Letter from the Vice President of Membership

“I’m Not a Feminist, but…”

How often have you heard someone utter that line, usually followed by:

  • I believe women should have equal pay for equal work
  • I believe that affordable child care should be available
  • I believe that women should decide when and if to have children without interference from the government
  • I believe that girls should have the same opportunities as boys
  • I believe that there should be available shelters for victims of domestic violence and rape
  • I believe that we should have more women holding political office
  • I support marriage equality
  • (Add your favorite responses here)

I once asked a neighbor if she considered herself a feminist, and she answered, “Oh, heavens no.  I like men to open doors for me.”

The dictionary defines feminism as, “A doctrine that advocates or demands for women the same rights granted men, as in political and economic status.”  Is that so difficult to understand?  (Odd, there is no mention of who should open doors for whom.)

NOW states, “Our purpose is to take action to bring women into full participation in society—sharing equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities with men, while living free from discrimination.”  If this sounds so simple and so right, why are many women reluctant to self-define as feminists?

Anti-feminism is opposition to feminism in some or all of its forms.

In the nineteenth century, anti-feminism was mainly focused on opposition to women’s suffrage. Later, opponents of women’s entry into institutions of higher learning argued that education was too great a physical burden on women. Other anti-feminists opposed women’s entry into the labor force, or their right to join unions, to sit on juries, or to obtain birth control and control of their sexuality.

Some people have opposed feminism on the grounds that they believe it is contrary to traditional values or religious beliefs. These anti-feminists argue, for example, that social acceptance of divorce and non-married women is wrong and harmful, and that men and women are fundamentally different and thus their different traditional roles in society should be maintained. Other anti-feminists oppose women’s entry into the workforce, political office, and the voting process, as well as the lessening of male authority in families.  (Source:  Wikipedia)

We at Contra Costa NOW reject the false choice between womanhood and feminism.  And, by all means, men are an important part in our quest for equality.

At my husband’s and my 50th wedding anniversary celebration, our daughter included these words in her toast, speaking of her father:

“Your constant support of my mother’s endeavors and then, later, of my own taught me that you don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist.  You epitomize for me the importance of strong men to the raising of strong women.”   Well said, Susan!

How can you be involved in our struggle?  Come to a NOW meeting, join us, participate!  We’d love to welcome you.

Phyllis Bratt is a past president and currently serves as VP Membership of our chapter.