialist feminists started to gain traction in academia but back then we could still have robust conversations. The big impact of socialism was that the problem was seen as structural and until the structures changed no woman could get ahead, no woman could be anything but a victim. As someone who was ill I was perceived as a double victim, only beaten in the trumps stakes by a black disabled woman who was tripley impacted. But the big thing was one couldn’t actually achieve a decent outcome because the system was against us.

    I then discovered self efficacy – by accident, by myself and then was annoyed that some of my feminist so-called supporters already knew about the importance of being able to take charge of one’s own life and the psychology literature on self efficacy. I dumped the hopeless, helpless socialist mindset of my youth and focussed on recovery from my chronic condition and financial poverty. I became a radical feminist, totally focussed on liberation. Unfortunately my friends and academia in general decided that victim feminism was the true feminism and they hijacked the title of radical feminist.

    Now retired with more health than the average over 60 and with our own home paid off I can tell you that the only people that victim feminism helps are the loudmouths who get paid to “help” the poor victims who stay victims because of that horrible mentality. Victim feminism is just the same as patriarchy – it is the priviledged few paid lots to patronise and control the many while pretending and “seeming” to help.

    Nah, victim feminists can get lost – no time for them. Don’t encourage them, don’t pay them.

  14. Pingback: Remember my last post, when I said Feminists are Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? – If You're Left

  15. jim nichols says

    Nice article, experience shared, viewpoint well spoken. Not that you shouldn’t have written the article, but as with most causes that are supported by the youthful segment of our society, many of the kids with the biggest mouths are basically just trying to act like their perceptions of their parents.
    Decades later they will still be grouped together and be among the most boneheaded people you can possibly imagine.
    Your article does two things very well, first; they get more of your respect than they deserve, and second; it shows that you have not come to terms with how desperate the situation really is…….
    ( Not to worry, my dear: time is on your side.)

  16. You know the highly pathalogical and emotionally stunted “campus feminist” type well enough to know full well that by sharing your experiences you will be attacked viciously, ostracised, and treated like shit, but you did it anyway because it’s the right thing to do.

    Thankyou for your increadible bravery, hopefully because of people like you, some day more and more of the millions who agree with you but are too afraid to speak up will have the courage to do so.

    🙂

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  18. Pingback: Hypocrisy and contradiction at the root of feminist’s response to German sex attacks – The Fifth Column

  19. Sylvia says

    Reading this makes me filled with sad rage, and I have to question the choice to loose faith in a concept in such a way that is described in this article.

    Why do so many women fell that ”feminism” has to be directly translated into “work against structural violence against people” – in order to be legit? You are ignoring something very important in this discriminatory semantic namely; the importance of separatism, and isolation of cause.

    “Bring up the topic of males who suffer violence? – That doesn’t matter!”

    OF COURSE MALE SUFFERING DOESN’T MATTER in a feminist analysis..

    ..unless you look at it from a woman’s perspective. Feminism exists because when you talk about people, women are rarely included. The day when you can stand up and say that in every humanitarian effort and research, women of all female needs are included – that is the day when you can stop calling yourself a feminist.

    “But I can’t explicitly identify myself as a feminist without adopting the baggage that comes from these perceptions.”

    OF COURSE YOU CAN! I do hate this argument.. It shouldn’t matter to you what other people fail to do for a movement. You can still contribute.

    I know women do this (and men, even if that is not as important to acknowledge until we have a gender equal history writing. Where not all telling of men are tellings of glory at the cost of the women deserving it too) partially because they think that ”it is just a word, I speak better with my actions”.

    No, you don’t.
    You create a message without a sender. Pull out of feminism in the literal sense, and you trigger a “strongest wins” competition among feminists AND non-feminists. Imagine the following hypothetical conversation between two non-feminists:

    ”Oh, this new take on planned parenthood is really interesting. I think it has potential to change things. Who is behind it you said?”

    ”Not sure, but it was definitely not one of those feminists.”

    “Ah ok, so giving women the ability to decide over their bodies, is not really a feminist thing?”

    ”Exactly, I think they are more about controlling what women are wearing, like banning burkhas and such..”

    ”Maybeit was Trump who pulled this planned parenthood issue then..?”

    ”Yeah it might have been actually, nice guy!”
    Whichever action you take, you speak that it is NOT a feminist action even if it would benefit to more women of it being named as such. More women benefit from having self-proclaimed feminists around, than from smart asses thinking they could stop calling themselves feminists because IT IS CONTRADICTORY TO THEM. And it doesn’t really matter to them since they are not oppressed/bothered.

