On Feminism, Anti-Feminism, and the Things That Mystify Me

I am ten years old. I am riding a banana seat bike through the alleys. I am allowed to go as far as 31st Street, and then I have to turn back. Words cannot describe how much I love this bike. It is turquoise with sparkly flower decals and I ride back and forth through blocks of alleys singing the entire “Mary Poppins” soundtrack at the top of my lungs. My knees are scratched. My hair needs a comb. I probably haven’t brushed my teeth.

A man in a car pulls up. He opens the window. He asks my name. I have been well-trained. I have learned about good touches and bad touches in school. I know that good people don’t drive up to children on bikes. My teachers have been very clear. I take a good look at his face. I notice his red hair. I take off as fast as I can in the opposite direction, toward home.

He circles around. Meets me mid-way in the next block. Asks me what my hurry is. Tells me I might hurt myself. I do not make eye contact. I power through the next block. I see him again. I keep going.

I am in my driveway, at the edge. My bike is on the ground. I am blocking the way. I am breathing hard. I do not want him to know where I live. But I want to see if it was real – if he was real. I want to understand what is happening. I want to know if he will come snaking down the alley. If he is looking for me.

He does. He slows down. He grins at me. I realize that he is not wearing pants. I don’t see any – you know. Bits. Or, I’m pretty sure I don’t. What I do see is a thatch of red hair where his pants should be. I am horrified. I feel sick. And sweaty. I dry-heave. He laughs and speeds away. I leave my bike where it is. I go inside. I wash my hands. I wash my face. I will never be clean. I do not tell my parents.

Later, I get in trouble later for leaving my bike on the driveway.

It is the first time I am ever afraid of a man. It is the first time that it ever occurs to me to be afraid. It will not be the last.

Every day, someone comes to my blog after googling “anti-feminist movies”. Every. Dang. Day.

(To be fair, people show up at my blog after googling a lot of things. “Taxidermy porn”, for example. And “how to turn my teacher into a toad”. And the ever-popular “mom butt”. The internets, man. It’s a mad country filled with mad people, and we are the maddest of all.)

Now, a while ago (quite a while, actually) I wrote a post about a children’s movie with some pretty gross lady-hating themes, and I’ve managed to catch heck for it. In the comments, in my email box. Whatever. There are people who are seriously mad at me for pointing out that the movie was, in addition to being a crappily-animated, source-text-destroying, dreckish disaster of a movie – it was also grossly antifeminist. Moreover, it fed into the baseless fears of the men’s-rights folks who seem to think that personal empowerment is a zero-sum game. That to empower women means to disempower men. And that the purpose of feminism is to throw men, collectively mind you, into the proverbial dust-bin of history.

These things make me tired.

And sad.

The most troubling statements, though, are the ones that suggest that I, as a children’s author, have no right to call myself a feminist. Or an anything-ist. I had similar hate-letters when I posted a piece railing against Michelle Bachman, or when I wrote in praise of my GLBT married friends.

But feminism, man. There is a special kind of venom for the feminism.

I am fifteen. I take the Lake Street bus every day after track practice. It takes an hour. I settle in, hoping that my prodigious post-running stinkiness will prevent anyone from sitting next to me.

I am wrong. A man in a suit boards the bus. He takes the empty seat next to me. I look out the window. He asks me my name. I pretend to be asleep. He asks me what grade I’m in. I say I have homework even though I don’t. He wants to know why I’m not friendly. He tells me that if I’m not friendly, no one will like me. His hand is on my knee. I leave it there. If I say something, people will look at me. And I don’t want them looking at me. I want to disappear.

The curious thing for me, though, is the sense of ownership. I write children’s books. I tweet. I keep this blog. I have a readership – a small one, sure. But a readership nonetheless. I get notes from readers – both men and women – saying “I come here to read about the writing process” or “I come here to get your insights on….” whatever. Books. Kids. Pretty things. “Please keep your feminism to yourself,” people say in comments I delete. “No one cares about your politics,” one woman wrote me. She wrote a lot of other sentences, mind, and I’ll repeat none of them here. She closed with, “the next time you want to air your grievances, just keep your yap shut.”

Apparently, for both children and children’s authors, silence is golden.

Or maybe it’s not authors. Maybe it’s women. Maybe women saying things online makes us itchy. Or maybe women saying things at all.

I am nineteen. I am on a date. He is much older than I am. Recently divorced. I am nursing a broken heart. He orders me a glass of wine. He’s already had several. I could smell it on his breath in the car. My heart is broken. I do not care. I don’t drink and I’m too young, but he winks at the waitress and says that both glasses are for him. I tell him about my classes. How General Chemistry is kicking my butt. I tell him about my seminar course on Medieval theologians and mystic poets. I tell him that I want to go to medical school.

“Sweetheart,” he says, “you are the sexiest girl to sit at my table in a long, long time. But you just don’t seem smart enough for medical school.” This devastates me. It is the thing I already fear. The thing that keeps me up at night. I want to cry. I want to yell. Instead, I am silent. And my silence is sharp, and hot, and heavy. It has mass and gravity and presence. I get up and leave. He calls me bad words – loudly. Slurring. People don’t stare at him. They stare at me. Their eyes narrow. Because I’m the bitch who’s walking out. I exit the door. It’s winter. It’s crazy cold. I walk back to my dorm. It is five miles. I do not have gloves. I am wearing stupid shoes. And thin tights.

It takes me a week to warm up.

The thing is though? My identity as a feminist informs every facet of my life. It informs my parenting. It informs my reading. It informs the way I listen to the news. It informs my interactions with others. It informs my understanding. It informs the questions that I ask. And it informs the writing that I do  – the novels for children, the short stories for grown ups, the stuff on this blog. I can’t take the feminism out. I don’t even know how.

And maybe this is the limitations of my world-view. Because I honestly can’t understand how we can be in this world and not be feminist. How can we just not notice inequality and injustice when it is staring us in the dang face? How can we not come up against the blindness of privilege and not want to change? How can we not desire to open our eyes? All social justice movements, in the end, work to remove shadows and blocks. We cannot see injustice if the limits of privilege block the view. If we remove the block we can see unfairness and we can change the world and make it better. Those blocks are removed through experience, through awareness-raising, and, probably most effectively, through story. Story matters.

I am thirty-four. I am at a Science Fiction convention. I am working on a book. I have finished another one. I am submitting short stories. I am hopeful about my future. The panel discussion is interesting and intense. I raise my hand. I contribute. I am seen. An editor –  a prominent guy – comes and chats with me afterward. I have met him before – another conference. I have met his wife. He asks me to join him at the Con Suite to continue chatting. I’m a chatty gal. I’m always up for a good conversation. We continue discussing whatever it is we’re talking about as we go up the elevator. I don’t know where the Con Suite actually is. “Don’t worry,” he says sunnily. “I’ll get us there.” He is standing very close. I don’t think too much of it. He is much older than me. I assume he is hard of hearing. We continue chatting. He opens a door. I follow in. It’s not the Con Suite. It’s his hotel room. And his shirt is off. “Where shall we start?” he says.

I am a feminist. Proudly so. Unabashedly so. It concerns me that I get unpleasant emails and comments just based on this blog. I have in the past. I will in the future. Ugly people will say ugly things, and that is just that. It concerns me that “Writing While Feminist” is offensive to people – that the fact of my world-view and the fact of my voice and the fact that I tell stories and think things and see the world in terms of changing and re-shaping and bettering things for everyone is somehow worthy of vitriol or anger or shaming words.

My books, because they were written by my hands and dreamed up in my brain, cannot be separated from my world-view. The world I live in is much better and more equal than the world in which my grandmothers came of age. But that ain’t saying much. We still put a premium on the male voice in this culture – in publishing, in media, in education, in the law, in medicine. Everywhere. We still discount the female voice. We still discount the female experience. We still discount women’s work. I wish it wasn’t so.

I am at the park. I am wearing a tee-shirt that says “Radical Feminist”. I am with my three kids and my dog. My son is in a sling, his face pressed against my breast, fast asleep.

“Is that shirt a joke?” a woman asks me.

“No,” I say.

“Are you divorced?” she says.

“No,” I say.

“Does your husband know you’re wearing it?”

“My husband bought it for me.”

“Hmph. I would be offended if my husband bought me something like that. It’s like saying ‘I think you’re ugly.’ No offense.”

My books have strong women in them. And unpleasant women. And broken women. My books have strong men in them. And unpleasant men. And broken men. Because all of us are strong, and unpleasant, and broken. Sometimes we are all of these things at once.

I am a feminist because I love men, and I believe that they are capable and strong and wise. I am a feminist because I love women, and I believe that they too are capable and strong and wise. And I am a feminist because I fiercely love my kids. And your kids. And the kids that aren’t born yet. And I think the world that we are giving them can be so much better, so much kinder, and so much more just than the one we got right now.

I am on the bus. I am sitting next to a man who is reading the newspaper. He snorts. He grunts. He shakes his head.

“The feminists are taking over,” he says.

“Yup,” I say, nodding emphatically. “Thank god.”


424 thoughts on “On Feminism, Anti-Feminism, and the Things That Mystify Me

    • Laura,

      I don’t think I could have put it more succinctly and eloquently if I tried. Haha! (So I am going to ramble a bit instead!)

      (Also I am stealing this exclamation for later….)


      Please continue to be the simple, passionate and eloquent model of human decency, love and morality that you display here and no doubt elsewhere in your writings and life at large.

      I try my best to be a true gentleman and be representative of these ideals and yet when I hear these kinds of stories (frighteningly often) I am embarrassed and disheartened. Like you, I wonder how you can *not* think of another human being as equal, important, beautiful …fragile. How is it even possible that someone would think it okay to chase a little girl down the street or shout at a woman for walking out on their drunk ass….?

      You reminded me of the reasons I maintain who I am in spite of it all.

      Much love and respect,

      -Benjamin Collins

    • Hi Kelly!

      My sister told me two weeks ago that I had to stop thinking that men were coming on to me. This statement came after at least one story per man with whom I’ve attempted to set friendship boundaries had her engrossed by their audacity, then cracked-up by my steadfast forthrightness.

      I will continue to be a responsible human.

  1. These are your experiences, these are my experiences. They resonate, especially the one where you are sitting on the bus with a strangers hand on your knee and you don’t say anything because you don’t want people to look at you. That shame that somehow you caused it or are to blame and people will judge you. yes. And they do. One of my experiences: I was walking down the halls of my high school and saw a couple of my boyfriends friends. Was about to smile when one nudged the other and looked at me. “Shes probably good in bed because she’s sure butt ugly.” They walked away. I was devastated. I’d been reduced to nothing. The fall out from that one sentence (together with other similar experiences) impacted the rest of my life.

  2. I ended up marrying the guy because he was good looking and popular and I was “grateful”. Ha! It didn’t last long and I didn’t make that mistake again.But it’s part of the reason I am so fierce now:)

  3. Never change, Barnhill. Never leave your politics out of it. Because you can’t, HELLO. Because when you write books, despite the fictional trappings, you are essentially saying, THIS IS WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE WORLD.

    People who don’t understand that are dumbasses who need to talk less and listen more.

  4. Yes. Thank you. Sorry you’ve had to deal with backlash for stating the obvious. The idea that feminism = man-hater ticks me off because many men I know are feminists and they don’t hate manhood or themselves. The strongest men are the feminists.

    • Feminism = man-hater is so false! Not just because I know men that are stalwart feminists (my father most of all) but because I know several man-haters (female of course) that are not feminists! And it hurts my soul every time we have discussions on these topics and she’s arguing against my feminist ideals and bad mouthing men in the same breath.

  5. Outstanding. It annoys the hell out of me that so many of my gender make it difficult for our fellow citizens to merely navigate through the mundane tasks of daily life. BTW, I’d totally wear one of those t-shirts.

  6. This makes my heart sink, reading this post. I’m sorry you had these experiences, Kelly. I had a few of my own, and they were frightening as well. The sense of ownership and entitlement that certain men have, the assumption that all females, no matter what their age, are somehow their domain, it has to stop and the only people who can stop them are feminists and their allies. It’s up to all of us to teach these current and upcoming generations of men that THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

  7. This is fantastic. Never stop voicing your opinions. I agree with you on this point. I may disagree with you on others. The suggestion that you should not speak because someone disagrees with you is one of the most insidious responses to unpopular opinions possible. Share your thoughts. Dialogue is critical.

    And it’s time we took back the word feminism. It was hijacked. It’s become an insult. But I can’t think of a more powerful, more positive thing to be than a feminist. I am a proud one. I hope to raise a feminist daughter and feminist sons. Feminism is good.

  8. I can’t really understand why we as a society are unable to get over this. Pretty much the only things one gender can do that another can’t are biological. When we were still evolving, it made sense that the males should go out and do things while the females are protected. From an evolutionary standpoint, males are far more expendable than females. But evolution has been pushed out of the picture for decades, and we’re still stuck with this stupid mentality.

    • And if I may rant a bit on a tangent:

      What gender you fall in love with shouldn’t be a big deal, either. If it’s between consenting adults and no one is hurt, I don’t care what someone does. Thinking someone is sub-human just because their tastes are different from yours is like hating someone for liking jalapenos. And saying it’s against your religion is like saying YOU can’t eat cake because I’M on a diet.

    • > When we were still evolving ~.
      > But evolution has been pushed out of the picture for decades ~.

      Um, we’re still evolving, Sparky; we have never “stopped,” nor will we.

      • I actually meant natural selection. Poor word choice on my point, I suppose. But with all our technology, our evolution is about as natural as a dog’s. The sheer amount of population mixing, combined with relatively abundant food & water and a knowledge of medicine, mean even what overall change there is has been drastically slowed.

        And yes, there are many areas that do not have enough food, water, or shelter, or don’t have what most Americans consider a medical system, but they’re still less natural than the environment humans evolved from.

        • Actually, we still are evolving via natural selection, it’s just that we are being selected for different things now, depending on where you live. Will you survive your childhood, or die because you tried to jump into a pool from the roof, missed and broke your neck. Or perhaps your parents didn’t believe in vaccinating so the children die of lock jaw. Or the parents are religious and don’t believe in medical intervention.
          Then there is people who have fewer children and those who have more. A million different things that allow or prevent any particular person from passing on their genes.
          Including car crashes, war, drugs, shootings.

          So yes, we are still evolving via natural selection. We are natural, we are still animals, even if we use science and build homes, just as ants are still insects even though they may make a home with egg chambers and farm chambers.

          “Natural” is a funny term. You could say wearing clothes is not natural, but some insects wear ants on their bodies as clothes. Some insects gather rocks and twigs and create clothes. No matter what, at the end of the day we live, and we die. We just die from different causes. I don’t know anything that humans do that some animal doesn’t do. Communicate, use tools, care for young, reason out puzzles, empathy for others. We are not that different from the other animals in this world. The big difference is the extent that we do these things, not that we do them.

          In the end, we all live and we all die, and there is nothing more natural then that. Natural selection still occurs for humans, we (in the first world) have just changed the selection criteria to fast cars, motorcycles, prayer instead of medical intervention, drugs, double income no kids, and numerous other causes that prevent or give us the choice not to pass on our genes.

  9. I consider myself a feminist. But establishment feminism tells me that I have no place at the table, because I believe that abortion is a grave injustice against women and children. Not only does this disqualify me from feminism, but in some circles it disqualifies me from any right to speak publicly as a woman or about women’s issues.

    For years, this meant that discussion of feminism left a bad taste in my mouth, since what has been communicated to me is that feminism is solely concerned with promoting and safeguarding access to abortion and contraceptives, and that all other issues are secondary to the single (rather horrific) message that women can only gain equality through violence against those weaker than ourselves.

    I’m sad not to have a place at the table, because it matters to me, extraordinarily much, what kind of world my sons and daughters are growing up in. I’ve come to accept that I can be a feminist at heart and in my values regardless of whether I pass someone else’s litmus test.

    Perhaps some of the surprise or hostility has to do with the feminist voices that are loudest, and the impact they have on young men and women? In which case new voices and new perspectives may plant important seeds.

    • Litmus tests, in my view, are always a bad idea. I’m a believer of Big Tent Feminism. You are a feminist if you claim yourself to be so. I know a TON of great, amazing women in the Consistent Life movement (they oppose abortion and capital punishment and are radically anti-war and pro-peace. They also believe in health care for all, feeding the poor, ending economic injustice, etc. They are old-school Jesus-y types) and while I don’t agree with them on everything, I would NEVER dismiss their commitment to gender equality or justice for all.

      I salute you, Kate – even when we disagree. And I salute your voice in this grand discussion. 🙂

      • Thank you! I appreciate your openness and I wish more women were willing to work together across individual differences. We’d get a lot further. 🙂

        I’d probably like your Consistent Life friends. I find the way life and social justice issues are sometimes split and set in opposition to one another baffling. We’re all better off if we safeguard and strengthen the vulnerable and weak, in whatever situation, and preserve the dignity and well-being of each person.

  10. Such tasty words, such yummy language. I love the mix of story and essay. Its quite powerful.

    I am one of those people who do not get why everyone isn’t a feminist. While there are some individual women who I don’t like or agree with, on the whole women rock. I don’t see how one can reach any other conclusion. Mind you, men (on the whole) rock too. Seems pretty win-win to me.

    Just because you got a bad ham sandwich at the deli it doesn’t mean every sandwich is bad, or even every ham sandwich, or (for that matter) every sandwich from that deli. Simple.

    • In the end, it ALL comes back to sandwiches. It is the greatest of all metaphors/foods.

      And, yes, MEN ROCK TOO. I am blest to have such great men in my life. It is great women and men TOGETHER who build the world that it can be. Partnership. It’s a beautiful thing.

  11. Oh, this was tough to read. Your experiences broke my heart. I have to say that reading this I’ve realized how fortunate I was, in many ways. We lived out in the country. So when I rode my bike, or my horse, it wasn’t in town and seeing people was rare. Taking public transportation was never necessary either. So in that way, I was protected from experiencing these things. I was also fortunate that I was taught how to be tough. In one instance a man old enough to be my grandpa had commented on breasts. I was around 15 and the girls had shown up in a big way. When he made a comment about my chest, instead of being ashamed of myself, I was disgusted by him. And I let him know it. My mom then let me know how proud she was.

