The “Anti-Feminist” Phenomenon: Why Many Conservative Women Distance Themselves from Third-Wave Feminism
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The word has evolved greatly over time, embodying a wide range of political agendas and ideologies. The women’s suffrage movement and the push for equality under the law is home to some of history’s most renowned feminists. Now, however, the term has shifted away from principles to point to a specific political party: the Democrats, or the so-called “party of women.” According to common belief, if one does not abide by the party platform, then how can that individual even consider herself a feminist?
Many conservative women, including me, consider themselves feminists – if one abides by the original definition. I believe in equality of the sexes. In fact, I fully support the movements of women throughout history to fight for and preserve equality under the law. Additionally, I stand unified with women across the board against sexual harassment, assault, and anything in between. These issues should not be partisan. To most women, liberal or conservative, they are not partisan. However, third-wave feminism has adopted a new set of ideals. These ideals are ones which have caused some women to balk at classifying themselves as feminists. In fact, some of these principles and practices have made women so uncomfortable with the term that they have begun to call themselves “anti-feminists.” These women are not alone with their frustration. They certainly will not be the last to push back against the term “feminist” if the definition continues to spiral to the left.
The goals of third-wave feminism are broad and somewhat vague, a fact the activists themselves acknowledge, but particular aspects are foundations to the current movement cause concern among conservative women. While it was difficult to find well-defined, specific goals and principles of modern day feminism, for the purposes of this article, the list of “unity principles” from the Women’s March will be the basis by which we classify the current feminist agenda.
Namely, the assertion that women are endowed reproductive rights, specifically abortion and “free” birth control are ones with which conservative women disagree. The Women’s March underscores its strong feelings about “reproductive rights” in its guiding principles:
“We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education. We understand that we can only have reproductive justice when reproductive health care is accessible to all people regardless of income, location or education.”
This is where a major ideological break occurs. To begin, the majority of conservative women do not believe that abortion is a women’s right. Based upon science and morality, we simply do not subscribe to the belief that taking the life of a child due to inconvenience is a woman’s inherent right. We do not accept the assertion that life is disposable. A growing number of women are fighting to ensure that life is better protected. But feminist groups claim that the pro-life attempts to restrict abortions past 20 weeks are an assault on women’s rights. Any talk of restriction is met with cries to “stay out of my reproductive system!” This value is so ingrained into the fabric of the third-wave feminist agenda that rather than accepting women who believe differently, the Women’s March does not welcome pro-life women at their rallies and marches. Third-wave feminism seems to have no room for pro-life women. This is a large factor contributing to the isolation between conservatives and third-wavers.
Further, the fight for “free” birth control is one many conservative feminists cannot get behind. I do not want my taxes to go toward other women’s birth control methods. Conservative women often feel puzzled by this fight, too. We are told to stay away out of other women’s uteruses, but are simultaneously lectured about perpetuating female inequality by not paying for birth control. It is a hypocritical demand considering the frustration with pro-lifers about abortion. Further, if third-wave feminists are calling for the government to remove itself from the bedroom, not funding women’s birth control is quite possibly the closest manifestation of such a demand.
In addition to these ideals, conservative women disagree with tactics of third-wave feminism. Many of the practices and behaviors strike us as contradictory to true feminism, or just simply ridiculous. For example, the degradation of women of different ideologies, like conservatism, is the complete opposite of empowering women. Additionally, the victimhood mentality adopted by many third-wave feminists does not make them seem “empowered.” It projects an inability to fight with the collected, gentle strength that truly promotes progress. Finally, tactics such as free bleeding demonstrations and dressing up in female reproductive system costumes have pushed conservative women incredibly far from any alignment with third-wave feminism. Affecting change takes integrity, dignity, sacrifice. Dressing up as the female reproductive system doesn’t exactly scream any of those qualities.
I am certainly a feminist in the sense that I believe there must be full equality between men and women. But I will not bear the “feminist” label. In fact, I actually, I reject it – because no longer is feminism about genuine equality. Instead, it has become a movement plagued by exclusionism, divisiveness, hypocrisy, and victim-hood. I believe in the full equality of men and women, but I will not abide by a movement which has been corrupted by the agendas of a single political party.
Liana is a follower of Christ and current communications student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She enjoys writing, reading, and serving others.
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