A Personal Response to ‘Lauren Southern: Why I am not a feminist’

In this blog post, I will give a personal comment on Rebel Media’s video entitled ‘Lauren Southern: Why I am not a feminist’. I am very new to blogging so I am still experimenting. This is more of a written stream of consciousness than a carefully constructed post. All views are entirely my own and not intended to offend or upset.

This is an interesting and insightful reflection of an ongoing argument surrounding gender equality issues. All the points Lauren makes are entirely valid and true.

But, I think the real crux of this ongoing issue is that many of the people who identify themselves as feminists (myself included) do so with exactly the same intention as those who identify themselves as humanists or proponents of equality (something I also identify myself as).

I support feminism because I want to see more equal gender relations. I support feminism because I believe that men should never be shamed for expressing their emotions and because I believe women should never be dismissed as over-emotional.

I support feminism because the patriarchal structure of society restricts and oppresses men, women and those who identify as neither. By fighting against a society in which males are expected to be dominant, emotionless, the breadwinner and never victimised, I believe I am fighting for a better, more equal society.

I am not saying that this is a view shared by everyone who identifies themselves as a feminist. Third wave feminism is a terribly fractured and confused movement and amongst those there will be supporters who don’t consider the challenges and inequities men face to be important. But I am emphatically not one of them.

And to tar all feminists with that same brush is not only unfair but reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the indistinguishably blurred overlaps between ideological positions and the vast differences in position that exist within each ideology.

I have deep respect for this video and for those who share it. I agree with Lauren’s ideological position wholeheartedly and yet, I am also a supporter of the movement that she is criticising. So, what does that say about the current state of egalitarian politics?

I would argue that it draws attention to a dangerous tendency for those who share common principles to be divided against each other by different labels and sweeping generalisations about one another’s goals and beliefs.

This disconnect is not only damaging to both parties but serves to weaken the wider movement – smaller fragments of people fighting for the same cause simply don’t have the same power and influence to change things as one united mass.

Perhaps it is time we stopped focusing on the labels people use, started focusing on their core beliefs and goals for society and unified those who believe in a more equal society irrespective of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation etc.

Labels bring together letters but beliefs bring together people. And it is those people that can bring about the change they wish to see in the world.

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3 thoughts on “A Personal Response to ‘Lauren Southern: Why I am not a feminist’

  1. “And to tar all feminists with that same brush is not only unfair but reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the indistinguishably blurred overlaps between ideological positions and the vast differences in position that exist within each ideology.” –

    I understand your point but disagree that it is a strong one. I’m quite familiar with Southern’s work outside of her viral video (so her youtube and then various other google hangouts she’s done with other content creators), and it’s clear she understands that feminisms come in as many varieties as there are those who choose to identify. I would posit this understanding applies to the vast majority of people who use language such as “feminism objectifies women through a victim narrative,” or “feminists promote inequality in spheres of domestic violence,”; just for example.

    So when Southern (or even I) use this sort of language, it is a description of the ideology’s (in this case, feminism’s) dominant manifestation rather than a deterministic prescription cast upon each individual feminist. Also note that dominance can vary from sheer numbers (majority) to the work of a vocal minority (power).

    Let me give you an example: I’m from the U.S. and over here (not sure where you are from btw, and I don’t want to assume anything 😛 ) we’ve this huge, self-identified, feminist organization; The National Organization for Women, or NOW. With over 550 chapters spanning across all 50 states, maybe you’ve heard of them? Anyways, NOW is a lobbying powerhouse and has a well-documented track record of rallying against (and successfully shutting down!) legislation that would change the power dynamic in divorce/custody proceedings to be more equitable to men and fathers (so alimony reform, default shared parenting, legal acknowledgment of parental alienation). On top of that, NOW has a history of using hyperbolic rhetoric in these crusades, particularly the sort that paints women and children as in a crisis at the hands of violent men (I won’t dwell long on the irony bomb of a feminist group using gender roles to fight for traditional status quos).

    So keeping in mind this example: IF someone were to say they were against feminism or even label themselves “anti-feminist” because of a perceived damage to family court dynamics achieved through an appeals to tired gender tropes (women as an unwavering victim class, men as a violent collective), not only is it reasonable to aim grievances toward the ideology as a whole, but it is necessary in order for the movement to exhibit accountability. That this regulation (see: criticism) has occurred largely outside the sphere of those self-identifying, is to me a symptom of the movement being incapable of self-maintenance. There are structures within the discourse itself (ad hoc rationalizations preserving a priori conclusions, silencing and othering of dissenting voices, the turning a blind eye of ‘well that’s not my feminism,’ etc.), that have prevented feminists from visibly checking other feminists that are doing real damage.