    Feminism isn’t an ideology, it is a necessary guardian of perspectives. You agree to that it seems. So, you are a feminist. I renounce your right of self-proclamation, I don’t agree that you have this right in the name of feminism. You have the personal right to call your person absolutely anything, sure. But you are not entitled to do a public announcement that hurts feminism, just because you experienced a bit of a challenge with the concept.

    You should instead say that THE UNIVERSITY is not feminist. This is also clear in your story, since apparently the faculty cannot even make an appropriate use of intersectionalism. (So, are we going to not call ourselves intersectional now?) You can also say that the hiding behind an urban fairytale on rapist potential in Columbia men, is not a feminist evolved behaviour. This would be a truly political statement. Only by blaming the contemporary mis-use of a political approach, instead of the politic itself, may you begin to change something. Instead of doing anti-actions, and further doing nothing more than putting personal pride before politics. Of course, it is nice to find an excuse for not having to deal with these women’s causes right? Many people think so, and not one of them are feminists.

    As a closing point, I want to say that I am not a feminist. Because I have a pathological problem with men. I have a lot of hate for them. I think the heterosexual relationship is unnatural and impossible. I really do. I would never want equality between men and women. More importantly, I hope I never get to convince anyone about these awful ideas! I know this is a personal and disturbed issue I need to address alone, it is not a political one that I should manifest in society.

    Therefore, I use feminist strategies in my everyday life and in my work. I try to re-inforce feminist initiatives whenever I can. That is, using the perspective of women to help improve the world in a various kind of ways. Improvement meaning helping create a sustainable world for people of all gender and whatever. I trust feminism, I do not trust myself. If anyone who knew how I sometime talk about men – heard me say that I am a feminist.. that could make them think that feminism is about hating men. That is not true. That’s just me. Personally I know feminists are smarter and better for the common good, than I will ever learn to be.

  20. Paulita says

    There is nothing “brave” about writing a comment on the internet shaming “feminists”. It’s ignorant and boring. You criticize “a cult of victimhood and exquisite vulnerability”. Please reread your words and tell me you are not victimising yourself and whining. You poor little girl had to deal with those horrible, loud feminists. Instead of attacking and insulting them, what about being constructive. And maybe question what discourse you are feeding with your comment – learn what you can from the people around you and develop your own strategies. Get out of your bubble.

  21. “All men are potential rapists especially Columbia men” no rational person that goes to Barnard actually thinks that. You’re criticizing the whole movement based on anecdotal evidence which you should know, is invalid. You’re generalizing what feminism is based on white feminist discourse, comments like “EC is a haven of rapists” which isn’t even feminist. Seriously embarrassed a classmate at Barnard wrote this

  22. Pingback: Hypocrisy at Root of Feminist’s Response to German Sex Attacks: Failure to Prioritize World Problems - Era of Wisdom

  23. PDM says

    These places are nothing but breeding grounds for misandrists!

  24. Pingback: Feminism vs. Fauxminism – Campus Free Speech, bullying, and Tim Hunt | Heat Street

  25. Tyler says

    The brand of feminism you are critiquing and all the political correctness tends to be most popular with an upper class, class privileged crowd. It’s a form of “activism” that doesn’t really confront economic inequality or really call for big changes, just like word choice, and abstract symbolism. I always thought of myself as a male supporter of feminism but I’ve met a lot of feminists who are basically hostile to me just because I’m male and maybe have a different opinion then them about something.

    • Will says

      It always amazes me the extent to which some rich, white, upper class feminist women will lecture others on owning their privilege while being resolutely steadfast in their intention to ignore their own.

      Do men have some privileges? Yes. But women do as well, and you can’t have a true equality movement unless you work to remove ALL of the inequities in the system. If you work to remove your responsibilities while retaining your privilege, you aren’t working for equality, you’re working to make yourself the dominant class.

      I suggest that anyone who doesn’t believe women have any power or any privilege look up “Karen Straughan” (otherwise known as “Girl Writes What”) on YouTube and watch some of her videos, particularly her earliest ones. You’ll come away with a much better sense of the balance of the current gendered system. We have, in many ways, outgrown the need for it, and so working to do away with the parts of it that no longer have merit is a worthy goal. But turning it into a “men have all the power and nothing to complain about, women are universally downtrodden” is insanity.

      Oh, and that teacher who thought she was more oppressed as a female in STEM than a black person is just insane. It shouldn’t be about a competition for who is the most oppressed, but if you look both at history and at today, it’s impossible for an impartial person to conclude that women are more oppressed than black people are, and anyone who thinks it’s even close needs to seriously look at their own agenda and their own need to be seen as the victim.

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