    I agree with everything you said about feminism. I don’t understand why people feel the need to limit each other. McDonald’s employees fight for $15 an hour and every Joe Shmoe thinks he needs to way in and decide whether these people deserve what they’re asking for. Why? Why does someone making more money lesson what you make for a living? Why does empowering women, lessen men? I’ll never understand people.

    • In your last paragraph you ask what are truly deep economic questions, even if you didn’t understand them to be such. I’ll answer why does empowering women lessen men.

      Power is not a zero sum game, but that does not preclude the possibilities of losses. When women’s suffrage was successful, women got the vote. This effectively doubled the number of voters. This had an affect on existing voters, men. With twice as many votes being cast, the men’s vote effectively was only half as powerful. This is not zero sum. The gain for women vastly out weighed the loss for men, but it was a very real and very significant loss of power for men, a very real lessening of men. Now, lets look at a modern feminist issue, CEO’s of fortune 500 companies. There are 500 and only 500 CEO’s of fortune 500 companies. At some point all 500 where men. Every woman that makes it to this very elite club does so at the expense of a man that could have filled the seat. Like with the vote, women that have EARNED the position have gains that are vastly disproportional to the losses the less qualified men faced. If we implement quotas so that unqualified women are gifted these positions, their gains will be vastly less than the losses of not having the best PERSON in the office.

      • Like I said… you desperately need some Feminism 101, and badly.

        The problem with your example is that the reason those were once men is because women were shut out from the offices. Women were quite literally now allowed to hold such positions. All feminists are trying to do is break the glass ceiling, so the gender of the person applying for the job is not considered in the slightest. So you’re right… a woman taking the position does so at the expense of men, and other women. No one’s calling for a darn quota, you fool!

      • I actually did understand them as such, thanks.

        There is some very strange logic here. On the Fortune 500 list – If a woman makes that list, she does not do so “at the expense of a man”. She takes a seat that she earns. Just as he would have done, had he excelled. Your argument seems to suggest that those 500 seats “belong” to men. They don’t. They belong to the people who operate companies on behalf of their shareholders. In this case, gender is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the size of the company and the breadth of the profits. In this case – size does matter.

        In the voting argument – sorry. But that’s a reach. And not a strong one. By that logic, no one should have had children – or only had girl children – so as to reduce the total number of votes cast and thus make each vote more powerful. The more we include, the more detailed and nuanced our conversations HAVE to be. And we all benefit. Our society is better when it is deep thinking, analytical, and brave. Our society is better when we consider ALL points of view. Extending voting rights to women did not disempower men. Instead, it brought politics and debate to the dinner table. It forced men and women to consider one another’s ideas. It forced both men and women to listen. It empowered all of us to treat one another as equals. Nothing disenfranchising about that.

        • The more people with the vote the better discussions we are forced to have, true. It also make MY vote as and individual less powerful, hence the need for discussion and compromise.

          On CEO’s. Opportunity costs are huge costs.

          • So, what? Women should be banned from being CEO’s? It sounds like that’s what you’re saying. Because… it makes men sad? Seriously, I am not seeing an argument worth having here. You’d have a pretty hard time finding ANYONE to agree to these concepts.

            • The seats don’t belong to men or women. They belong to the best qualified individual regardless of gender. With the restriction on women being CEO’s, less qualified men got the jobs. Removing these men that didn’t really earn the positions is a good thing. It does not occure at NO COST. It has a cost, a cost paid by men.

              • No. Not paid by MEN. Paid by LESS QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS.

                There’s a difference.

                And not only that, if the people at the top are more highly qualified, if they are better and more effective at their jobs, then the total pie INCREASES. And it increases for all – men, women, kids, whatever. The point is that if the circle is opened, if the blockades are removed and if we stop discounting people’s intelligence and worth BECAUSE OF THEIR GENDER, then there is a benefit for ALL OF US. Better ideas. Better companies. Better art. Better communication. It’s just better.

                It was not a cost borne by men. It was an opportunity – SHARED BY ALL OF US.

          • Yes. I am opposed to any unfair construct. However that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t watch the numbers. Because the numbers tell a story.

            Here’s an example: a number of years ago, three major orchestras realized that their hiring seemed to be favoring their male candidates over their female, and they wondered how much of that favoring was due to bias, and how much was sheer talent. To find an answer, they tried an experiment: blind auditions. The conductor would be sitting in the audience, and the auditioner would enter the stage, blocked from view by a screen. The conductor was only given a number. Gender couldn’t play a role, neither could race, size, attractiveness, or whatever. Just the music. The result: while not entire gender parity (the candidate pool tends to be more male-heavy) but parity in comparison to the pool. The practice of blind auditions is now becoming standard in most world-class orchestras. In fact, several ask their candidates to remove their shoes, so they won’t hear the difference in footsteps between men and women. They only want talent to matter.

            This is what is needed – an analysis of where the biases are, a realization that bias has no business in producing great art or great inventions or great business or great law or whatever, and getting them out of the way. Bias is bad for business. Bad for us all. The end.

            • Actually, I think the current popular idea of quotas is a bit of a strawman of what it, at least, was meant to be, though I grant that it’s at least partially the fault of those who enacted quotas…

              Let’s say I own a recording studio (since I dream of one day being a recording musician… though no, it’s not my first, or even second choice for a career I can make a living off of), and I’m in need of a producer. I narrow it down to two candidates. Choosing between these two is nearly impossible because they are both equally over-qualified for the job. Both are experts in both analog and digital recording, mixing, mastering, and sound-design. Both have ample experience producing in other recording studios, both small and large, which means both have experience recording independent/up-and-coming artists and major-label/famous artists.

              In other words, both are beyond perfect for the job. Neither in any way stands out from the other in terms of expertise and experience, but both stand above and beyond everyone else who applied.

              The only difference?

              One’s a man and one’s a woman.

              So I call them both in for interviews. I get along with both of them perfectly well. The interviews only solidify my perception of them as beyond-perfect for the job.

              This is where quotas are supposed to come in.

              I would indeed hire the woman for the job. Of course, if he is more qualified than she is, than I’ll hire him, because experience/expertise comes first. But if both are 100% equal in expertise and experience, I will hire her (and I’ll obviously hire her if she’s more qualified than him, because, again, experience/expertise comes first).

              Quotas are not supposed to be implemented to the detriment of experience/expertise. You are always supposed to look at qualifications first. It’s only after you’ve narrowed it down to the best-qualified people, and you end up in a situation where you have two or more equally-qualified candidates, that quotas should come into play, and you should probably hire the minorities.

              Of course, they weren’t always enforced or enacted like this, which is why the enactment of quotas has failed in many cases. But I’m pretty sure this was the original intent… that when all that’s left to differentiate your candidates is race and/or gender, you should hire the non-white, non-male, because in the past, the white male would be the one hired even if there was a better candidate who happened to be a woman and/or a person of color. That is what quotas were meant to stop: bigoted hiring practices…

          • It might be said that some are for or against quotas, but I think your question is an oversimplification of why we use quotas. We do not employ quotas because they are inherently good, we employ them because they are preferred over the current circumstances. That is, they are less wrong. One might even say that they are a necessary evil. In cases of extreme inequity they present a temporary improvement. In this case, I will hold my nose and endorse quotas.

      • Let me use your “logic” for a similar situation:

        When the 15th Amendment was ratified, blacks got the vote. This significantly increased the number of voters by 4.9 million. This had an affect on existing voters, white men. With 13% as many votes being cast, the white man’s vote effectively was only about 7/8ths as powerful. This is not zero sum.

        By your logic, no one except white men should ever be able to vote or be CEOs because otherwise their votes won’t count as much, or they won’t be able to be CEOs.

        Boo, hoo. People of privilege aren’t getting as much privilege! Don’t like it? Tough.

      • I’m sorry -“theory of mind”? I’m pretty sure you don’t know what that means, or you wouldn’t have used it in that way. And that’s okay – most people don’t.

        As far as – erm – deeming things uncomfortable. Most of us live our lives in uncomfortable places. Those of us who make our livings based on our imaginations often prefer to imagine a less uncomfortable existence. For ourselves, for our partners, for our sons and daughters, for our neighbor kids and for people we have never met. I am hopeful that my son and daughters live in a more egalitarian society – where, when they marry, they enjoy a fully equal partnership, where they will not face harassment or shame in their jobs, where they will never be reduced to a sum of their body parts. I imagine that their essential souls will matter.

        Do you not want that too?

        • Okay. Wait. Stop.

          I wrote a poem/lit thing that describes this exact behavior. It goes like this:

          “Let’s avoid reason and discussion.
          Let us toss aside critical analysis and self examination.
          Let’s instead pat ourselves on the back in wake of opposition.
          Our cause is just.
          Our cause is honest.
          However blind the innocent react.
          Surely its pureness is its crown.
          Surely the dark will come to join us in sight.
          We do not see our failing or the fault in our steps.
          Our path is forward.
          And towards it we march.
          With us you ride.
          Or by our hand, you die.”

          When you have someone who is working towards a cause or a goal you can count on someone else attempting to oppose it. The difference between people I respect in achieving those goals are the ones who do not attempt to make an enemy out of their opposition but instead try to learn their thinking. What I constantly see people like the former do is make an ‘other’ out of those who are against their goal. Which leads to arguments. This can be seen in the whole of your comments section. When I say “surely its pureness is it’s crown” I’m alluding to the fact that those with opposing views are seen as “the ignorant who need to be taught” instead of other people whom I don’t understand. The thought of trying to understand that which seems evil and hateful scares you. But that is just what the other side is feeling. Trying to belittle me just makes me wonder why you would want to.

          • Actually, I’m not trying to belittle you at all, and I’m really sorry that my words had that effect. I did not want to hurt your feelings, and I should have been less glib. I have more than my share of Philosophy professors in my large and complicated family, two of whom did their dissertations on Theory of Mind. There are, unfortunately, lots of folks who throw that term around – many on the internet – who have not actually read the papers or the books and don’t actually know what it means. So when one says “using theory of mind” it’s actually a meaningless phrase, and doesn’t actually foster discussion. I’m a teacher. I gotta point these things out.

            The point of the article that I wrote, though, is not to try and portray anything as “evil” or “hateful”. I’m just trying to make sense of a bunch of experiences. I do have hope, of course, that we can reach a place of true equality in this country – where the fact of female bits on a body are not a liability. I have daughters. I have a son. Of course I want these things for them. Of course I want them to live in the world as equals.

            In my own life, I am surrounded by men and women who self-identify as feminist, and I enjoy a marriage in which we are not owner and owned, but fully participating human beings, linking our lives together. It’s a good way to live. And it is what I hope for everyone: love, trust, respect, equality. They are all linked, you know? There cannot be love without trust. There cannot be trust without respect. There cannot be respect without equality. There cannot be equality without love. That’s my philosophy.

            • “I’m just trying to make sense of a bunch of experiences. I do have hope, of course, that we can reach a place of true equality in this country – where the fact of female bits on a body are not a liability. I have daughters. I have a son. Of course I want these things for them. Of course I want them to live in the world as equals”

              We all have the same goal. Yet we each have different ways of approaching it. I am not a feminist yet I fight to show how women and men are both equal and deserve equal rights. The views and feelings that you so readily treasure contain the same amount of honesty and heart as those whose don’t support your views. The point in my comment was to illustrate that no matter how universal you may feel your philosophy is or should be shared, that it is moot when compared to the actual state of the world. To me this means that using the tactic of emotional appeal from ones own standpoint will only alienate those who don’t share the same feelings. I aim to avoid that as I wish to include all people. And to do that I have listen to them and hear their desires and see where we can connect.

              • I disagree with what you wrote: “…using the tactic of emotional appeal from ones own standpoint will only alienate those who don’t share the same feelings.” I became a Professional Storyteller to be an Agent of Change. I found telling heartfelt stories to be extremely effective in bypassing a listener’s judgment and concretized dogmas. I’ve seen stories change people’s behavior when spouting facts didn’t.

              • Carl…. I’m not talking about stories. I’m talking about arguments and discussions. I’m talking about when someone uses AN EMOTIONAL APPEAL that’s specific to their own experience in a way that excludes others. Not a premeditated conjuring of literary craftsmanship meant to tug at the universal heart string. If I were to try and pour out my woes of publicized black perception to an off the grid wilderness hardened lumber jack, He would have no clue as to what I’m going on about without me having to hold his figurative hand. That’s what I was getting at. Appeals that have the potential to exclude.

                I write stories. I know stories can sidestep the personal experience barrier quite well when reaching out to others. I am aware of this. I am also aware of the limitations of facts. Maybe your last sentence was a dig? Maybe you mistook my written demeanor for something more stoic and impersonal? Maybe I should read an opus of yours in order to melt the proverbial ice around my rib cage?????


              • I didn’t think it was a dig at all. Now, granted, telling stories? It’s my job, right? It’s the only language I speak. For me, the sharing of stories doesn’t divide – it unifies. It reveals something about the human experience, how we see the world. Storytelling, interestingly preceded language development (our first stories were song and dance. Cool, huh?), so I really do believe that it is our birthright as human beings. If that’s not how you organize information, that’s totally fine. It just means that it limits the kinds of conversations that you and I can have.

                Most of the people who hang out at this blog are folks who live and die by stories: authors (largely children’s authors like me), librarians, teachers, parents-of-bookworms, etc. So the discussions here are from a particular point of view, and speak a particular language, you know? It’s totally fine if you would rather have a different kind of discussion, but you’re likely not going to find that here. And that’s okay. There’s lots of blogs on these here internets. 🙂

                Anyway, I’m sorry if that last sentence felt like a dig, and I’m sorry that you don’t feel welcome. That’s a crummy feeling. I’d love it if you’d share your story, though. I like stories.

              • “Now, granted, telling stories? It’s my job, right? It’s the only language I speak. For me, the sharing of stories doesn’t divide – it unifies. It reveals something about the human experience, how we see the world.”

                Wait. What? I’m going to recite this again:

                “Carl…. I’m not talking about stories. I’m talking about arguments and discussions. I’m talking about when someone uses AN EMOTIONAL APPEAL that’s specific to their own experience in a way that excludes others.”

                and this;

                “I write stories. I know stories can sidestep the personal experience barrier quite well when reaching out to others. I am aware of this. I am also aware of the limitations of facts.”

                Did you even read what I wrote??? I mean seriously? All of it. To the end? Better yet did you understand it? Did you think I was just joking when I said I write stories and know about the power that they have when pertaining to emotional understandings?

                I could cry right now. I’m quite literally reeling at how these fantastic leaps are made when it comes to missing my points in my conversations. Maybe I need to stick with face to face. Whenever a point flies over someones head that reflects on my ability. Maybe I threw to hard? Maybe it wasn’t in the right direction?

                “If that’s not how you organize information, that’s totally fine. It just means that it limits the kinds of conversations that you and I can have.”

                No. Please. Spare me. I just had to deal with Carl’s misinterpreted tangent. That’s why I wrote this:

                “Maybe you mistook my written demeanor for something more stoic and impersonal? ”

                And you just mistook it all over again. I’m going to die of cardiac arrest if this continues >.<

                I know all too well about emotional connections through stories. But that wasn’t my point. I could easily get into some kind of warm frothy diatribe that’s filled to the brim with feelings. But in that moment. In that specific comment. That wasn’t my goal. What you commented on had nothing to do with what I was attempting to address. Discussing interpersonal communication within the literary sense is completely within my power. But you say it’s the only language that you speak? Can you not step outside that? Is your inability to do so the reason why my points aren’t clicking? We were cool for a second. But Carl is apparently running in defensive mode which ruined said coolness. Let’s not turn this into something it isn’t. I despise arguing. Really. But when what I’m saying isn’t getting through it’s frustrating.

                “Anyway, I’m sorry if that last sentence felt like a dig, and I’m sorry that you don’t feel welcome. That’s a crummy feeling. I’d love it if you’d share your story, though. I like stories.”

                I don’t know if this is misplaced pity towards a “crummy feeling” I don’t even have or just a patronizing jab.

                And no. My stories are vastly inappropriate for your target audience. Unless you know kids who are into pyrophilia and uncouth amounts of swearing. In that case, cool.

                “It’s totally fine if you would rather have a different kind of discussion, but you’re likely not going to find that here. And that’s okay. There’s lots of blogs on these here internets.”

                Most sense I’ve heard all day. It entertains the idea that I just might be in the wrong place. But I found this blog not because of your published works and children’s themes, but because of the title of the post we’re writing on now.

              • Right. And it looks like it’s just too upsetting for you. I shall shake your hand (in my imagination of course) and wish you all the best. I never meant for you to feel patronized. Truly.

                I really only know how to talk to people the way I’m talking right now. I am not jabbing or putting down. It’s just kindness. It’s the only way I know how to do this sort of thing. I’m not much of a fighter. I’m more of a discusser over wine and cookies type. And a story-swapper. There are lots of blogs where people throw down. This just isn’t one of them.

                My guess is our short fiction likely lands in the same places (it’s the novels that are for the kids. The short stories are…. not. For sure not.) so it’s likely that I’ll see your work around. Which is cool.

                In the meantime, happy holidays.

    • Empowering women lessens men because in the mind set of many men, particularly powerful/power playing ones, to get anything means taking away from someone else. The competitive mindset at it’s worse. Besides, there are only so many “win” positions out there, if you increase the population sample that can acquire one, you increase the odds against any one person getting a “win”. So if only males can play, the odds then are better for winning. I think I’ll go gack now…

  12. Ha! “It’s like saying ‘I think you’re ugly.’ No offense.” I have to admit, I laughed at this one, and I probably would have laughed aloud in the moment too. The absurdity of her comment! No offense.

    Lord, there are a lot of stupid, ugly, ignorant people out there. Most have learned to keep that ugliness hidden from the public eye, but unfortunately, the anonymity of the internet allows them the thrill of spewing it into the world without consequence. The confrontation of this ugliness and ignorance in pieces such as this is so important. My favorite post of yours to date.

  13. THANK YOU Kelly for sharing this! I support your honesty and activism. I am a sister feminist who works to change the status quo through storytelling. Years ago I organized a homemade pie gifting campaign to lobby the Nevada legislature to pass the ERA. I testifyied at hearings with a babe in my arms and a toddler hanging on my skirt. Carol McCormick

  14. Pingback: Why Feminism is Good for Capitalism | Backwater

  15. I’m sorry you’ve gotten so much hate mail from people. Given how much feminism informs your world-view, I’m not even sure how you could “take it out of your writing”, even if you wanted. I wish more people would become aware of the gender inequality in the world. My eyes were recently opened up to sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. As a result, I cannot turn it off. I see it everywhere. Being able to see it, and having an ever improving understanding of it means I can speak out about it. It means no longer sitting back and silently endorsing the status quo. It means being able to sit back and read this blog post and express my admiration for you as well as my support.
    Rock on!