    To dwell on the obvious fact that “not all feminists are like that” (not quoting you directly of course) seems not just pedantic, but also stemming from an obliviousness to what led to the in-group / out-group conundrum in the first place. Focusing on things external to feminism does nothing to correct the gaping hole that is liability within the movement. Focusing on things external to feminism, coupled with doing nothing to correct the gaping hole that is liability within the movement, reaffirms the need for people outside of it to remind everyone that “feminists do this” or “feminism promotes that”.

    “…tendency for those who share common principles to be divided against each other by different labels and sweeping generalisations about one another’s goals and beliefs…” –

    I really liked this part and agree with you. You don’t have to do this or take my word for it, but I encourage you to try something: Find some “anti-feminists” or “men’s rights activists” or just someone who is against feminism and uses the sweeping language we’ve been discussing…it can even be Lauren Southern; and talk to them (or her). Present your ideas. Network with you advocacy. And do so with your feminist label. Something I have found in the overlapping “anti-feminist” and “men’s rights” community that was severely lacking in my (many many) experiences with feminists, is the willingness to engage in dialog and find common ground no matter what label each respective party identifies as. I assure you, your ideas will stand for themselves no matter what you choose to call yourself. More often than not, the language of Southern (and myself) does not equate to an unwillingness or inability to collaborate with like-minded feminists.

    Best,

    RP

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and respond in such a considered and thought-provoking way. I will definitely take on board what you’ve said.

      It is really interesting to hear that criticism like Southern’s is often based on what appears to be a “dominant manifestation” of feminism as an ideology and taking that approach is entirely understandable when faced with an infinite number of individual interpretations. I agree also that this dominance doesn’t have to take the form of the largest number either and, in the case of feminism, I would argue it is more a very “vocal minority”.

      On the topic of NOW, as someone who lives in the UK, I have heard of but am not aware of the activities of the group and am saddened and angered to hear that such intrusive and poorly justified action is being taken against the rights of men. As I stated in my article, my individual interpretation of feminism is egalitarian but I fully accept that this kind of backward prejudice is still trumped by large factions of the ideology I identify myself with.
      I entirely agree that people should be free to criticise and “aim grievances toward the ideology” and in return, feminism should be held accountable for these actions and be allowed to criticise others.

      “There are structures within the discourse itself (ad hoc rationalizations preserving a priori conclusions, silencing and othering of dissenting voices, the turning a blind eye of ‘well that’s not my feminism,’ etc.), that have prevented feminists from visibly checking other feminists that are doing real damage.”

      This is a very interesting point. I really like this and it has changed my perspective on how I act towards feminists who do ascribe to more discriminative and divisive ideas and policies. My intention in writing this post and asserting myself as a feminist who doesn’t identify with the views Southern criticises, was not to be labouriously “pedantic” but to raise awareness of the vast disparities in position that can exist under one label. I felt compelled to emphasise that feminism is made up of more than just the view that she attacked, but I can understand entirely how that could be viewed as narrow-minded and akin to nit picking. As you suggest, there are far greater issues at stake than whining about which feminism you belong to and the fact that “not all feminists are like that”.

      Your suggestion that we turn our attention to this “gaping hole” is a good one but one that I feel those within the movement and those outside it need to work to address. Reminding feminists that the movement (whether based on a majority or a minority) gives off a certain image is a great start. I respect both yourself and Lauren Southern for putting forward your own views and interpretations of the feminist movement, to aid in this process.

      “I assure you, your ideas will stand for themselves no matter what you choose to call yourself. More often than not, the language of Southern (and myself) does not equate to an unwillingness or inability to collaborate with like-minded feminists.”

      This is both encouraging and heartening to hear. I am still developing my political identity and am fully open to new ideas. I would argue there is far more common ground between people divided by different labels than is often thought. It is that unwillingness to listen to others (that you identify) which is where both sides seem to fall down. To encourage more open debate and discussion is, I believe, the first step towards reaching a point of mutual understanding which can pave the way for collaboration, irrespective of labels.

      Thank you again for your contribution – I really appreciate and value your points.

      Olivia

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Just so you know, your response to my response made my day! It’s always refreshing to encounter someone open to dialog and another’s perspective. I may add you to my reading and drop in to play devil’s advocate from time to time.

        Best,

        RP

        Liked by 1 person

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