There’s a dilemma in modern feminism that can’t be given a name.  This problem grew insidiously, and it has now begun to turn women against each other and turn feminism into a mere shell of its former self.  Many issues and views espoused by the modern liberal feminist movement in the United States are no longer issues of gender equality and human rights for women, and instead feminism has become a proxy-movement through which other far-left social movements fight their battles.

One of the issues now dividing feminists on the left from those on the center or right is whether the greater feminist movement should be independent of other social movements or absorb their platforms and become more inter-sectional.  As a result of “intersectionality” being embraced by the ladies on the left, the movement is being pulled in a thousand different directions.  Whether or not it can still be considered a unified social movement is now debatable.

The general consensus among most feminists is that the movement pushes for equality, but that seemingly simple statement has many connotations to different women.  The problem is that feminists with one vision of equality will assume anyone with a different vision isn’t a real feminist and is, therefore, anti-woman.  This problem is then amplified by the introduction of intersectionality, because now being a “real” feminist requires also being a “true believer” in a number of leftist causes.

For some, equality between the sexes can only be reached by tearing down all distinctions between them to achieve an androgynous society, thus ending patriarchal oppression.  Feminism can even become entwined with economic issues.  A few radicals insist that true feminists must embrace socialist or communist views to ensure that all women receive equal economic results as men.  Everything from the destruction of capitalism to the complete erasure of gender now has a place in leftist feminism. These beliefs are used to weed moderate or conservative women out of the larger feminist movement.

Those who simply believe that women deserve the same basic rights and opportunities as men, and that women should be respected as individuals, are now not included in the feminist movement if they don’t also embrace a number of radical political beliefs which, quite frankly, they may reasonably not see as beneficial to themselves as individuals or to society as a whole.

It is unreasonable for radicals to exclude differences within the feminist movement and attempt to unify feminists under one extremely far-left banner at a time when the basic tenets of feminism are finally becoming widely-accepted by the general population. In fact, turning feminism into a far-left movement may be harmful to women’s rights in the long term.  When calls for equality under the law, equal opportunity, and basic human dignity are replaced by constant virtue signaling, denying the validity of another woman’s views simply because she is expressing dissent, or even espousing the idea that women with moderate and conservative views only hold such views because they are “brainwashed” and “manipulated” by men, the movement begins to disintegrate.  Worse still, the movement begins to harm or belittle the very people it originally set out to fight for.  If women are told (by other women) that they don’t have the intellectual capacity to hold an opposing view, then that sort of insidious, internalized misogyny and animosity towards women who think differently will continue to become entangled with modern feminism. That’s a very bad thing.

Seemingly nonsensical litmus tests of radicalism are now used among women to determine “real” feminists from “fake” feminists.  That’s dangerous not only to the idea of feminism, but also to individual women in positions of leadership.  If feminism is truly about equality at its core — and I believe it is — then the feminists of the future must embrace a vision of equal opportunity rather than one of identical outcomes.

The trouble with some feminists in our current era is that they want to control others to fit their vision of a perfect society, which creates a bit of cognitive dissonance within a social movement that revolves around the idea of ending oppression.  Once those who battle oppression also begin to battle freedom and individual choice, they become oppressive, or at least constricting.

Women are allowed to be different from men. We’re also allowed to be different from other women.  Being different isn’t the same as being unequal, and denying individual differences is destructive to individual freedom.

Different women have different desires, all of which should be celebrated.  It’s wrong for one woman to think of another as oppressed or lesser because she chose to stay home and raise children. And it’s also wrong for women to look at a female CEO and think that she is somehow helping the “capitalist patriarchy” oppress other women simply because she is successful.

It’s wrong to think that one side of the abortion debate is inherently “more feminist” than the other.  I’ve heard some feminist arguments about protecting the bodily autonomy of women, and I’ve heard some equally feminist arguments about protecting the lives of the littlest women in the womb.  Some say abortion protects women from manipulative men. Others say it can keep women in the clutches of manipulative men.  It’s possible for someone to believe in women’s equality and fall on either side of a debate for various moral and philosophical reasons.

So, to all my feminist dissenters, to all the women who may think differently, and who know that their differences don’t make them a lesser woman, I encourage you to openly bring dissent into feminist conversations.  Now, more than ever, feminism needs to become more flexible. Women who aren’t radicals need to reclaim the title of feminist and wear it boldly. The world needs to understands that equality for women shouldn’t be a polarizing or radical idea.

Sophia Laila is an alumna of the James Madison University Honors College and is currently a graduate student at the George Washington University, where she is pursuing a Master of Engineering in cybersecurity. She is a former federal political appointee as well as a lifelong conservative and feminist. She carries a copy of the U.S. Constitution in every purse she owns and enjoys reading, writing, making art, watching sci-fi movies, and hiking.

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