  16. Before there can be a discussion about your viewpoint, you need to define feminism. I identify as a feminist and I define feminism as the concept that women are the intellectual and social equals of men. That humanity consists of human beings and individual gender, sexuality and gender identity is immaterial in how human beings are to be treated.

  17. I am a feminist. Not because I don’t love my husband, (I do, very much) and not because I don’t love my son. (I also do very much)
    I am a feminist because I Also love my daughter, and want her to grow up to a world where her rights are not defined by her genitalia, where either of my children can choose from the same career fields what will make them happy, or none at all and stay home with their children while their spouse works.
    I am a feminist because my daughter should not have to fear not getting a job because she said no in a bar one night, or even because she said Yes one night.
    I am a feminist because my son should not have to worry about is he Manly enough to get hired, because he is thoughtful and serious, rather then athletic.
    I am a feminist because our world is large enough for everyone to have the same choices, and the same responsibilities for those choices.

  18. That is such a fine piece of writing. My heart was in my mouth as I came to each new episode of your history. Thank you for ending on a high.

    I came here from Pharyngula, and like him I’m going to seek out your books – and, of course, keep reading your blog. “Iron Hearted Violet” – what a great title!

  19. You have two new fans in my husband and me. Love, love, LOVE everything you had to say here! We can’t wait to check out some of your books.

  20. Keep rocking it, Ms Barnhill – and I will now have to look into your books for my kids.

    I couldn’t have been as non-confrontational as you to genderneutrallanguage, but that’s not a criticism, just a difference.

    • Sometimes, I try to look to my beloved Quaker relatives, and their strategy of giving people permission to be wrong. Alas, I am not always very good at it. The feisty Irish Catholic in me sometimes makes my tongue catch fire. 😉 Ah well.

    • But thank you. (I did have to bite my tongue a bit with that commenter – that action spoke more to the kind of day that *I* wanted to have, rather than anything else.) And if your kids read the books then be sure to send them by for a pixellated hello. I’d love to hear what they think!

  21. Wonderfully written. I’ve always considered myself a feminist (or feminist ally if one prefers), but its only been in recent years that powerful messages like yours have shown me exactly how important feminism is. Heck, I’m a stay at home husband, my life would be literally impossible without feminism. Rock on. And yes I will be buying some books, I’m raising reader k’now 😉

    • Oh, how I love young readers!

      And, really? I think one of the great gifts of feminism is the notion of partnership. We are all on the same team – men, women, children, old people, whatever. And we have a moral responsibility to respect and care for one another. My sister’s husband is a stay at home dad, and my husband’s sister’s husband is as well. And I think you’re right – feminism has absolutely normalized and empowered that decision, and those families are the better for it. Obviously the partner who wishes to be on home-and-hearth patrol should do so. Obviously, the partner who wishes to pursue a great career should do so as well. Both are important, and both enrich the family – intellectually, spiritually, and financially.

  22. I want to write a long involved comment but, really, there’s nothing to say that hasn’t been said in the post, and said in far better prose than I could possibly manage. So, I’ll restrict my commentary to a single word: Magnificent. Just… magnificent.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve a blog to subscribe to and books to track down, too.

  23. “Because I honestly can’t understand how we can be in this world and not be feminist.”

    THIS so much. So many thoughtful points about writing while feminist…I love the comment you made to the man on the bus who was worried about feminists taking over the world.

  24. So I’ve read three posts of yours, now, and followed your blog because holy hell you are awesome. And then I saw you followed me, and now I’m like “no pressure on me to be a better writer. None. Nope. None at all.” :p

    Seriously, though… this was an amazing post. I’m so sorry you went through that crap and continue to get hate-mail because people are mystified by the fact that women are people, too. But keep it up, because you’re awesome.

  25. @kellybarnhill Differing points of view are interesting. Talking though disagreements in rational and civil ways are how we grow intellectually as people.

    @Michael & Nathan
    Feminism does not have an agreed upon definition even within feminist circles. What feminism “is” just morphs and redefines away any disagreements. Feminism is a dogma. Central to that dogma is a concept that I and most feminist find abhorrent, but is the underlying assumption in all of feminism. That central dogma is that women are well and truly inferior to men. That women need special support and considerations to be considered, but not actually be, equals to men. I find this concept sickening. I find feminism to be sickening. I don’t know how a thinking person can consider themselves a feminist.

    There is talk of “equality”, but this “equality” is always and with out exception benefits for women. If women are (as I believe) well and truly the social and intellectual equals of males, then no -ism is needed to bring special privileges and considerations to women.

    • WHAT?!?

      First, are you actually calling yourself a feminist? Because any feminist would know that the whole idea of “inferior women” comes from the system feminists are fighting: patriarchy.

      Second, you are just proving my point. You really have absolutely no clue what feminism is. In short: Feminism is the radical notion that women are people, too. It is, of course, supposed to be intersectional (women of color, trans* women, not-straight women, etc), and I’m sad to note that this is a fight going on right now, but intersectionality is winning! Yay!

      I very much suggest that you research some Feminism 101 before commenting again, because… really… you need it.

      • I find the concept that women are inferior sickening. I find feminism sickening.

        Feminist also find this concept sickening, but still support it out of ignorance and propaganda.

        The very concept of “The Patriarchy” that feminists are fighting against can only be true if women are well and truly inferior to men. The very existence of “The Patriarchy” would prove the inferiority of women.

        Women are equal, there is no patriarchy.

        • No. That’s not what patriarchy means. Patriarchy is a social construct – built by human beings and perpetuated over generations. It does not exist in every culture, true, but it certainly exists in ours. Patriarchy is built on a lie – that being that women are subordinate to men and that the male progenitor is the center of the family, that his word is law. It is a silly idea and fraught with problems. There are all kinds of reasons to say that we do not have to live like that, and why patriarchy should be a thing of the past – simply because its central postulate is innacurate. Women are not inferior. They are equal. The end.

          The world is filled with stupid ideas. Patriarchy is one of them. Just because it is stupid, though, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Would that it were so….

          • It is the existence of patriarchy that is the lie. It is the myth of patriarchy. It is the feminist presupposition of female inferiority, that leads you to believe that traditionally female things are bad or at best worth less than traditionally male things.

            • I’m sorry, but you are just incorrect. That’s not what patriarchy means. I get it that it’s what you WANT it to mean, and I respect that you want it. Doesn’t make it true. And alas, this conversation just isn’t very productive.

              I’m just going to have to take a page from my dear Quaker relatives who have taught me so much – I am going to create a space around you that you can be wrong in. And I will care for you in that space. You’re still wrong. And that’s okay.

              Smiles and hugs,

        • Holy crap. *ishallnotcurseishallnotcurseishallnotcurseishallnotcurseishallnotcurse*
          (Warning: links dump ahead… if this ends up in moderation or spam, I’m sorry, but I can’t avoid this. Also, a lot of these links are not kid-friendly, and I’m so sorry for that, as well. But it really isn’t possible for me to let this go. That women are indeed treated as inferior in our Patriarchal society is very obvious to me, and that this needs to change is even more obvious. When people try to deny these things, I feel like I’m talking to Antivaxxers or Creationists or Global Warming deniers or Truthers or Holocaust deniers. They are all the same in my book.

          And many of these links require MAJOR SERIOUS HUGE GIANT TRIGGER WARNINGS, especially one very specific one at Freethought blogs. I’ve marked it, so be. Warned. I literally have no triggers in that area and I found it darn near impossible to get through. So be. Warned.)

          Women are equal? Really? You call this equality? And this? And this? And this? And this (THIS is the one with the biggest TRIGGER WARNING. You’ll probably be driven to tears even without any triggers in this area. Please only open this link if you’re feeling strong, and even then, think about it.)? And I could go on and frickin’ on… forever, if I wanted to, with example after example of how, in the United States in the late 20th and 21st centuries, women are STILL TREATED AS INFERIOR BY AMERICAN SOCIETY!

          Seriously… what is wrong with you?

          This is what feminism is all about. And this. And this.

          We’re agreed that women should be equal. Indeed, it’s a fact that for a society to be healthy, the women must be educated and have equal access to power and capital.

          But we do not live in that society. This is what feminism is trying to change. Feminism is trying to create that society. It is idiots like you, telling us that, in this age of blaming rape victims, of harassing women on the street (“Like to lick lollipops? I have one for you”… I heard this shouted to a woman on my college campus three days ago… dude tried to claim he was “complimenting” her… this is a compliment, now?), of feeling entitled to a woman’s attention just because you’re attracted to her, of not taking an idea seriously, no matter how good it is, because it was voiced by a woman (but then taking it seriously when being re-voiced by a man, which I have literally witnessed HUNDREDS OF TIMES with my own two eyes… and yes, I’m only 26), and so on, that women are “already equal” and feminists need to stop.

          You are not helping.

          You are making things worse.

          YOU are the one who needs to stop.

          • You see women being treated as inferior, not because of “The Patriarchy” but because feminism has convinced you that women are inferior. Feminism has convinced you that “the wage gap” is bad. That women are inferior for not making the same choices that lead to men making higher wages.

            There are many ways that things are unequal. There are things that are unequal for women, and things that are unequal for men. The claim of FEMINism is that we only need to help the women, that the women can’t do for themselves, but the men can. This means women are inferior.

            • No. It doesn’t. It means that we all have to work together. The wage gap isn’t bad because feminism has convinced me that it’s bad. It’s bad because it’s an assault on fairness.

              If you think that unfairness is okay, or if you think that discrimination is okay, or if you think that inequality is not a problem that affects ALL of us, and requires all of us to make a change – men AND women – then this blog simply isn’t for you. And I wish you well.

            • Did I just stumble onto some alternate reality?

              No really… you can tell me. Is this an alternate universe? Did I somehow walk into E-Space or something, with an Earth ruled by a matriarchy?

              Because what you’re typing here is not based in any form of reality as I’ve lived it and have seen the women around me living it.

              And are you actually suggesting that the wage gap is NOT a bad thing?


              I don’t even…

            • Your line of reasoning makes no sense. Or, at least, little sense. Your, frankly, bizarre zero-sum arguments aside: what it is that you are arguing _for_ exactly?

              You say that you believe that women are the intellectual and moral equals of men[1]. That’s nice. That’s what the fine folks of this blog believe, too, and they call this laudable attitude you supposedly share ‘feminism.’ You disagree. Vociferously.

              Is that it? The name? Just the name? If we took this radical and dangerous idea that women are people, too, and the belief that we, as a society, ought to do something about treating them as people, too, and called it ‘Nonbastardism,’ would that be enough?

              Because you are arguing against professed feminists using a definition of feminism _none of them share._ Now, fine, it may be that this feminism you mention, the one where women are inferior, actually exists[2], and, yes, if it does exist it is most assuredly bad. But why are you bringing it up among people who’ve never heard of it, and use that word to mean something else entirely? You aren’t Humpty Dumpty. You don’t get to choose what words mean.

              Now it could be that you don’t oppose feminism, as such, but oppose, y’know, _doing_ something about it? It’s okay if we believe in equality, but we aren’t allowed to do anything about it[3]. Instead we should just believe as hard as we can and equality will happen.

              Well that’s not how the universe works. Wish it did. But prejudices linger, even in people free of any stain of bigotry. To break those apart, we need activism, and by the state of things, we need–ooh boy–we need _a lot_ of it. We aren’t within _shouting_ distance of even _basic_ equality. Complacency about how enlightened we are will get us exactly nowhere.

              [1] You don’t say this for those who fall outside of the conventional gender binary, but I’ll assume that you elided mention of that for the sake of brevity.
              [2] Though where it may be found _baffles_ me.
              [3] Because that means women are inferior… somehow.

              • I oppose the view that women are inferior.

                I oppose the presupposition that women are some sort of oppressed second class citizens.

                I oppose the belief that women need special privileges and benefits to be equal to men.

                For all things “Feminism” if you stop looking for how women are oppressed and need benifits, and start assuming that women are equals a great deal of the differences are about different life choices, not sexism or oppression.

                If you stop defining the masculine as good and the feminin as bad, there is little to no support for the belief that women are oppressed.

    • 1. You seem to be misusing the word “dogma”. Feminism cannot be dogma – or one of many dogmatic principals – because dogma requires a governing authority to “lay down the law”. That’s what dogma means.
      2. Feminism is, because there is no central authority, incredibly diverse. There are people who embrace traditional family structures (as is the case in my own family, currently) who claim the word “feminist”, and there are people who have turned gender roles on their heads. They are feminist if they call themselves feminist.
      3. I have heard people assert that feminism “only cares about women” and seeks to disenfranchise men. I have to say, I just don’t see it. I know a LOT of feminists and NONE feel that way. For example, I know a woman who is working on behalf of rape victims in the military. Did you know that over half of the victims are men? She advocates JUST AS FIERCELY on behalf of the men as the women. Similarly, when I worked in a shelter for battered spouses, a good third of the folks we sheltered were men. And in our sister-shelter, where we provided housing and safety for folks escaping the sex trade, about 40% of our residents were young men who were victimized by pimps.

      We all need to support one another. We all need to honor one another. We all need to love one another. We all need to see each person as fully human, regardless of their gender. And most of all, we need to honor each human being’s choices, dignity and experience. To me, that’s what feminism means. And that is certainly the world-view that I bring to the table.

      • So, on point 3. Do you have any evidence beyond your word? I’m open to being proven wrong, and this is the kind of thing that could prove me wrong. This is also the kind of thing I’m skeptical about because it will prove me wrong so people have made similar claims in the past with absolutely no way to back up the claims. They wanted it to be true, even though the claims where BS.

        I do have sources to back up my belief that your wrong (in the general sense not that you know ONE person that’s different) In the US there are currently about 1800 battered women’s shelters, but only 4 for battered men dispite equality in victimization.

        • I only know the places where I have worked. Those were battered SPOUSE shelters – and both men and women were welcome. I don’t know the research, I can only speak to my own experience.

          As for the shelters for people transitioning out of the sex trade – I know of three in the twin cities area, two focus on young adults and teens, and all serve male, female and trans clients.

          • I also have my experience, and it runs counter to yours. My mother was unable to get us away from an abusive rapist because the “Battered Women’s Shelter” wouldn’t allow my 11 year old brother in. This was 20 years ago, things may have changed. I will need much better proof than just your word.

            If your experience is of “Battered Spouse Shelters” and not Women Women and only Women, I can understand why you support feminism. My experience, my research shows feminism to be about Women Women and only Women. This is sexist bigotry.

    • I know of no definition of feminism which starts with the idea that women are inferior. If you’re going to argue against a caricature of feminism then don’t bother.

    • “Feminism does not have an agreed upon definition even within feminist circles.” and “Feminism is a dogma.” Make up your mind! Is feminism something without an agreed upon definition or is it a set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true? Those two sentences are completely, totally, and utterly opposite. That you could put them into a single paragraph demonstrates your irrational idiocy.

  26. ❤ Wise words, Barnhill, on how being a feminist = being a peopleist–the crazy idea that we should treat people as people. All of them. No matter what. Preach on.

      • Okay, first – you rule, but second, as furious as I was about your more visceral personal shares (and god, I’m so fucking pissed, obligatory curse now shared), I actually think your overall, more measured argument is more important.

        And this was actually a new realization for me.

        I’m a sort of a post 90s ally of all feminist and gender-identity and racial and basically every other oppressed people’s rights … dude or person or whatever .. to the best extent that I can be, but oftentimes the first step in trying to be that person is admitting to the fact that as a cis-gendered white male, I may recognize the privilege I have enjoyed since birth (or my kind has enjoyed for millennia), but to pretend I fully understand it (or its effects on those I care about) is frankly pretty bold. I don’t. I WANT to, sure. But mouth closed and ears open, yeah?

        So what do we do? I’m a father. Both my kids are girls. My gut-instinct is to own a shotgun and to murder with impunity all pants-less men with clearly exposed pubic hair driving around stalking little kids of any gender identity, but that is so unrealistic a paranoid reaction, it throws the very core reasoning behind those fears into stark relief against their answers.

        God. I’m rambling. But at least I’m thinking, thanks to you Kelly. I’ll try to be back with more shortly.

  27. I’m remiss in that I didn’t know of you before. But I followed a link here and now I am a huge fan. Posting all my love to help counteract the douchebags.

    Will look for your books for my niblings. 😉

  28. I’m a 55 year old male from Belgium, and I completely share your view of how the world could be a much better place if women and men had equal rights. Don’t let the negative comments get you down.

  29. I love this post, interweaving your story (I assume it is your story, although that is not really important) was pure genius. I see you had several comments from someone who claimed that feminists were anti-feminists, i.e. claiming that someone calling for equality for women must think that women are inferior to men. This appears to be a new tactic on the part of the priveleged – I’ve seen the exact argument used by racists. It is a sad, desperate attempt to derail conversation about racism/feminism by effectively “changing the subject”. It is a variant on the “why can’t we just get along” trope used to shut down “them angry wimmins!” I love the fact that you integrate your feminism into your work as an author – we need more of that!

  30. I’m 59, absolutely adore the man I live with, the father of my two sons, and have been a committed feminist since my darling Dad bought me “The Female Eunuch”, for my16th birthday. How’s that for not hating men at all. My favourite definition of Feminism is “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”, that’s all, simple really. Loved your article. Jayne

    • That’s a whole other story. About shame and silence. I never did. I never even told my husband. Or my friends. I was embarrassed and felt stupid and ashamed. It horrifies to think of it now – how easily my power as an individual could vaporize. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I realized that my story was grossly common – same guy. I added my story to a hefty official file.

  31. Visited via Pharyngula and delighted to find your writing. This 53 year old male Scot is a passionate feminist – it’s the most important social project, because all other social justice flows from the simple principle of equality of women and men. And our social and economic future depends on giving everyone the best opportunities in life, in education, in careers, in political engagement and leadership. I’ll be back.

