I’ll be honest with you WAF, when I first visited your tumblr with all those haughty opinions of yours, I kinda scoffed. I mean, really. A bunch of women making the ultimately feminist choice to express their opinion by making largely feminist statements under the banner of not needing feminism. If I could have located just one woman holding a sign that said ‘I don’t need feminism because I believe that men are superior to me and that my opinions don’t matter’ then maybe you would have made your point. Instead, it’s just a bunch of feminists deniers dissing on feminism. Some of the best ones are:
I don’t need feminism because I made a choice to be a stay at home mother.
I don’t need feminism because I don’t need a pack of angry vaginas to fight my battles.
I don’t need feminism because having sex with a stranger is irresponsible, not rape.
I haven’t needed feminism since the 1920s.
I promptly forgot about WAF. Their issue isn’t with feminism but with their skewed perception of feminism. And, it seemed, the underlining fear that aligning themselves with feminism might make them seem angry or unattractive. Far be it for me to tell them otherwise. They’re big girls (so they keep insisting). They can work this stuff out for themselves.
Then just yesterday I read a really, really, really sad article about real life marital counselling in the 1950s and 60s. It’s a long read, but you can check it out here.
It uncovered an epidemic in 20th Century social culture to blame women for any kind of discord present in an unhappy marriage. Even violence against them. The ‘Can This Marriage Be Saved?’ column was published in a widely read and very popular women’s magazine. And I imagine the published cases only represent the very tip of the iceberg.
Take ‘Elsa’ and ‘Josh’. Elsa was beaten and humiliated publicly by Josh on a number of occasions. After giving birth to a baby girl, Josh ignored Elsa and their daughter showing his disappointment in the fact it wasn’t a boy. When he had to make his own breakfast one morning shortly following the birth, he flew into a rage. The counsellor’s comment, as published in this national magazine:
“If she wanted a serene family life, she would have to learn to give Josh what he wanted from their marriage and thereby help him control his temper.” In other words “This wife needed to be convinced out of her own self-righteous understanding of the situation.”
In response to more and more women writing in to discuss domestic abuse, he comments: ‘it was interesting to find how bitterly the average man resents a sloppy and slovenly wife.’
Still think you don’t need feminism? Still think you haven’t needed it since the 1920s?
Find me one woman on the WAF tumblr that thinks this is OK. Not just the abuse, but the justification of it.
Find me one woman on the WAF willing to put on a placard ‘I don’t need feminism because in cases of domestic violence it is my duty as a wife to help my husband control his temper.’
Find me one woman on the WAF who wouldn’t fight tooth and nail if Elsa were her sister or her friend.
Let me tell you something WAF: you’re here, expressing your opinion on a global scale, because of feminism. And let me tell you something else, if you ever find yourself married to a ‘Josh’, that ‘bunch of angry vaginas’ you hate so much will not rest until you are safe.
I’m gonna level with you, WAF: there are some angry feminists and there are some peaceable ones, too. Lucky for you, you can ignore the angry ones if you find them so displeasing – believe me, it will never be illegal to shave your legs, like men or wear short skirts. But all in all, this developing global community of ours hasn’t reached a point where all women out here have the choices that you seem to think you have. You think you don’t need feminism, but your mother probably did and your sister might, your daughter might, your neighbour might. I’d love nothing more than to say, with all honestly, that we don’t need feminism anymore. But we still do.
So when you say your prayers tonight, and find yourself grateful to live in an imperfect but improving society, feel free to give your thanks. To feminism.
Remember ‘Elsa’. Not her real name, but she was a real person. A woman who was told, publicly and not so long ago, that her husband might beat her if she finds herself unable to tend to her prescribed household duties. Remember her and the many women like her who still live in the same fear. Lest we effing forget.