  32. Pingback: The fourth wave of feminism: meet the rebel women | feimineach

  33. I can’t think of a time in the life of my daughter, where feminism would be “inapproriate”. Or lgbtq rights, or diversity. It’s like people are afraid that telling girls and boys that they are equals is setting them up for disappointment in life. Bah humbug to that!

    Thanks for a great article and keep up the good work. Of course no one should be afraid of accepting the feminist label – all the bad rap that goes with the word is based on misrepresentations of feminist ideas or a fear of change (a fear of admitting that the dominant narrative is wrong!) Good job.


  34. Thank you for writing this post, and thank you for putting up with so much from that one commenter with the really long name. It can’t be easy, and I really appreciate you taking the time. I wish I had your guts.
    Anyway, I love the post – I’m so sorry for your experiences, but your courage in writing about them is an inspiration. Additionally, I’m so glad to have discovered another fantastic voice on the internet, one which I value even a leetle bit more because of the subject-matter (children’s lit – yup, in constant search of strong non-typical characters to edumacate these small growing minds). I believe I will search out and have my kids (3 boys, who will ALL grow up to be feminists, yeah!) read some of your books, once they are old enough and have grasped the reading part of the English language (non-English country here). You are awesome! And I wish you strength and patience for the future!

    PS Husband and I have a great partnership – it’s exhausting sometimes because it’s basically shiftwork with little to no free/family time, but it feels like a partnership, and I don’t feel that any one of us has lost anything by the fact that we both have jobs, we both do housework, we both care for the children, and *gasp* we both cook!!! Sometimes we even act like mutually consenting adults. Wasn’t the world supposed to fall apart the second I put shoes on and stepped out of the kitchen? 🙂

    • Which is not to knock kitchening, of course. My brother in law is an AMAZING stay at home dad, and a killer cook. The main thing is accepting each individual as fully human – and that we as a culture can move away from the assumption of ownership into the assumption of relationship. We can only be in relationship if we accept the innate humanity and equality in the other. That’s my feeling. 🙂

  35. You had me all the way up to the end, where you felt compelled to state how much you love men. Funny how feminists feel the need to say that they love their oppressors unconditionally or be dismissed as man-haters. There’s a reason that we all feel that pressure to sweet-talk and flatter men.

    • I see what you’re saying, but for me, I just have to speak the truth about my life. I am surrounded by men and women who all deeply believe in equality and justice for all. I felt that I couldn’t talk about the bad without talking about the good, you know? Also, as the mother of a son – and as a person who is in loving relationship with a LOT of young kids, mostly boys (my house, every day, is swarmed with kids), it’s important to me to come at this from a place of love. It’s kinda my bag, you know? There cannot be true love-among-people without first achieving equality and respect. And I think, in the end, that is going to be one of the great gifts of feminism – a more just, more fair, more loving society. That is my hope for my daughters, my son, my neighbor kids, my neices and nephews. All of them.

    • You know, you can love a group, without accepting the worst aspects of that group. People are not defined by any one thing – there is a mixed bag of good things and bad things. You can admire the good traits, dislike the bad traits, and decide how you feel about the group as a whole. This applies to many things – politics, religion, and people.

      So, if our hostess here decides that she loves men, then she has decided that the good that she sees in men outweighs the bad she’s encountered. That’s her choice to make, and nobody has the right to say she’s right or wrong in this.

      It is better to judge each person as an individual, separate from the group. Is this person a good person? Are they a caring person? Are they a supportive person? Is the good that they can do overshadowed by their faults? Also, I don’t think our hostess declared that her love is unconditional for all men. She loves men – that’s fine. I’m sure she is fully capable of deciding when a person is toxic, and needs to be avoided.

    • I disagree. The author was talking about how her world-view is intrinsically a part of her writing and work, and loving men seems a significant part of her world view. It’s pertinent here, and I don’t think counts as political flattery.

      Assuming men in general are our oppressors is problematic in my opinion, not to mention inaccurate. I believe the patriarchy oppresses men as well as women, albeit to a lesser degree. I happen to love men to distraction myself, except the minority of them that are so fearfully clinging to patriarchy. Kellybarnhill seems to manage to love even those guys, which I see as a strength I do not possess, rather than a weakness.

      • THIS THIS THIS! This is important. Because I DO think that patriarchy hurts men too. It’s not the same kind of hurt, for sure, but systems based on lies HURT PEOPLE. For example, the lie that female MUST = nurture, and male MUST = provider damages the men who are natural nurturers. I know lots of these guys – who happily chose to stay home with the kids while their wives or husbands (or male partners in the states where gay marriage is not yet law) go off to work. These guys face FAR more askance glances and shaming words than I ever did after making the same choice. ANd that isn’t fair, and it isn’t right, and it is hurtful. And the more we can recognize it, and recognize that ALL of us do better when we release that the lies of patriarchy are LIES, and when we ourselves from the lies of the past, we can build a society based on equality, relationship, and authentic justice. That is my hope.

  36. Sing it Sister! Please keep your Voice. I am brother to two sisters and father to two daughters. I want them to live in a better world. And than means a whole bunch of people are going to need to be pissed off. Repeatedly. When they react with anger, it means you did something correctly. Art, any art, should challenge. There was a riot in Paris at the premier of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite if Spring. Igor got it right. So do you. Keep Singing and watch the riot from the wings as Igor did. I can think of nothing more satisfying for an artist than to see their work challenge the audience.

  37. Thank you to your Aunt for posting a link to this blog on the Minnesota DFL Feminist Caucus page… and thank you for writing it! I am heading to the nearest bookstore to look for your books, first to read myself (I agree with Neil Gaiman’s remark, something like that “There are no children’s books, really, only books for people with imagination”). Then to gift MY niece.

  38. Oh gosh. Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh. Sometimes I have no words, besides I am so glad that a friend linked me to this entry, because YES YES ALL OF THIS. It is so well-written. So well articulated. Love the mix of personal story and essay, because this is so personal, and you just cannot separate the two. There were so many points in this article that resounded with me, and made me sniffle a little bit, but this part actually made me cry:

    “And maybe this is the limitations of my world-view. Because I honestly can’t understand how we can be in this world and not be feminist. How can we just not notice inequality and injustice when it is staring us in the dang face?”

    As a 20-something, you’d think that feminism would be widespread among my generation. But even among my group of liberal friends, only about half of them consciously identify as a feminist. The others… they don’t like the word? They’re too exhausted for the fight? And while I know that those are valid points, I don’t understand how you can give up on the cause because you don’t like the word, how you can stop fighting before you’ve even begun, how you can assume that the world will change if you don’t make some of that change happen yourself. I just don’t understand. And yet, I know that I only started calling myself a feminist at the age of 18, so can I really blame others who haven’t gotten to that point yet?

    I like to think I am open-minded. I like to think I’m accepting. But the truth is I do not get so many people who are conservative. I cannot accept anyone who thinks that I don’t deserve the same rights and protections and choices as a white straight cisgendered male.

    I do not understand how some individuals can think that some human beings are worth more than others.

  39. Thank you for this post and for allowing comments. I found myself smiling in agreement with so many of your descriptions. I hope you keep up this good work. Good luck with your book sales.

  40. Pingback: Susan After Narnia - Alma Alexander: Duchess of Fantasy

  41. What you’ve gone through horrifies me. It makes me mad – at those people who wanted to take advantage of you, and it makes me sad for you that you went through those events. My wife is a feminist. I like to think I’m a feminist. I don’t care what the haters say, please continue the good work, and please continue to stand up for yourself and women everywhere. I came here entirely by accident – but I’m glad I did. Thank you for being here.

  42. Beautiful essay; I’m sure the number of people who are ecstatic over it are far greater than the naysayers.

    I find it remarkable how many of these comments you’ve replied to (even that “feminist”-who-hates-feminism, who is exactly the sort of person I’ve had to train myself to not engage, as life is too short). I would love to know how you manage to raise kids, write books, and reply to all these comments; time spills through my fingers like sand, leaving me with nothing but a mess on the floor I don’t have time to sweep up.

    • Thank you. And as far as getting stuff done goes – I figure I’ll sleep when I’m sixty. 😉

      Seriously, though, it does help that all three kids are in school. One of the benefits of starting my career with multiple babies on my hips, I got very good at focusing when I needed to, and getting a lot done in a small amount of time. It meant that I was much more efficient than I realized – and much better at multitasking. Now that I have a good four to five hours of uninterrupted silence, it’s much easier.

  43. Folks, I am sorry to report that I did end up having to cull some comments. I didn’t want to, and I hoped that said commenter would simply bow out and stop saying such silly things. No such luck. Making comparisons to Nazi death camps – for me – was simply the last straw. And wildly inappropriate for this blog. So. I deleted. I have never felt the need to do this before, but responding politely to inane comments, bad research, poor logic and sub-par writing skills got to be a little much. Hopefully it will never have to happen again. Honestly, I’ve never had a post get this many views before – or this many comments. I feel a bit over my head.

    Thanks for the support, everyone. Cheers!

    • Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is your blog, you’re the one paying the bills. You are wonderfully patient and kind, but at the end of the day you have a job to do, several of them in fact, and you don’t have the “extra” time to clean up after every ungrateful teenager who wants to drop his dirty socks on the floor and expect you to pick them up.

    • Frankly, I think you did the right thing. It’s not the first time I’ve argued with people like: Men’s Rights Activists who try to claim they’re feminists when they clearly are the opposite…

      How this one went is how those arguments usually go… I only have one story of the argument going well, and I haven’t spoken to the guy since, so I’ve no idea if he’s still and MRA or has rethought things.

      So yeah… good on you for what you did. Not to belabor Tolladay’s perfect analogy, but sometimes, houses have to be cleaned, and then closed off to the people who insist on making them a mess again…

    • Considering how willing you are here to not only tolerate some rather frustrating and poorly formed comments but to actually engage with people in a reasonable, kind way when I would just be rolling my eyes or screaming at the computer I imagine anything you would cull must have well deserved the culling.

  44. love your blog. i am a 62 year old retired lawyer and feminist who discovered feminism in 1969 when i picked up and read pat maindari’s “politics of housework.” my friends and contemporaries made fun of me at the time but now they are all feminists, too. too many younger people don’t understand what that means, unfortunately. woman HAVE come a long way, but younger women don’t think that early feminists(either the first or the second wave) had anything to do with it. and, women still have a long way to go. keep writing about your beliefs! you have given me hope.

    • I hope it also does your heart good to know how many children’s authors of my acquaintance are committed feminists. Because, in the end, the stories we tell (in books, in comics, in movies, in television, whatever) – they *matter*, you know? I have a lot of hope. Lots and lots. And I feel so much gratitude for the women who came before me.

  45. Well done! My daughter is not quite old enough yet, but I look forward to her being old enough for your books in a few years. We already watch Miyazaki films in lieu of Disney, and I am always on the lookout for empowering books for girls. Feminism matters, and it’s astonishing that it should be considered controversial by so many.

  46. I hope my writing skills are good enough to convey what I want…

    As I read the article, I really hoped that I could raise my daughter so she would not be a victim as the author was. I’m not talking strictly about the events that happened, but rather her emotional response to them. At no time did she say, “What the f are you doing? Take your hands off me.” Instead she allowed herself to be the victim to the incident and the culture. She was far more concerned about what the people around her thought than about stopping the event. I don’t want my daughter to do that. I want to raise her to trust me and to be strong enough to tell me if a man follows her. If someone exposes himself to her I want her to pity him and not be horrified or see it as a reflection on her or his gender. (Then to call 911 to protect others younger/weaker than herself.) If someone yells at her in a restaurant, I want her to not internalize it (unless she was being a jerk, then she should internalize it.) The thing I most do not want her to do is to passively sit back as the author did or worry about what the people around her think. I want her to take action and I want her to not let it scar her towards the good parts of humanity.

    When I was 19 I was in a movie theater with a dorm-mate. I was resting my feet on the back of the chair in front of me. The man in the row in front of us kept trying to touch my feet. Every time he got close to touching me, my friend and I silently giggled and I moved my feet. It was all so stupid. I wasn’t an emotional victim, I was entertained by the absurdity of his actions (I wouldn’t be entertained now, but at 19 I was.) He left the theater and we laughed about how stupid he was. Then he came back in and sat two seats away from me. He kept slowly reaching towards me to touch me, then pulling his hand back if I moved. I was growing tired of his actions so I sat very still. When he finally just touched me I said VERY loudly into the quiet theater, “Take your hands off of me NOW.” Needless to say, he did. Rather quickly. And apologetically. I did not generalize his actions because he was male. I just figured he had emotional problems.

    I’m sure I have been called a feminist (to my back) and I doubt it was meant as a compliment. I don’t call myself a feminist because I have seen anti-male actions from women who labeled themselves as feminists. Sadly I think those women have given a bad name to the word, “feminist.” I know I often roll my eyes at that word (not the concept behind it, just the actions of some of the women who label themselves feminists.) Perhaps it is time to come up with a new word that doesn’t have such a negative history. Equalists? Holding onto an outdated/tainted word out of principle doesn’t seem effective. (And I’d rather be effective than right.)

    As I understand human history, women tended the children and the camps, men hunted and, because their bodies are bigger, protected. That is how our bodies and culture evolved and it is a fine way of going through life, as long as each person is honored for their contribution. What is problematic is that somewhere along the way BOTH genders decided the male roles were more important than the female roles. Who knows who started it, but BOTH sexes bought into those ideas and raised the children to believe them. I don’t see how we can make very many changes until BOTH sexes respect the differing contributions made by all members of families and society. We are all people just trying to get by in the world. Some people are kind, some people are jerks. Some people, both male and female, believe men’s needs rule and other’s believe women’s needs rule. What we need to do is honor everyone.

    So, I see it as my job as a mother to a son and a daughter to raise them to be kind to all people and to value all contributions, whether they are traditionally male, female, or something else. It is also my responsibility to do what I can to make cultural changes. For example, I never use the words, “victim of domestic violence,” unless I am talking about a child. The first time an adult is hit, they may be a victim (though it’s likely other behaviors have been escalating and they should have left long ago.) However, once they are hit that is when our culture must encourage them to walk away from the perpetrator by letting them know the second time they are not a victim, they are a participant. If we use the word “victim” it implies there is nothing they can do about it and it encourages helplessness. But the word “participant” lets them know they are actively choosing to stay and they are actively choosing to be hurt, and hopefully we empower them through that language. Maybe they will be empowered enough to tell the idiot to stop and they will leave and they won’t be teaching their children how to be victims. I know often it is not easy for someone who is financially or emotionally dependent to leave, but if we keep telling them they are victims, and therefore powerless, how can they understand they MUST, and CAN, take action?

    So, I hope my writing is good enough that I have been able to express my sadness at how the author took on the idea she was a victim in all those vignettes (except when she was a child. Then she was so young and inexperienced and she was a victim.) I am not downplaying that people are too often real victims. Rape, robbery, kidnapping, and so many other horrendous actions with horrible emotional consequences. Yet look at Elizabeth Smart. What was done to her was unthinkable, but she did not allow herself to be an emotional victim. And, from what I can tell, she did not generalize against men. Not everyone has the spark, or family support, she does, but she is an example of how to not be an emotional victim.

    I think about the men (and women) who grow up to be perpetrators. Once they were beautiful, sweet, innocent babies. What happened? Although each perpetrator is ultimately responsible for their own actions, I wonder what did their mother, or father, do or not do that played a role in who they became. Did their mother teach them to respect, or did she teach them the victim/perpetrator cycle? Was she empowered to believe that washing diapers is as important as being a CEO? Or did she believe, and teach, that she must idly stand by while others belittled her or others?

    Thank you for the article. It has really reinforced that I want to empower both my children to be strong as well as respectful and kind…This gives me pause to once again think about how to do that. Though, obviously, I am already modeling that behavior. Fortunately, that’s probably 95% of what’s needed.

    • I know many, many women who would say and write very much what you have here. They may not be activists, but in their personal strength and inner conviction of their own worth, autonomy and responsibility I believe they do more, often, to actualize a future of equal opportunity and respect than any hundred slogans, labels, or marches. Kudos!

    • The point of the piece wasn’t really about being a victim. The point of the piece was a look into how people are silenced. How I am silenced. I never called myself a victim here, nor do I see myself as one. (That word. Victim. You used it in your comment. It does not appear in the piece.)

      Now the silence and shame piece – that is something that I’m working on in my own life, and part of the reason why I wrote the piece. Because I’m trying to unpack it. So far – since writing this – I have gotten over six hundred emails. People calling me vile names. People telling me that I had no business writing this. People telling me to shut up. I’m a Very Nice Neighborhood Mom. I am a good wife. I take care of my family. I am kind to old people and children and animals. I would never use the kind of language that these people are saying to me. I would never call any human beings the names that I am being called, over and over and over. never.

      And I could write to all of these people and tell them that it is not okay what they are saying, but my god, that is a waste of time. And I honestly don’t have the emotional energy to try and teach people who I simply don’t think can be taught.

      So, that silencing piece? That fifteen year old who wanted to disappear? That nineteen year old shamed in a public restaurant? It comes from somewhere. And it’s not coming from me. I don’t feel like I’m claiming the victim role – I feel like I’m asking questions. WHY DO WE SILENCE PEOPLE? Why did so many people think that it was perfectly okay to send me emails and call me bad names?

      I don’t have an answer to this? Do you?

      • Do you have a separate, non-personal email that these emails go to? If so, do you have anyone, or would you be willing to take volunteers, to screen that crap so you don’t have to see it? You should not have to read such vile crap. No one should.

        • I should do that. When negativity comes, it usually comes in bunches, and then dies down. On normal days, I get nice things in the email box.

          The last few days it’s been mixed – lots of nasty, and ALSO lots of people writing loving tributes to their beloved pets (in response to another post). Fortunately for me, it’s pretty easy to separate the wonderful from the awful.

          The last few days have been weird because I just have had so many more views than normal – jumping from just a couple hundred a day to tens of thousands. This’ll all die down, I’m sure, and we’ll return to normal.

          Still. A blog-specific email. That’s not a bad idea.

  47. Amen. AMEN! If we could all share those short story snippets as well as you did. If we all realized that feminism isn’t radical at all… that “radical feminism” isn’t controversial, but hilarious… like being a zealot for chocolate. We are ALL feminists because we (should) all believe that men and women deserve equal rights. It’s so simple. Simple as liking chocolate. I’m sorry mean people are filling your electronic places with hate and misunderstanding. This girl thinks you’re the bees knees.

  48. First time commenter, linked from Pharyngula. Enjoyed the whole post. The thing that made me want to post was the “radical feminist” t-shirt story. It’s always seemed to me that the proper response to a gratuitous insult followed by “No offense” is

    “Offense taken!”

    There’s a limit to tolerance and manners IMO.

  49. Oh this is a fabulous post, and for me, you cut right to the centre of it here:

    How can we not come up against the blindness of privilege and not want to change? How can we not desire to open our eyes? All social justice movements, in the end, work to remove shadows and blocks. We cannot see injustice if the limits of privilege block the view. If we remove the block we can see unfairness and we can change the world and make it better. Those blocks are removed through experience, through awareness-raising, and, probably most effectively, through story. Story matters.

    Yes, And Yes. yes again. Absolutely

  50. Pingback: December’s Link Roundup | Temperance

  51. *cheers this post* I don’t know what else to say except to stand up and give you a standing ovation. (Also, I just read the titles of your recent posts in the footer and I’m pretty sure I’m about to subscribe to your blog.)

  52. Pingback: “I think the world that we are giving them can be so much better.” -Kelly Barnhill | Musings of a Muggle in Converse

  53. People who love women are feminists, whether they be men or women, they support women’s rights and understand (or try to understand) the trials of being a woman. Unfortunately American society is rooted in patriarchy so women have been told what to do, who to be and the media does little justice to what a woman should look like-celebrities, models, the like do not represent the majority of women in society. A higher percentage of women than men have depression probably because women have higher expectations to meet, and might end up blaming themselves for not doing something right or not meeting others’ expectations. The double bind & glass ceiling phenomenon come into mind.

    Thank you for writing this. It is very inspiring and I can relate to your experiences. Keep on writing and telling others what feminism means to you. Maybe you’ll help people change how they think about women, or at least help others become aware of their misogyny.

  54. I’m not sure if you’ll get to read all of these comments, but just in case… I appreciate this post and the issue you raise. I can’t un-feminist-ize myself, just to make everyone else comfortable; only silence can remove my feminism, and I don’t do “hush now little girl” very well.

  55. Since you get so much “ugly” email and comments, I will leave you with the most beautiful word I know, “choice.” You have it, and you have chosen well to be true to what moves you and what you know to be right. Most people project instead of reflect when they talk to someone or read their work.

  56. Kelly, as always, this is heartshatteringly brilliant. Everyone in the world should read it. For those who somehow disagree, it forces them to try to come up with reasoning for their own opinions, which is, at the very least, an exercise that everyone should engage in more often. For those of us who agree, it helps our heads to better understand what our hearts feel, and that’s a valuable exercise as well. For those somewhere in between, this is the kind of writing that changes minds.

    The last and best tactic of those who seek to defend and preserve the status quo is to just wait out those seeking to change it, hoping those they oppose get frustrated and drop it. The world needs posts like this, and writers like you.

  57. I get the same sort of comments and mail…though usually it’s when I try and point out something about George Zimmerman’s behavior. I agree that feminism isn’t a bad thing. The goal of feminism isn’t to displace men. It’s to allow people to be treated as people, and part of that is to allow women to be treated as people. From one author and feminist to another, don’t give up speaking about your beliefs!

  58. Hi
    Got here from Scott Edelman’s Facebook, so a shout out to him, and thank you to you for writing this.

    The point that jumps out at me is that this post is about people talking, sometimes unpleasantly, past each other. You can’t understand why they can’t understand why you are so obviously right. And, vice versa, of course. Then the conversation stops. What do you do when you not just disagree, but, find that what you disagree on is fundamental to who you are? I don’t have an answer, thought not being rude or mean about it seems a good place to start.

    Thanks again.

  59. Great post. I love your use of the stories from your life. The people who complain about some of your posts don’t have to read those particular post if they don’t want to. Last I checked, you can write about many different topics on one blog.

  60. Great blog post. And how tiring to get that lousy repetitive feedback at times -especially when really your main blog focus is writing for young people (under age).

    I wrote a blog post simply on how cycling is liberating for women’s independent mobility. Like you, a topic about feminism, that is really an off-shoot , one-time facet of my main whole blog focus –cycling, travel, art, etc.

    Sometimes by just publishing and not responding to people who are so negative, the person reveals who they truly are. Better that it be aired to the world, rather than festering away like a boil.

  61. I think many people, including most “feminists” mistake feminism for female superiority. Feminism and superiority are not the same thing, and honestly have many of the same components as racism. I fight for a world where people can look past gender, age, skin color, and whatever else. I want people to judge people based on who they are and what they represent as an individual. I wrote further on this topic in a blog post of my own: http://www.alinktothematt.com/2013/12/09/my-problem-with-feminism/

    • Interesting. I have never met a feminist (notice the lack of quotation marks) who behaves in that way. For me, the core of feminism is the assertion of the core dignity and humanity of all people. Furthermore, the great gift of feminism to all of us has been the transformation of romantic relationships from one that was fundamentally owner/owned to a radical equality. You cannot be in true relationship with a non-equal. It is only through equality that we can have true love, true forgiveness, true partnership.

      • That’s why I used the quotation marks. It may not be that way where you’re at, but I can’t seem to find a feminist where I live that isn’t, for lack of a better word, a jerk.

        Anyway, I very much enjoyed the blog. You’ve got the right idea.

        • It makes me sad that you’ve had that experience. Jerks are the opposite of fun, regardless of the gender. Fortunately, I truly believe that people of good heart and honest intention vastly outnumber the bad.

          My best to you.

          • I really hope you’re right. But my gosh I meet so many people on a daily basis who don’t even understand the concept of being kind. I guess that’s why we blog, right? To change the world for the better though words.

            Anyway, I’m really enjoying your blog. Let’s keep in touch. I’m following for new posts!

  62. Please don’t keep quiet! I loved your post and identified so strongly with your personal experiences as well as your confusion at people’s negative reactions to feminism. When I was growing up, sexual harassment from boys and men was seen as the norm and I don’t believe girls knew to expect anything better. Unfortunately I don’t think things have improved that much. I am also mystified by many things I see, hear and read. Yet to speak out about these issues often leaves you feeling like you’re some kind of hyper-politically correct, ranting, man-hating lunatic.

    This week I have been bothered about the portrayal of women in Australian media. I’ve seen toddler girls used to advertise luxury jewellery in a women’s fashion magazine. The “for men” lift out section of my state newspaper today consisted of the following. Six fairly suggestive shots of women in bikinis. An article on how to spot plastic surgery. interviews with models being asked top quality questions like, “Have you ever been skinny dipping?” Advertisements for Christmas gifts including “hot outfits” for “your girl” or beauty clinic treatments for your loved ones or mate. The use of excellent journalistic language such soft-cock, wanker, boobs and dick. Really? Is this all we have to offer our men?

    Many would say I’m overreacting but I think our children deserve a better representation of both women AND men in popular media. So keep it coming Kelly, it does matter, we should expect much more and we do need feminism.

  63. Men. You educate one generation to respect others and along comes another with the same old attitudes. It’s endless and depressing.

      • I think men would need a dna transplant to be truly different. But like you I live in hope. I have 3 grandsons and I hope they exceed my expectations.

  64. Reblogged this on metalheadfairy and commented:
    Well narrated. I’ve had my fair share of men thinking they own women and losing power sometimes because you simply don’t want to make a scene. Or draw any kind of attention for fear you would somehow be to blame. I’d probably write about my views one day.

  65. I can’t believe how triggery this article is to me. My chest aches, my breath is short and I’m balling like a hurt little child. As much as this has shocked my system, I thank you for it. I was not the issue, “they” were, mean, misogynistic men and women.

      • @kellybarnhill

        I’m trying to understand why people are attacking you on this specific piece. I don’t understand why they find it so offensive or wrong. I’m 41 years old, the oldest of seven daughters, wife and mom of two boys. I can relate to this on so many levels. I put up with so much garbage from my parents, Churches, Bible school, jobs and others. You’re simply reminding us that no one owns us and no one has the right to cross our personal space. I don’t know how many of my own personal stories popped up in my head as I read your brief biography in this post.

        Thank you and thank you again for your courage and kindness in sharing these stories.

        I wish you the absolute best!

  66. Keep writing. Stay strong. I admire you and your message is one that needs to be shared. I’ve been fighting this fight for over 40 years now. We have chipped away at some things and done the “2 steps forward, one step back” for a while. You have my support.

    Thank you.

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  68. Elegant post, and a remarkable display of tolerance for some rather wicked commenters. I have little to offer but inadequate praise, and a hope that the whole zero-sum notion that’s making so much misery in so many aspects of life gets dropped soon. Life is better and easier if people work together rather than contest constantly for any speck of advantage.

  69. This is awesome. I have some (probably) controversial thoughts on feminism but am one none the less. I think an important part of this movement is missing: women are sexual agents of their own will. We have the power to confront men infringing on our space and never feel like a “bitch”. We also have the power to initiate sex and never feel like a “slut”. It is incredibly important for women to support each other in this end. We never need to be victims, especially when we have a group to rally behind us.

  70. Kelly,

    This popped on my wordpress feed. Amazingly well written. Thank you for publishing this.

    This touches on something that I hear more and more – the use of ‘feminist’ as a negative epithet. It is worrying that society increasingly negatively associates feminism with something dirty or rabid or militant. And it is not only men that use the term ‘feminist’ in this way. As you say, women use the term in such a manner too. If one calls another a feminist with a negative association surely this means one is trying to assert that one is not a feminist and distance oneself from the feminist movement. My most hated term – ‘femi-nazi’. This term gets thrown at anyone arguing that gender relations in society are still unequal. This is worrying precisely because it is another way in which the hegemonic discourse ensures subscription to the prevailing gender-power norms. Feminism is at it’s heart about equality. If feminists, myself included, are militant it is because we need to be because attitudes such as these prevail. The fact that women themselves are subscribing to an unequal and oppressive status quo shows gender equality is not going anywhere without the pressure of feminists. But how do we balance this with the need to be considered seriously, not immediately dismissed as that crazy feminist in the corner?

    Recently, I had a friend describe to me how they were not a feminist but they believed in gender equality. Astounded I asked her what she thought feminism was. She explained to me that she had been taught by her lecturers that feminists want women on top and that gender equality was different. Hastily I explained how incorrect that was. But if this is what is being taught, disseminated and interpreted in our communities it does not bode well for perceptions of the feminist movement.

    On non-related not. If you would like you’re welcome to visit my blog (thebicyclemigrant.wordpress.com). I’m a 26 years old feminist, male, vegetarian, mountain-biker living and working in Indonesia for a small non-government organisation which is working to empower women in a post-conflict region.

    Please keep writing about feminism. Ignore your detractors. Like you, feminism colours my world and everything I see. How can we ignore that?

  71. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! The story of the Science Fiction Convention really touched me. As an aspiring female writer, I’m saddened to see a writer a successful as you still be harassed by men like this. Hopefully someday we all live in a world were women are treated like people, not walking and talking sex toys. Women’s bodies should not be treated like property! It pains me to think of all the girls like me and you who just want to get home after a long track practice, and yet because of their gender, they are sexually harassed.

  72. This post was perfect! Well done 🙂 I’m so sorry you receive so much negativity for your views though people can get really mean on the internet. I really identified with everything you had to say though. Even when people can be rude and negative, just remember there are loads of readers who are totally on board with what you’re saying too 🙂 keep writing you’re doing great!!

  73. Some of the accounts were horrifying, especially the one where the guy had his nerve to say you weren’t smart enough for medical school! The sheer nerve!

    I understand the fear of men; it’s most of the reason I don’t date now.

    • The thing is, though? There are WONDERFUL men in the world. I’m married to one. I am surrounded by many – good, good guys who love their partners and children and who do good every day. I have a TON of hope for the future!

  74. One of many comments here! You may not read it after all.

    In my opinion feminism is a nessesary tool or movement to correct all the wrong that’s been done to women in the last few milleniums.
    When people hear “feminism”, they think of lesbian, butch, short haired, men-hating beasts who only turned to feminism because no man would take them. It’s sad, but many have not arrived in the modern world yet. Things are changing, but there’s still so much to do. All over the world women are still rapen, enslaved, discriminated against because religion and cultural norms tell us it’s ok. They are unworthy.

    My far off dream – it will probably never come true – is that nobody feels superior to anyone else, therefore there is no need for discrimination or hate. No hate against women, homosexuals, transsexuals, blacks or any “group of people” that ever has been or ever will be hated and harassed.

    But honestly sometimes I think humanity is simply too stupid.

    Great Post 🙂

  75. Could you please come live at my house and talk to me forever?

    We need feminism because amazing people like you are told to keep quiet about their views. Does anyone else see the irony in people telling self-proclaimed feminists that we need to keep it to ourselves because it’s “no longer necessary”?

    I do not have children yet, but my partner and I have talked at length about our hypothetical future kid(s) and entertainment, media, etc. I think we’ve found an author we would be proud to share with our offspring. Thanks for writing.

  76. As a man, I don’t have any stories like this. Most likely I never will. But I know about them, I understand, maybe just a little, because women like you tell your stories. Please, never stop talking about them. Women need to never stop talking about it until all of the men who are ignoring the simple, everyday, and terrible things women go through as part of living in society cannot ignore them any more. One of the greatest things feminism has accomplished is giving women a voice. There is a still a long way to go. But some of us are listening, you need to keep speaking through all the hate, just as you are, until everyone does. You are awesome.

  77. Pingback: “A man in a car pulls up. He opens the window. He asks my name. I have been well-trained.” | feimineach

  78. Please don’t stop talking about your politics. Please don’t stop advocating for fair treatment of all people. Please don’t stop pointing out godawful themes in the stories that shape our lives. This anti feminist shit has got to stop.

  79. I have started this comment over and over. I am not sure what to say other than “Thank You”. I have very very similar stories to your incidences and I always forget that I am not alone that other women have experienced the same thing. And I too was taught to be silent about such things.

    I was adopted by an Aunt and Uncle. The Uncle spent many years molesting me, and even when the Aunt found out nothing was done. I realize now because she did not have the strength to do anything about it because she too had been taught that women should be meek etc. I put a stop to it with a rather graphic threat involving a French Chef’s knife.

    Time passed I told my story to some friends, to a counselor and was told that I just needed to stop thinking about it and stop talking about it and it would “go away”. Guess what, it didn’t. It didn’t until I started being my own best advocate. I found a different counselor and recently found a loving husband who is probably the biggest feminist I know.

    When I was in college I was once called a “tree huggin, hemp smokin, long haired, comfortable shoe wearing feminist” by a professor. In class I smiled sweetly and said “Why Thank You but make that Radical Feminist”. It stopped him dead in his tracks.

    I am an accountant. I face people who think “women just are not good with money” all the time. I usually laugh because they are sitting in my office because they are in trouble with the IRS because “they are not good with numbers”. I have only once had a man walk out of my office saying that he wanted a man to take care of his products. Again I got the last laugh, two years later he was back in my office post IRS audit with a huge tax bill and a request to straighten out his books so that it did not happen again.

    My husband stays at home takes care of the house, the garden, etc. He is having medical issues and I make enough to support us and my college age daughter. It works for us, but I am continually amazed at the negative comments he gets for his role. I get home from work after six to dinner almost ready to go on the table, a clean home, and my laundry done etc. Next summer he is putting in a garden and planting the flowers I love and never have time to tend across the front of the house.

    Sorry this got so long, but I just wanted to say Thank YOu!

  80. Ya know why women aren’t paid as much as men? Because men don’t leave work every two hours to go fix a runny nose or an untied shoelace.
    Got kids? Stay home and raise them. Can’t afford to? Don’t have kids.

  81. I am so sorry that women have to grow up with this fear. I entered college and didn’t realize that this was something that women had to live with. I met this girl named Tatiana while at college, and she became one of my favorite people on my floor (co-ed). She made it all real for me when she went off on a guy on our floor saying that he didn’t have to worry about getting attacked when walking to his car like a woman does. It shocked me that people actually worry about those kinds of things.

    I don’t want to say that I was raised sheltered, I have experienced more than my fair share of hate being gay, but I do think I was raised oblivious to the challenges of others, whether they be of another race, another gender, another sexuality, or any combination. But Tatiana erased the delusion had of the world be a safe and harmless place. There was always a difference between seeing it on T.V. and knowing that it was real life.

    I know I can not completely empathize with what any woman is going through, but I can definitely try to learn your struggles. I hope you keep posting articles like this! I really enjoyed it!! Have a fantastic day!!!


  82. This is the best post I’ve read in a very long time. Feminism is misunderstood. Always will be. Somehow (and for whatever reasons) this word, feminism, became a slur. I do hope, however, that intelligence and education will prevail eventually, and feminism will be understood for whatever it is.
    Loved the story about a t-shirt. Made me smile.

  83. I care about your politics. I value your opinions. Whether I agree with you on every detail of every issue is not the point; if everybody had all the same opinions, the world would be a pretty colorless place. I’m impressed with the way you express yourself; I think it’s beautiful, and it’s your right and it’s nobody’s place to tell you otherwise.

  84. Thanks for writing this post. Makes me feel stronger about my opinion that even if the whole world is at one side, in doing the wrong thing, it’s OK and Important to stand by what ‘you’ think is right. We can make this world a better place, just by doing that. Keep writing! God Bless You.

  85. It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything this good (that also wasn’t from classical antiquity), and I rarely comment. This is easily one of the greatest blog posts ever written. Thank you for sharing your life with us. And thank you for writing-while-feminist, and more than anything and desperately thank you for being a writer.

  86. Your post pretty much left me speechless. I’m so glad you’ve carried on speaking your minda fter people have tried to stop you. I hope your kids are proud to have a mother like you because I would be.

  87. Thank you for have a blog like this , when we can comment and discuss about the way we see the world.
    You have meet people that doesn´t like or hate feminism, but in the place i live is like if the people were afraid of feminist and feminism.

    There are so many reactions aginst feminism out there…

  88. I didn’t read past the initial anecdote.
    “It is the first time I am ever afraid of a man. It is the first time that it ever occurs to me to be afraid. It will not be the last.”

    If you want to spread the word on feminism, it might help if you didn’t generalize the male population who might otherwise be interested in your message.

    Predator, apparently

    • If it bothers you this much to read read another person’s experience, my guess is that you’re not actually an ally. Allies don’t bolt when stories make them uncomfortable. Being an ally, after all, requires empathy and compassion, along with having the backbone to stand up for injustice, even if that injustice doesn’t affect you personally.

      Thanks for stopping by, though. Cheers!

      • Empathy and compassion!
        Way to strawman typical feminist discourse instead of replying earnestly.

        I am less bothered by your experiences than I am by your rude demonization of men. How could you possibly think that vilifying the entire male population is synonymous with the equality you think you are endorsing? Othering is an ethical no-no. Yes, you have individual experiences (welcome to the club), but your fault is in applying your individual experiences to those of everyone else by generalizing men (the point I was hoping you would address). As a man, I would be devastated if someone who read this article was wary of me before I got the chance to make an impression of my own.
        I am ignoring the fact that you promote “stand[ing] up for injustice” rather than standing up to it, by the way.

        • That’s really not at all what I was doing in the piece. If that’s what you got, it really says more about you. And that’s okay – it’s really what Reader Response Theory is all about, that space between the reader and the text.

          I’m sad you had an unpleasant response. It’s no fun, but happens. Most of the men commenting here have had the opposite reaction. So it goes.

          You’re wrong, though, in your thinking. I actually love men. And women. I am an equal-opportunity love fest, and I think radical empathy and politicized compassion and mama-tiger-love for all people will change the world.

          Because I want a better world for my daughters and my son. So does my husband.

          It’s okay if you don’t though. This is an accepting place.

  89. Name dropping lit theory as though spouting the name gives life or merit to your boring response.
    Quoting Vonnegut for the effect of forced nonchalance.
    Again, using a strawman instead of having anything of value to retort.

    Kelly, it is nice to say you stand for something. Actuating your ideology is another matter, however, and it is something I suggest you practice great care with before further immortalizing your subliminally-hateful opinions on a website where, God knows how, you have accrued an open-mouthed fanbase.


    • Sweetie, I don’t hate anyone. Never have. If that’s what you think, it’s on you. It’s certainly not in the text here, nor anywhere in my blog, nor is it in my books. What I’m doing here is trying to make sense of a string of experience – experiences which have resonated with other men and women.

      And it’s okay if they don’t resonate with you. And it’s okay if you don’t like this piece. I respect the right of all people to like what they like.

      I must be very clear on one thing though. I take issue with the term “open-mouthed fanbase”. Given that my fanbase, such as it is, is largely children, I will thank you to confine your insults to me and not them. Only a jerk insults children. Let’s keep it kind, okay?

      Have a pleasant day.

    • I’m sorry, but the burden of proof is on you, Max. You claim not to have read the post past the first anecdote, but then you say, “it might help if you didn’t generalize the male population who might otherwise be interested in your message,” and “I am less bothered by your experiences than I am by your rude demonization of men.”

      Kelly has certainly not generalized or demonized. With wit and elegance, she has shared her experiences and her view of feminism.Her experiences are ones that many of her readers can relate to. Her view is clear.

      How clear? Well, this clear:

      “My books have strong women in them. And unpleasant women. And broken women. My books have strong men in them. And unpleasant men. And broken men. Because all of us are strong, and unpleasant, and broken. Sometimes we are all of these things at once. I am a feminist because I love men, and I believe that they are capable and strong and wise. I am a feminist because I love women, and I believe that they too are capable and strong and wise. And I am a feminist because I fiercely love my kids. And your kids. And the kids that aren’t born yet. And I think the world that we are giving them can be so much better, so much kinder, and so much more just than the one we got right now.”

      Is it a generalization of the male population to say that men can be strong, unpleasant, broken, capable, and wise, in different measures, at different times? I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s a generalization to say that she loves men? But is this the rude demonization you speak of?

      If you are going to criticize a text, then it helps to read a text and then cite the examples you find troubling. You wrote that, “As a man, I would be devastated if someone who read this article was wary of me before I got the chance to make an impression of my own.”

      As a man, I am devastated that you worry about the ridiculous notion that women are going to be wary of you because they read this blog post, when you should worry a bit more that men are exposing themselves to 10-year-old girls in the street, that men are placing their hands on the knees of 15-year-old girls on buses, that married men are tricking women into going to their hotel rooms, that women are berating other women for calling themselves feminists, and that there are a whole lot of people, like yourself, essentially saying “Well I’m not doing that, so shut the hell up!”

      • Thank you for pointing out that I was quick to jump on the article. It was brash of me to form any staunch opinion before reading the text thoroughly.
        I ought to have mentioned that I did read and reread the article. While I do appreciate the message of the paragraph you cited, it is one in contention with the three sentences I referenced.
        “I love men” is an incredibly equivocal, contradictory coverall. How does one love men and keep a distrusting eye on all of them at the same time?

        With respect, it is none of your business where my worries lie. And before anyone says that it is none of my business what this article has to say, I am claiming that that is simply not the case.
        Real life application of the “better safe than sorry with men” outlook has affected me negatively.
        I agree with a lot of what Kelly says and I should have sang her praises alongside what I feel are mistakes.
        That does not negate the essentialist mentality of some of this article, however, and that is what I had qualms with.


        • Max,

          Thanks for your response. I can’t agree with you, however. Loving men is not synonymous with condoning every man’s behavior. If Kelly had written that she hated men (which she most certainly didn’t), then would you accuse her of being “equivocal?” She can love men, and want better of them. She can love women, and want better of them. She can love people, and be distrustful of some. Not once does she state that she keeps a “distrusting eye on all of them at the same time.”

          What she says is this:

          “It is the first time I am ever afraid of a man. It is the first time that it ever occurs to me to be afraid. It will not be the last.”

          She has had frightening experiences involving men. Haven’t you? How is this a blanket condemnation?

          And with respect, it is my business where your worries lie, because you stated them as part of your argument, while at the same time dismissing the worries of many others. I’m sorry that “Real life application of the ‘better safe than sorry with men’ outlook has affected” you negatively, but can you not see the hypocrisy of such a statement? Kelly’s post is about how negative experiences have affected her. Can’t you have empathy for that? I don’t doubt that she has empathy for you.

        • Did you even read the same blog post the rest of us did?

          I read the sentences you quoted, then went back up and read them in context (something I think you should try), and I’m still mystified by your posts, here. And I’m pretty convinced you didn’t actually read this article.

          I ought to have mentioned that I did read and reread the article.

          Bull. I’m sorry, but that’s complete and utter bull. There is literally no way any honest person who actually read Kelly’s post came to the conclusions you did without an ulterior motive.

          It is very clear that in those two sentences, she is talking about specific instances. It also very clear that her generalities about men (and women) were and are extremely positive.

          Maybe you need a crash course in patriarchy, rape culture, and feminism, but the difference is in the keys: for men, keys are just a means to open doors. For women, keys are a weapon for protection.

          Are there exceptions to that rule? Yes. There are men who hold their keys as weapons and women who’ve never even thought of it.

          Do these exceptions invalidate the rule? No. In fact, they prove it.

        • Max, I should point out here that this is not an article. It’s a lyrical essay. They are different, and they are meant to be read differently too. What I tried to do in the writing of this piece was to unpack a series of experiences that have shaped my thinking, and to meditate on how experience impacts voice – how we speak up, how we are silent, and the relationship between fear and subordination. There is more that is left unanswered than is answered. That is intentional. Because this is my life, you know? My questions are not answered yet. And the conclusion has yet to be written.

          I can see your frustration, Max, and I can see that it’s getting in the way of your interacting with what the piece actually says. I did not write a hateful piece – though you read nonexistent hate into my words. I did not write an angry piece – though you seem to be angered at what I wrote about. Again – that’s on you. I encourage you to move on, and I will wish you the best.

  90. I am in absolutely awe of this post! As a woman myself, I can definitely relate to the experiences you’ve shared and the rude comments when I tell others I’m a radical feminist. By this time, you would think this would be COMMON SENSE. There was a study conducted to see the amount of money women vs. men make, and it was discovered that in almost every job that men make significantly more money than women. Your eloquent writing was very concise and entertaining to read, and your experiences with the various men really captured the feminism struggle. Raw, real, and makes a bold statement.

  91. Thank you for writing this! It really resonated with me. The stories you describe so eloquently have happened to me, my sisters, girl cousins. Not my daughters yet. They don’t ride bikes around the neighbourhood. It’s not fair. Thank you for speaking your truth!!

  92. I think feminism has been given a bad name but women who DO take it too far with the men-bashing and stupidity just because they think it looks “cool” or they think that’s what feminism is all about.

    I’m on the other side of the spectrum – the weird, fat chick that men AND women find okay to shun and bully and just treat as less than human, less than WOMAN because I don’t fit the status quo of what media and society deems is “proper” for a woman to be.

  93. Linked here from PZ Myers, and I just wanted to let you know you had a new reader, and that I absolutely support pretty much everything you’ve said here. I hope you always keep going, and I hope you don’t get discouraged by all of the slimy, hateful people who are all too eager to harass those they wish would remain silent.

  94. “Keep your feminism to yourself” is a sentence that embodies ignorance. I hate it. I actually sat shocked listening to an otherwise intelligent person say shit like “women don’t deserve equal pay because they get maternity leave. Men don’t.” I agree that man need to too, but why blame women?! This system, patriarchy, is never identified as being bad for all sexes, genders and sexualities. I wish everyone realised their worth and didn’t think the system was acceptable. There are some terrible misconceptions about feminism.

  95. This is wonderfully written, thank you. It always shocks me when other women are against equality for women, when anyone is against equality for everyone, or when people think there isn’t an inequality problem.

    At dinner with some colleagues last week, a co-worker made a comment about how surprising it was that her appointment that afternoon was successful. She was disappointed that the woman she was meeting with was so pretty because “really beautiful women aren’t very smart”. Even more shocking to my co-worker was that she had already achieved the position of department head in her early 30’s.

    Really? Really, really? You can’t be beautiful and smart? It is surprising that a woman in her 30’s manages 50 people? My mouth fell open in shock. No one said a word. A few people “hmm” what sounded like agreement and nodded…hopefully, they were just too surprised by the comments to say anything.

  96. I’m not a feminist and I’m not an anti feminist either. I really like the way you write and the way you view things. I also love your writing. And to tell you the truth, this debate will never end. But let’s just be humans and love each other through our different opinions. I don’t care if you’re a feminist.
    I’m following you now, because I like do understand your point of view.

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  99. I need a t-shirt like that. I love this post. Thank you for writing it. Your experiences echo my experiences, and I am scared every day that my daughter will face the same. Posts like this give me hope that maybe she won’t.

  100. I wouldn’t worry too much about using emotional appeal; we all use emotional appeal, whether it is a story from our childhood, or the statement that we wish to include all people in the discussion. Making the statement itself is an emotional appeal – don’t we all wish to be valued as individuals? Come now. The idea that everyone is right and trying for the same end result only in different ways has been over-played in this era and has no true value. Not everyone is athetically talented. Therefore, everyone receiving a trophy simply for being there is ridiculous. Not every idea has merit, and including those who don’t believe in equality for all in the conversation serves no purpose either except to give the impression that incorrect and immoral points of view should be listened to even though they are wrong.

    Note: The last statement in no way slams the woman who is against abortion. Even though I am pro-choice, and adamantly so, I also recognize there is a moral dilemma within the choice to terminate a life. I prefer to keep the option available and let each individual deal with the dilemma according to their own personal circumstances and situation rather than allowing institutions to make that choice for them. Enough said.

    So. Keep up the emotional appeals, Kelly. A nay-sayer wrapped in a pretty package in still a nay-sayer regardless of how sparkly. Anyone who believes rights should be withheld for ANY reason isn’t a person I want to sit at the conversational table with. If we can’t tell people they are wrong because it might hurt their feelings, nothing will ever get done. Smokers feel alienated – do we care? Pedophiles feel alienated – social issue? I think not. Wrong is wrong and the idea that we shouldn’t tell the truth because someone else will feel side-lined or personally devalued is never a good enough reason to allow a lie or an injustice. When did having to face that you are wrong become a bad thing?

    Yay to the feminists and the men who love them. Or women. Or whatever. And yay for your blog – keep it up. 🙂

  101. Keep writing from the heart and never be afraid to fail or that that failure makes you one. I do have a site for you. It is from a feminist whose only ideas are abortion. It is more bold and diverse and not politically correct. This woman lives it and it could cost her, her life.


    I am sure you will like this because she is no bs, And puts women first where women are regarded as chattel.

  102. Thanks so much for this wonderful post! This is the kind of feminism I think we need more of, to keep telling our stories, to keep insisting on feminism as a good thing for everyone. FWIW, the persistent, difficult commenter (above) has also spouted nonsense on my feminist blog – I think this person goes around looking to harass. Don’t let it discourage you. I’m feeling so encouraged by what you’ve written – it’s a great gift to have a new blog to follow!

  103. that was a wonderful and wonderfully depressing short there…i”m glad i ran across this…and, i wasn’t searching for “mom butt porn” or nothing…imagine that…hope you had a Merry Merry

  104. Please- keep on keepin’ on. Ignore the crazies. A work colleague, during a discussion on what was essentially a feminist issue, told me “I can’t believe you’re a liberal, you’re a family man!” I was so dumbfounded I couldn’t reply with something clever. But it just means, stereotypes are all some folks rely upon for their thinking.

  105. I’m so happy this came up on “Freshly Pressed”! I love how you think and how you portrayed your thoughts! The stories were powerful and moving and well-placed. I, personally, never called myself a “feminist”, but mostly because I don’t like to put labels on myself. I support human rights and equality among humans- regardless of sex, race, sexual orientation. In my perfect world, we would all know the power we have in ourselves and our power is even greater when we support each other. Thanks for this post and I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  106. reading about your experiences made rage rise in me…against these men who wield power simply because they have a dick…these things SHOULD be spoken i if we want our daughters to be able to stand up and say no!! thank you!

  107. Pingback: Closing a Year of Human Rights Violations and Attacks on Civility | Techrights

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  109. Amazing and inspirational. A depth of gratitude and solidarity, my sister we fight on. The battle is far from over.
    From a radical feminist to another.

  110. I think people object to feminists because (1) feminism is an extremely destructive ideology which is tearing families and society apart (2) feminists use emotional anecdotes rather than reason and evidence to promote and justify feminism (3) feminism is not based on any clear principles. Without no clear principles which must be adhered to in order to ‘be a feminist’ anyone can (and is invited to) be a feminist, just by declaring themselves a feminist. You can ‘be a feminist’ and complain about how awful it is for any man hit a women, while at the same time hitting your children (which is a far greater abuse of power/ strength unbalance). Feminism does not even reject physical violence – and feminists will regularly debate hitting children on daytime TV …as if there is even a debate to be had!!! Imagine a bunch of men debating the pros and cons of hitting their girlfriends on daytime TV. The TV station would get burnt to the ground (and rightly so).

    Instead of being based on a clearly defined principles, such as not eating meat (vegetarianism) or not using violence (the non-aggression plrinciple), feminism is based on an emotive, over simplified and wholly inaccurate ‘victim narrative’ where men are supposed to have created and dominated society past and present in a way that oppresses women.

    This is simply not true. For a start throughout history men, women, children and animals were ALL oppressed, not by men, but by a harsh living without technology and with too many ignorant and insane beliefs and superstitions. Feminism claims marriage is an institution designed to oppress women, overlooking the fact that marriage was a contract which society forced men to sign before he was allowed to get into bed with her. This contract (and the taboo of breaking it) ensured he stuck around to provide for her and the children because a woman with child is unable to gather resources for herself. If marriage is so oppressive why do more women than men desire to get married?

    Another claim of the ‘feminist victim narrative’ is that women were kept indoors and not allowed to work outside the home until they fought for this right over the last century or two. Were women really imprisoned in their homes, or did they CHOOSE to be there rather than go out and plough the fields, build roads by hand, fish in the open seas in wooden boats and work down mines as most men did? Is it just a coincidence that women only started trying to get into the workplace when the workplace became a largely indoor, safe, comfortable and pleasant environment? (ie an office or heated, mechanised factory).

    The truth is that traditional roles were forced on men AND women by circumstance and biological suitability. And women CHOSE to give up a degree of importance in society in return for a safer, healthier, less life threatening existence. That is to say women brought up men to feel that to risk their lives and health gathering resources for the family and community made them ‘important’ and ‘manly’. And women have always taught boys/ men that to desire comfort, self expression, individuality, safety, protection, and domesticity makes them unattractive to women (no sex boys!) . Women have always claimed a monopoly on the right to enjoy these things, and in return they were willing to give up ‘importance’ in society. Which would you rather be… an ‘important’ man having his legs blown off in the trenches or drowning at sea, or a second class citizen at home cooking a hot meal on the stove and tending to domestic chores?

    Of course that is not to say men don’t enjoy providing resources and protection for women and children. A big part of men’s identity is about giving up their individuality in order to serve the family and community. And women encourage them to do this.

    Another feminist myth is that the tiny minority of men who sit in positions of power are somehow oppressing women, while benefiting their fellow men. This is nonsense. The ruling class have always oppressed everyone. For women to gain equal status as men has meant women today are now equally enslaved to the ‘tax farm’ …. as men have been for centuries. Now women must surrender 50% of their productivity to the state whereas before 100% of their productivity went towards herself and her family.

    What liberated women from the kitchen (and men from the fields) was advances in technology (mostly invented by men). Sure, it took a few generations for society to adjust to these huge and rapid changes, but that process is now complete. Women and men have equal rights…… but being a victim is addictive – it is very hard to give up!

    Feminists are addicted to being victims. More children are abused by women than men. Rape and domestic abuse is pretty evenly distributed among men and women. Some studies now suggest more men are raped than women (in the US). Women now do better than men in schools and universities thanks to feminist programs. Women only earn less than men because (on average) they value money less than other things (free time, socialising, health, family life etc). And of course wealth is a big part of how men attract women, so you can hardly blame men for being so desperate to earn it. Women also exert a great deal of effort to attract men (cosmetic surgery etc). Women may earn less on average but they control 80% of the household income.

    Just where is this inequality feminists speak of?

    Feminism is really a form of terrorism, but rather than point the gun at men, by playing the victim role all the time feminists point the gun at themselves – thus provoking men’s (and society’s) natural reaction to sacrifice themselves for women.

    Feminism is basically a passive-aggressive, shaming strategy for acquiring resources from men and from the state …… resources in the form of special treatment, favourable legislation, ‘free stuff’ and sympathy.

    Among other things it is destroying the family, and the dire consequences to children of a fatherless upbringing are now becoming apparent. Fatherless upbringing is the number one indicator of childhood dysfunction (depression, drug use, unwanted teenage pregnancy, gang culture, depression etc). Fathers (or father figures) are required for the proper development of empathy, delayed gratification etc.

    In this post feminist society children often grow up without any male role models at all. They are surrounded by single mothers and her female friends, female daycare staff, female school teachers….

    For girls this results in an identity where female-hood becomes important than personhood. Girls see themselves as female first and people second. And this results in them competing to be the most female or the most feminine…. by playing the roles of fragile victim, or valuable female ‘goddess’. This only perpetuates and exaggerates the feminist victim narrative as these girls grow up to view women in terms of ‘passive creatures having stuff done to them’ and men in terms of ‘active creatures doing stuff to women’.

    It’s a mess! 🙂

    • I’m not sure who these post-feminist fatherless families are that you worry about so much. In my experience, I am surrounded by a tight-knit, wonderful community of long-married, gender-equitable families, their kids running happily from yard to yard as the grown-ups hang out on porches with coffee and conversation. In some of theses families the wife is the breadwinner, and in others it’s the husband. Now, it should be noted that the men in my friendship circle were all very marriage-minded to begin with – all spent a long time wooing and cajoling their independent girlfriends to bend toward matrimony. Maybe that makes a difference. In any case, I think it’s fair to say that my experience does not lead me to believe that anything is a mess. All I can see is happy families and loving relationships. Maybe you just need new friends. 🙂

      • Fatherless families are most prevalent in poorer communities where (among other things) state welfare incentivises the mother to get rid of the father.

        Boys without a father figures then join gangs as a substitute, leading them into criminality and often jail time which then prevents them from being able to be good fathers to their kids too.

        The ‘war on drugs’ also makes things even worse with children being denied a father for ten years or more simply because he was in possession of the ‘wrong’ kind of vegetation.

        The whole thing descends into a vicious cycle of dysfunctional (or simply non existent) families, creating a dysfunctional underclass who get all their values from gang culture or Hollywood, a culture full of crime and dependent on state welfare (and where being on welfare is normalised).

        Black crime far outweighs white crime in the US and black males form the majority of the prison population. Interestingly if you take into account fatherless upbringings, blacks are actually no more criminally inclined than whites. Therefore fatherless upbringings are the main factor turning young men towards crime. Race is a red herring.

        If your social circle is made up of stable and equal relationships and close knit communities that’s great. I didn’t mean to imply feminism had destroyed all of society… yet 😉

    • looks at the ground

      Why is there straw on the floor?

      notices trail of straw

      Oh… that’s why… someone’s constructed a strawman again… damnit. Why do people keep doing this? It’s not like there any crows to scare…

        • It is a strawman argument, actually, because it conflates correlation with causation. You could argue that feminism has caused fatherlessness in poor communities ONLY if the majority of adults in that community identified as feminist. If not, then they are basing their life choices on something OTHER than feminism. Do you see?

          • Fatherless households (and social dysfunction generally) is caused by a variety of factors. I mentioned some of them already (the ‘war on drugs’, welfare etc).

            Whether or not feminism causes fatherless households (and any other social ills) is beside the point. The point is feminism does nothing to address, let alone explain, let alone attempt solve any of those social issues. Instead it promotes a ‘victim narrative’ based on the vague and unsupported idea of ‘oppression of women by men’. And that narrative, and the social policies resulting from feminism, only help to encourage, normalise and incentivise fatherless upbringings (and other social ills).

            The problem with feminism is that it is not based on any clear principles. It is based on asserting one’s own selfish desires and using victimhood as a kind of threat to manipulate society into giving you what you want. As such feminism invites every conceivable self-serving agenda to attempt to gain leverage under the banner of feminism.

            One of those agendas is the expansion of the state. If feminism had been based on clear principles, rather than merely selfish goals, the state would have had a much harder time trying to get its grubby mits onto women’s productivity (which up until that time had been hers to keep and share with her family). And families today would be twice as well off, everyone would be much less stressed, have more free time, children would be raised with more love and attention, there’d be less crime, everyone would be happier, and the state would not have been able to expand into the giant war mongering police state that it is today.

            Feminists may not have intentionally caused these disasters – from fatherless upbringings to never ending wars of genocide – but their actions sure have enabled these things. In the end what’s the difference?

            “..You could argue that feminism has caused fatherlessness in poor communities ONLY if the majority of adults in that community identified as feminist…”

            Not true. What matters is which groups are able to influence government policy. Feminism is an ideology which advocates for, or at the very least lends itself to, the creation of bigger and more intrusive government. All political parties are sympathetic towards the feminist movement. It’s no surprise that feminist – more than other groups – are able to influence government policies, because all of those policies mean more government departments, more taxation, more control over society and the creation of an even bigger dependent class (who, now dependent on government handouts, will always support bigger government).

            Try to bring rational, evidence-based arguments to the table and you end up being accused of hating women, supporting the ‘patriarchy’ (whatever that is)…. or making strawman arguments 🙂

            • “evidence-based”

              You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.

              Specifically because you have yet to provide a single instance of evidence for any one of your claims. Your blaming feminists for the patriarchy. How in the hell does that make any sense?

              What the hell does feminism have to do with global was, or the war on drugs? You think feminists want to break up families? Why? Because we support marriage for all people regardless of sexual orientation (so we support two men marrying each other, or two women marrying each other)? Because we want there to be more support for single-parent households (regardless of the gender-identity of the parent)? Because we support the rights of all people on the LGBTQ spectrum? Because we think the person who should pay alimony (child support) should be the one who makes more money, again regardless of whether that’s the the mom or the dad? Because we know that, today, men still make more money than women by default, and we want that to change so that salaries are more equal between genders (and yes, that’s taking into account all external factors, including maternity leave)?

              • “..Specifically because you have yet to provide a single instance of evidence for any one of your claims….”

                Everything I’ve described is proven in well established studies and not refuted. If you refute anything I’ve said you’re welcome to be specific.

                “…Your blaming feminists for the patriarchy….”

                I never said that. What is the ‘patriarchy’? Can you define it please? How does it oppress women? For all of history life has been tough for everyone (men, women, children and animals). Harsh environments and lack of technology oppressed everyone. In what way is being stuck in the home darning socks more oppressive than working down a mine with a pick axe? Which would you rather do? The household chores a woman was required to do (to survive) was more labour intensive than most manual labour jobs are today! There’s no way a woman could cope with the even tougher jobs men did like building roads by hand. Where is the male oppression?

                Sure the social hierarchy has always oppressed women, but it has always oppressed men too – and children. By definition the people in positions of power in the hierarchy (whether they are men or women) have no allegiance to ordinary men (or ordinary women). If they did they would not have chosen to violently rule over them and generally exploit and oppress them.

                “…What the hell does feminism have to do with global was, or the war on drugs? ..”

                The fact that you need to ask shows how vacuous feminism is. If feminists really cared about the family, about their children, about peace, about a safe society they would oppose policies which go against all of those things. But they don’t. Feminists complain about violence, about rape, about feeling ‘unsafe’ in society…. yet they refuse to condemn violence itself and the social policies which lead to the very unstable, dysfunctional unsafe society they say they hate. Feminism does not even condemn mothers hitting their own children!

                Women are still the primary caregivers to children and 90% of women admit to still hitting their infants/ children. Hitting children lowers their IQ, it harms the development of the rational mind, it destroys empathy, it encourages sociopathy or even psychopathy. A young child shoved in daycare experiences abandonment that qualifies as abuse. Without adequate parental bonding – especially between 0-5 years a child does not develop empathy and the ability to form strong relationships. Feminists who could easily afford to raise their children full time are celebrated for choosing to abandon them to pursue a ‘fulfilling’ career instead.

                Hitting your child is irrational, and it is sexually humiliating. And it teaches children the language of irrationality and sexual humiliation, just as speaking French to a child teaches that child how to speak French. Fast forward 20 years and guess what kind of man or woman that child is going to be? Feminism has no regard for children’s wellbeing, and raising children properly is the best (and really the only) way to change society for the better.

                Every rapist, tyrant, war monger and wife beater out there was hit as a child by its mother – guaranteed.

                I’ve never heard one feminist advocate non-violent parenting as a possible solution to the so called ‘patriarchy’. This is because feminism is not interested in fixing the world, or doing the right thing.

                Feminism is only interested in promoting feminism.

              • If your arguments are irrefutable, I’m sure you’ll have no problem providing links to peer-reviewed studies backing up your claims. 90% of mothers hitting their kids? In which countries, and in what sample sizes?

                I’m a feminist. I stay home with my kids. One of the gifts of the feminists before me is that the decision to do so – indeed the decision to be a mother at all – was a CHOICE. If you don’t know what feminism stands for (as evidenced by your lack of knowledge that it was feminists who worked to end child labor, and it was feminists who advocated for both maternity and paternity leave, and it was feminists who have worked to strengthen laws protecting children from abuse, and it is feminists who, right now, are working to end the scourge of sex trafficking throughout the world) I can give you a great reading list.

          • I followed your link and the first information which hit me was that not all feminists are hairy legged man haters followed by loaded question about rape, framing it as a crime which is only perpetuated against women. (in reality rape victims are split about 50/50 between men and women).

            This only confirms what I said…. that feminism is not based on any principles, or any evidence…. but instead it is a victim narrative used to cynically manipulate society.

            Compare that to a 101 of vegetarianism……. Vegetarians are people who choose not to eat meat either for ethical reasons or simply out of personal preference.

            There. Done. Now we all know where we stand. People don’t ‘identify’ as vegetarian, they either ARE a vegetarian or they are NOT.

            Why can’t feminism belike that? Answer: because it is not based on any clearly defined principles. It is just a ‘mob’ waving a banner and demanding stuff.

            • Demanding what “stuff”, exactly? Advocating for equal treatment under the law, or asserting that each individual is entitled to the same dignity and respect, or insisting that every human person has the right to safety, bodily integrity and autonomy isn’t “demanding stuff”. It’s just treating people as fully human, and desrving of honor and love.

              • “…Demanding what “stuff”, exactly? ..”

                Welfare after they’ve kicked out a boyfriend/ husband because he was ‘unfulfilling’. Welfare is taken from the public by force (at gunpoint). In reality the money just goes onto the debt, to be recovered (again at gunpoint) from future generations. Perhaps from the mother’s own children. Ironic isn’t it.

                “..Advocating for equal treatment under the law…”

                Then why aren’t feminists advocating for equal treatment of men and women in the criminal court system? Men get far greater sentences and conviction rates than women for the exact same crimes. The difference is huge. If feminists were all about equality then they’d be addressing this issue. But the are not.

                Do you agree that fighting for equality means fighting to give up your own privileges just as much as it means fighting to get other people to give up their privileges?

                To be clear, I have no problem with feminists only promoting their own self interests. I just think they should be honest about it.

  111. I totally agree with every single thing you said. There are so many people who think that feminism means that women are better then men, when in reality it means that men and women are equal. Feminism benefits both men and women. There are so many people who ignore the problems that women still face today, they pretend that women have all the rights they need and are treated the same as men and that’s just not true. I wish there were more people like you in the world.

  112. “..If your arguments are irrefutable, I’m sure you’ll have no problem providing links to peer-reviewed studies backing up your claims..”

    Sure. Here’s a video which provides a good overview of the devastating effects of hitting children. References to the studies can be found the info section below the video

    The True Roots of Human Violence

    Also the first result of a quick google search revealed THIS article which also quotes the 90% figure.

    Figures are obviously suspect because they rely on self reporting – but that would only suggest the figure is even higher than what is reported.

    “…I’m a feminist. I stay home with my kids..”

    I think it’s great that you are able to be with your children, and even better that you choose not to abandon them. But if you feel strongly about this issue than, logically, you should be opposing feminism (or simply ignoring it) because (1) feminism has no clear stance against abandoning young children and (2) feminists routinely celebrate women who CHOOSE NOT to parent their own children, and choose instead to shove them into daycare or with nannies, even when they can well afford to stay at home and be with their own children.

    As I keep saying, feminism is not defined by any clear principles and so if you support it you’re just supporting a mob, a banner, an identity … and NOT a set of clear principles. And that is terribly irresponsible because supporting vague, undefined, ever changing causes is not just ineffective – it is potentially dangerous, as history shows.

    And so you might as well be saying “I support Monsanto. I always buy organic and non GM”
    Feminists support full time parenting as much as Monsanto supports organic and non GM. Do you see what I mean?

    Choosing to buy organic and then saying you support Monsanto does not mean Monsanto now supports the principle of organic foods.

    And choosing to raise you children full time and then saying you’re a feminist does not make feminism now supports the principle of full time parenting.

    “…One of the gifts of the feminists before me is that the decision to do so – indeed the decision to be a mother at all – was a CHOICE…”

    One of the consequences of feminism is that most couples, are now forced to work full time, just to put food on the table and pay taxes which enable massive government debt and wars. This means most couples today have to abandon their own children so they can go to work!!!!!

    This is a worse situation than 50 years ago when most couples could afford to have at least one parent looking after the children full time, as nature intends and requires.

    So how ON EARTH can this be counted as any kind of victory for feminism, or women, or children or men or anyone (except the ever expanding state)? I mean seriously, are you effing kidding me?!

    I’m NOT blaming the feminist movement for being tricked by the ruling classes into allowing themselves to become enslaved tax/ debt cattle – just like men have always been. But I AM blaming feminists for not being absolutely livid about it, and not making it their number one priority to fix.

    Future generations will look back as ask how could we have so much productivity, so much potential prosperity in the 21st century….. and yet still accepted being forced to work like slaves to the point of having to give up our own children within weeks of them being born! Surely you can see the utter humiliating defeat of this situation? Feminism could not have failed more spectacularly. And for most women to not even acknowledge that failure makes it a double, triple, quadruple failure.

    If the feminist movement is not putting that issue at the very top of the list – then what is the point of ANY of it? And yet this issue in not even ON the list. Feminists think arm pit hair is a more important issue than the issue of not being able to hang on to your own baby after you give birth to it. Future generations are going to think we were all on drugs or something……. (and of course thanks to post feminist ‘parenting’ many kids now are being medicated into zombies, just to stop them from self harming or committing suicide)

    “…If you don’t know what feminism stands for …”

    No I don’t . Because there is no clear definition. I know what vegetarians stand for. I know what pacifists stand for. I know what the KKK stand for. All of these groups state outright what principles their movements are based on.

    But all I know about feminists is that they stand for feminism, but they refuse to say what feminism stands for.

    “…it was feminists who worked to end child labor, and it was feminists who advocated for both maternity and paternity leave, and it was feminists who have worked to strengthen laws protecting children from abuse, and it is feminists who, right now, are working to end the scourge of sex trafficking throughout the world..”

    That’s great but I’m sure lots of vegetarians and jazz enthusiasts also helped promote these causes. But we’d never say vegetarianism or jazz is all about ending child abuse. Feminism is the cuckoo of social movements, it has no principles of its own so it takes over whatever other causes it sees around it. Do you want cleaner streets? Do you want more comfortable shoes? Do you want to end whaling? Do you want to help restore old furniture? …. you do! Then you’re a feminist!

    If feminism was really all about ending child abuse it would condemn hitting children and ban anyone who hits their child from being a feminist (just as a meat eater would be banned from attending the annual vegetarian dinner dance!). If feminism was really all about access to your children it wouldn’t celebrate women who choose to abandon their children and write gushing articles about them.

    And if feminism has really involved itself in sex trafficking then feminists should have realised by now that women are just as much involved in it as men, which would blow apart the whole myth of the ‘patriarchy’ and this myth about male oppression of women.

    Men can also be victims and women can also be evil oppressors and exploiters of women and of men. And without all that ‘male patriarchy’ nonsense feminism fades away to nothing to reveal a bunch of other social causes (like the ones you mentioned) which have nothing to do with feminist victim narrative.

    • Sorry, but these are all very silly arguments, and referring to some video is sadly inadequate. Read the reasearch, look at the hard data and think deeply. If you’re not willing to do that then this isn’t the blog for you. And I say this with compassion, because I’m sure you do believe the things you’re saying. To blame essentially all of society’s ills on feminism – an ideology that you seem to believe is not even defined – is frankly irrational. And that’s the kindest way of putting it.

      And here’s another thing that I want to say kindly: when someone writes an essay about personal experiences, and opens up the comments where hundreds of folks share their personal personal experiences, and then some guy shows up and starts spewing a bunch of ill-formed arguments about how their belief systems wound him and whatever? Well, that guy is kind of a jackass. I do hate to say it, but in this case it’s true. It’s like showing up uninvited to a dinner party, being welcomed anyway, and then proceding to be a dick about the food.

      If you want to throw down on your own blog, by all means do so. I have no intention of interfering – or of engaging at all.

      Have a wonderful day.

      • “..Sorry, but these are all very silly arguments..”

        Then please refute them with reason and evidence so I can learn how and why my arguments are flawed. Just saying they are ‘silly’ only helps to make the feminist stance look like it is an emotional, irrational and reactive one. And one which cannot withstand criticism.

        “…and referring to some video is sadly inadequate…”

        You asked for references and I provided one video along with links to a page with at least a dozen scientific studies (those studies are quite a dry read and I thought the video summarised them in a more palatable way). Then I provided a further link from a random mainstream article I managed to google.

        If you refute any of these studies, by all means make your case.

        “…Read the reasearch, look at the hard data and think deeply…”

        I have. And all of it refutes the feminist victim narrative. Wherever women have been victims, they have been no more victims than men or children or animals. Life has always been harsh for everyone. Put simply, the woman forced to labour at home were balanced by the men forced to toil in the fields. The hierarchy (ruling class) which oppressed, and oppresses, women is the same hierarchy which oppressed, and oppresses men. The amount of oppression is equally distributed, but sometimes manifests itself in different forms of oppression.

        “..And I say this with compassion, because I’m sure you do believe the things you’re saying. ..”

        It’s not a case of belief – that’s kind of the whole point.

        I’m accusing feminism of being a belief system, rather than a rational, evidence based argument or set of clearly defined principles. Feminism is a narrative about female oppression at the hands of men. This narrative does not stand up to reason or evidence.

        “..To blame essentially all of society’s ills on feminism..”

        I never said that.

        “..an ideology that you seem to believe is not even defined ..”

        Then please go ahead and define it then. I wish someone would. Every attempt at a definition I’ve ever heard is contradicted by the arguments and the actions of feminists.

        For example feminists complain about men’s violence against women (and rightly so), and they say feminism is about ending violence and power imbalances…… but feminists refuse to condemn women’s violence against children. So all that stuff about wanting to end violence and power imbalances is a lie.

        If standing up to feminist hypocrisy and standing up for children’s right NOT to be hit and NOT to be abandoned by their parents makes me a ‘jackass’ then so be it. I’m sorry you feel that way.

        “..when someone writes an essay about personal experiences, and opens up the comments where hundreds of folks share their personal personal experiences…”

        If it was just an essay about personal experiences then you would be absolutely correct. But it was not. It was a commentary on feminism which is a social/ political movement which affects people’s lives … interspersed with personal anecdotes.

        Personal anecdotes are subjective. Feminism, being a social/ political movement, must be based on objective facts, rational arguments and clear principles and NOT merely subjective experiences, however traumatic and vivid they were for you.

        Social movements based on emotion and feelings are one of he most dangerous things – particularly when they are based on the feelings and emotions of being threatened. Look at history and find populations who ‘felt’ threatened. Then see what happened next. It’s invariably something awful which everyone regretted later.

        Let’s reverse the genders and imagine an essay written by a man about his vivid childhood encounters with some creepy women, perhaps a teacher or babysitter, who behaved sexually inappropriately which traumatised him. So he recounts this experience and then uses this ultra personal experience to back up the idea that there is a female ‘matriarchy’ which oppresses and subjugates men.

        In your opinion would that be justified? Should women be grouped together as one single entity and judged according to the most dysfunctional women among them? Is that fair? Is that healthy? Is that helpful?

        “.. It’s like showing up uninvited to a dinner party, being welcomed anyway, and then proceding to be a dick about the food…”

        A dinner party is a private event. A blog is public and usually the point of a blog which discusses social issues is to share opinions, arguments, and discuss and debate them. I have been civil and courteous. I’ve not used insults. I’ve just made some arguments based on reason and evidence. I’ve invited counter arguments.

        If you didn’t want anybody to question or challenge the feminist narrative why didn’t you say so …”Only comments which reinforce the feminist narrative are welcome here”

        If feminism is, as I suggest, a flawed ideology the stakes are HUGE because feminism influences every aspect of society now, particularly when it comes to family and child raising. For that reason alone I would have thought any doubt about the validity of the feminist narrative should be taken seriously and welcomed. If I am wrong and feminism theory is indeed valid then surely it can withstand scrutiny – in which case what is the problem with questioning and challenging it?

        Living standards are dropping fast, the economy is collapsing, children are being drugged, tagged, self harming. The family unit is being torn apart and war is destroying half the planet. Neither men or women seem to be very happy either.

        Is it really an appropriate point in history to be taking personal offence and getting all defensive about these issues?

        • Thank you for proving my point. I think it’s time for you to move on. If you’re not able to differentiate between a personal essay and an article, then we really can’t have a conversation. And your inability to link to actual studies that you have actually read and thought about? Well, it says a lot.

          It’s time for you to move on. I have no interest in reading your blog. Why on earth are you spending so much time on mine?

          • “…If you’re not able to differentiate between a personal essay and an article….”

            The fact that I pointed out you blog is a mixture of the two proves I can distinguish between them.

            What if you had written about a bad experience with a black man and then gone on to promote the idea that black people are in some way oppressing other races? That is essentially what you are doing here (perhaps without fully realising it). Feminism, just like any other political ideology, must be kept separate from subjective personal experiences. …. to make an exception would be thoroughly insulting to women.

            I linked to over a dozen studies and pretending I didn’t is not a valid refutation.

            If you’re going to write personal accounts about bad subjective experiences – fine. I actually think you write well. There’s nothing wrong in that.

            But if you’re going to promote an ideology which has huge effect on me, my children, my children’s future, the economy, laws, education, human rights and society in general you should expect (and welcome) civilised discussion and debate based around reason and evidence.

            We expect this when it comes to every other issue from race to the environment to health to science to crime to consumer reviews. As I said, to shield feminism from reasoned discussion and debate is to insult all women and stick two fingers up at the rest of society.

            • No, you didn’t. You linked to a video that supposedly had links, but that, alas is not adequate. I want to know what YOU have read, and I want to know what study (peer-reviewed, of course) provided you with that 90% statistic. (It certainly wasn’t the CDC. They have very different numbers. I looked it up. I encourage you to do so as well.) Also, I have no idea what “stick two fingers up at the rest of society” even means. Is that a thing? I’m assuming you’re not referring to the peace sign, in which case, you’re referring to a gesture that I don’t even know.

              I’m pleased to hear that you have kids. So do I. I want them to live in a world in which they are valued and honored and safe. I do not want my son or my daughters to endure some of the indignities that I did. I find it strange that you, apparently, do – and indeed that the fact of my writing down these experiences and unpacking them in prose just bothers you this much. It makes me sad for you, frankly. I will say again that I wish you the best, and I have nothing but good feelings towards you and your family. I still am a feminist. I still bring that world view into my work. I still love all people – men, women, and those who find themselves transitioning from one to the other. I love every blessed one. And you too.

              Happy new year.

              • “…You linked to a video that supposedly had links, but that, alas is not adequate….”

                It doesn’t supposedly have links, it really does have links. If you click the link under the video and you’ll end up on a page with at least a dozen studies, which are the same studies discussed in the video. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: as I’ve already said, I’d like for you to point to the specific studies that back up the specific claim. This does not cut it.] As I already explained at least twice, I included both so you could have the best of both worlds – an easily digestible overview of the studies as well as access to the original studies themselves if you wanted to wade through them… plus I included a bonus article as well which was the first link I found from a google search. If you want to check if any of the links are real or not just click on them 🙂

                Anyway, arguing about the exact percentage of mothers who hit their children is a distraction from the main issue which is that any percentage above 0% is too high, and a problem for children and for society as a whole (or perhaps you disagree?) [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Of course I agree, but when you make wild claims of 90% it demonstrates to the rest of us that you haven’t done the reading.]

                “.. I want (my kids) to live in a world in which they are valued and honored and safe…”

                Then have you considered the possibility you are BETTER than feminism?

                After all, hitting children is neither valuing them, nor keeping them safe and feminism is NOT based on a principle of non-violence towards children (or any other principle for that matter). ‘High ranking’ feminists routinely discuss this subject of hitting children on TV as if there was still some kind of debate to be had. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Which “high-ranking” feminists, specifically?]

                Is there a debate to be had about men hitting women who do not obey their husbands or boyfriends? Should we still be debating if it’s OK to hit a woman just because she is grumpy, irritable, tired, nagging, annoying, rude, absent minded, obscene or disrespectful?

                No, of course not. Assault can never be justified. Yet the feminist movement still can’t bring itself to condemn women (and men) hitting their own children, even though children are far more powerless, dependent and weak than women ever could be.

                Personally speaking, even if I agreed with every other aspect of feminism, their refusal to condemn child assault would prevent me from supporting feminism or calling myself a feminist. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Where on earth are you getting this stuff? Do you even know any child-safety advocates? Most of the social workers of my acquaintance – men and women working every day to keep kids safe – are profound feminists, and indeed it is their commitment to safety and integrity for all that led them to that work.]

                The typical feminist line is that if you are opposed to feminism (whatever feminism is) then you are automatically opposed to equal opportunities, equal rights, and progress in society. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: If there is no defined feminism, then there can’t be “a typical feminist line”. Who is saying these things? Do you have links?] This is an example of using a false choice to manipulate the public. And this is how I have been treated by everyone on this comment thread for daring to challenge feminist theory. Because I don’t support feminism I must therefore be ‘anti’ equality, rights, freedoms etc as if feminism had a monopoly on all of these things.

                It’s like when Bush said “Either you’re with us or you’re with the terrorists”……(another false choice) …. next thing we know a million innocent civilians have been slaughtered in the greatest acts of terrorism since WW2.

                I would humbly suggest this is also why you say you support feminism. You understand that to say otherwise in public means you will be attacked as some kind of ignorant patriarchy supporting oppressor of women. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Hmmm. Good gracious.]

                Meanwhile, nobody seems to have noticed I’m actually advocating MORE equality, MORE rights and MORE progress and HIGHER moral standards than feminism has to offer. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Really?]

                I am against ALL forms of coercion and violence, including violence against children – therefore I cannot support feminism because it does not yet come up to my standards (this is just one reason out of many).

                Apart from the fact that hitting an infant or child is grossly immoral, the studies show (and have done for a long time) that hitting infants and children lowers their IQ, traumatises them, damages their brain development, and causes them to grow up to have dysfunctional relationships with themselves and with other people. In plain terms,hitting your child will make it far more likely to grow up to be a violent and abusive husband or wife ….. and a violent and abusive parent too. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: We are in absolute agreement. There is no excuse for hitting. Ever.]

                And so, even putting aside the moral argument, if feminists genuinely want to fix society (if only for their own self interests) they should start by not hitting their own children. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would like the link to the studies that demonstrate a causal link between feminism and violence to one’s children.] The fact that the feminist movement doesn’t advocate (in fact demand!) peaceful parenting suggests to me it is more interested in securing immediate material benefits and power for themselves, than actually fixing society for everyone. This is fine, I just wish they’d be more honest about their true objectives. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: I think you need to read more. Instead of relying on other people to tell you what feminism actually says, perhaps you should read it yourself. I would start out by picking up a copy of BRAIN, CHILD or BUST magazines. They are wonderful.]

                The problem feminism as a movement faces today is that all the valid causes which feminists have campaigned for have all now been realised. Society has already adjusted its laws and rights to account for this new age we live in, where technology now enables men and women to live outside of the traditional marital roles – even when choosing to get married.

                Sure, there are many more improvements which need to be made…. but they apply to both sexes equally. And even more importantly, all improvements to society from this point on can only come from within, not without. There is no more that ‘daddy government’ can do to fix society, and increasingly it is becoming clear that ‘daddy government’ is the greatest threat in society. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Evidence?]

                In fact feminism has been thoroughly infiltrated and subverted by the state in order to push the state’s agenda for increased control over society …… breaking up the family, dividing society by pitting the sexes against each other (‘divide and rule’), getting children away from the influence of their parents and under the control of the state to be indoctrinated, taking over from men as the providers in society (alpha males), getting men and women paying more taxes and getting everyone enslaved by personal debt so they are too busy and too tired to fight for their own freedom etc etc etc. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Again, please provide your evidence to back up this claim.]

                In short, feminism is being by the state to justify a bigger, more intrusive, more domineering and more violent state. Nothing represents the ‘patriarchy’ more than the state (I would prefer to call it a ‘hierarchy’). And so feminism today is being used to promote (what feminists call) the ‘patriarchy’! [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Honestly, where are you getting this stuff?]

                It’s sad that we both seem to have the best intentions and yet we have ended up arguing in a ‘win-lose’ kind of way. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Not really. I just would like to see you support your claims. With evidence. Just like school! :-)]

                I would argue that you are better than feminism, but I wont pursue the point any more. Thanks for letting me comment here, and whether you agree or not with anything I’ve said I hope it was of some value – if not to you then to someone reading. All the best 🙂

              • Thank you for bringing your comments to a close. I wish you the best as well.

                Also, you should know for the future that linking to a video discussing evidence instead of demonstrating (with links. to peer-reviewed, large-sampled, longitudinal studies) that YOU have done the reading (and the analyzing, and the deep thinking), makes people glaze over any point that you might make. I’m not going to waste my time reading through a bunch of wild claims without specific evidence (linked) to back them up. I encourage you to go beyond any digested video and actually do the reading on your own. And come to your own conclusions. This is what I expect from my students, it’s what I expect from my kids, and it’s what I expect from you. Otherwise, frankly, it’s just wasted space.

                Have a nice day.

  113. Thank you for writing this, I support you as a feminist and I do not think you should separate your politics from your writing. You are honest, courageous and principled. These are things we should all strive to be.

  114. I really like those three last entrys that I read but I can’t go further because time is running over. But let me give you some feedback: You write very nicely about topics that are important to write about. I am not sure if you wrote about it, too or not, but it would be important to know how to interprete your works. Do you only write for girls or even for boys? Because there’s also child abuse on boys which is often forgotten, sadly. The next thing interesting would be, how you think about the different aspects of feminism. There is also a reason for people to hate feminism, because most feminists fight for their rights in a false way. For example the thing with the language. In Germany, there are people who want just neutral grammatical sexes for every word. Its like the english „the“, but in german there are quite more and they make it easier to know what a sentence is about. That would be just senseless and completely doesn’t fit into the context that should be talked about according to feminism. Furthermore, most girl tell they are emancipated but aren’t in any way. What about all the models showing there boobs and talk about not being judged by their bodies. Aren’t those girls a big cause for anti-feminism? It’s not only the bad men themselves, you know? If the women would just act wther their sex would not matter, many problems would be less big in this topic, I think.

    Go on writing!
    Greetz Ramona

    • Thank you! And yes, my books are for boys and girls. My first book featured a boy main character, the second was a girl protagonist, and the third is about a friendship between a boy and a girl.

      And I agree that it is beyond frustrating when people get caught up in the minute details instead of the larger issues of equality and safety and dignity for all.

      • Thanks for the nice answer. After I wrote that to you, i was in the citizens advice bureau with lots of people sitting all around, also families. All the younger parents nearly completely ignored their children, while the older one talked and played with them. I thaught that the younger parents made a big fault by unanswering their childrens questions etc. and not watching them and thaught always back to your stories. Poor childs of the now and then. May your books help them to know the world better without that much help from their parents because there will be too little.

  115. Pingback: What we’re reading 1/6/14 | Disrupting Dinner Parties

  116. First of all I really enjoyed this article. However it saddens me that so many women use traumatic childhood experiences to group men into a bubble of “people to fear” especially as this does seem to breed an atmosphere of hostility toward men in general in the feminist zeitgeist.
    I am the definition of a pro women man. I was raised in a single mother, feminist houshold. I am pro choice. I have been married to the same woman for 15 years, and would defend her rights as a woman to the end. She was my first girlfriend, is my soul mate, my partner, and the only opinion I have ever trusted. However she is a stay at home mom. Something that from what has been told to her is a form of subjugation and we are living an anti-feminist lifestyle. Which is odd because it was a choice She made early on in our relationship, not I. Isn’t a womans right to choose the path her life will take what feminism is all about?
    The reason I bring her up is she shares many of your experiences dealing with the vulgarity and supidity of men, but has used this to fear individuals not just men. Had someone been attacked by a black man and said “Thats when I learned to fear black people.” In a blog it would make national news. But because its a men in general its ok. Why is that?
    From my point of view feminism as a whole is a flawed view. I group it into the same school of thought as organized religion and politicians. Individuals who display traits any of these have great ideas and great fundamentals but when grouped together they become something completely different than what the original message was supposed to be. And that is somthing very scary. Yet I dont fear women on the whole based on standard feminist views. No I fear individuals who through feminism want a woman to have the right to choose, so long as it is within the standard feminist creed.
    I applaud any womans right to choose the life they want no matter what, however you cant have your cake and eat it too. If 50/50 is what you want then you should have it. But the reality of sexual equality is a hard pill to swallow. It means no more tax cuts for woman owned businesses, no more womens only scholarships, or any other womens only benifits that give an amazing and justified boost to women.
    I live in a small texas town of only 1300, I know of many women in my community who are self reliant and able, non feminist women. My cousin for instance is the Vice President of the local bank and former mayor of our town. The suprising thing is she did this all at the age of 25, and without using feminism as a platform for doing it. I, as a man do not agree that feminism is ruining anything. However I do believe that feminists are a fighting a battle they have already won.

    • I would like to clarify that I am in no way saying you exhibit these traits, but through my own experiences while living in Nevada the amount of feminists I encountered that demeaned the two parent, single income lifestyle my wife and I live. And I whole hartedly apologize if there is any confusion.

  117. An interesting read. I’ve always been sceptical about those that call themselves feminists, as I have always encountered women who think they are better than men. So it’s nice to read that some one agrees on equality.

  118. I normally don’t weigh in on discussions of feminism, for reasons that I would need a blog post of my own to outline. One day, when I’m anxious for a full frothy mug of sweet, sweet, internet hate, I may write it.

    I was struck by the way you defended you’re right to put your worldview into anything. It was, as you state, central to the life of your mind. The principle makes sense in many ways.

    But I am forced to wonder if you would embrace that principle as regards those who are, just as an example, told to keep their religion to themselves? I trust you won’t ask me to cite sources to prove that this is a thing that happens, with great regularity.

    And how if, as a consequence of one’s religious faith, one feels compelled to act for the restriction of abortion rights? Traditional marriage? I’m not asking you to agree on the merits, mind, just if you would agree with a fellow-feminist who told such a person to keep their creepy mystical sky-daddy to themselves?

    I noted what you said up in the comment thread about litmus tests for feminism, but I think the substance of this question is a bit different.

    I get that it’s tedious to be put to the question by friend and foe alike just because you had the good fortune to attain Freshly-Pressedness, so feel free to ignore me if you have better things to do.


  119. I don’t know if you ever read newer comments but I just have to say thank you for writing this. I discovered your books with The Girl Who Drank the Moon and I just fell in love with that book and those characters. I’m a mom, a teacher, a graduate student trying to become a librarian I grew up on fairy tales and in my sheltered privilege of being white and Christian of being part of the majority in many ways. But luckily I had great teachers and even better books to help expand my understanding of the world. I am also a feminist. My high school students cringe at the word but I teach them as my professors taught me that it’s not a curse word. It’s not the F word. It’s just a word for people that believe that equality needs to happen. I tell them that stringent gender roles — boys don’t cry, women cook don’t help. They hurt. As a mother with three boys, I don’t want them to lose their gentle natures, their sense of possibility because this show or this book is for girls — boys swallow their feelings to seem strong. I appreciate that you focus on righting and writing this wrong. I’ll definitely keep reading and discovering your work. Thank you for bringing your viewpoint to bear and haven’t allowed others to silence you.

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