Dear Emma Watson,
I was not raised a celebrity. I can say that my life has been very different from yours. I am a woman living in America. I have not attended a fine university like Brown, as you did. I have known abuse, I have been molested. I have known hardship and depression. But there is something you should know. I don’t need feminism.
Maybe you can’t understand why this might be so. How someone like me, who has in the past been suicidal and faced such turmoil, could say that I do not need something that is supposed to help the whole world.
I want you to know that I am neither religious nor someone politically conservative, and I say this because many have accused me of this stance for merely disagreeing with feminism. Your idea of feminism is certainly beautiful, but it is not the reality of the women’s movement today, nor was it the reality of the past.
That is what saddens me. When I was younger, I got it into my head that I needed to be strong and empowered and eventually I got there, but when I finally met other feminists I did not see a group of strong, self-reliant women in front of me. I saw women who wanted others to do the work for them.
They did not understand that empowerment is something that only you can bring to yourself. People can talk all day about women doing great things. People can give them thousands of dollars of grant money, but it all means nothing if these women won’t do the work themselves. Therein lies the problem of feminist ideology. It preaches that we must empower women but never asks women to empower themselves or demands that they become capable and self-reliant.
I don’t think that many in the West disagree that women are deserving of all the rights and privileges of men. The truth is far more sinister. I don’t often hear, by any stretch of the imagination, that men say that women don’t deserve these things. The majority of people I hear saying that women are oppressed are feminists.
I don’t see it in the actions of men in the population, save for that percentage who engages in violent crime. There will always be mean-spirited people. There will always be some people who commit violent acts against their fellow humans—and that is not gendered. Feminism cannot fix these things.
You cannot fix the portion of humanity who does not care about others and whether people are harmed. They are not people who can be persuaded.
The reason that women detach themselves from the label of feminist has nothing to do with the idea of women’s rights being radical. It isn’t, it makes logical sense. The problem lies with the actions of feminists and their actions going beyond achieving the privileges men have. There are man-hating feminists, and the narrative that men can stop things like sexual assault is what starts it.
When you say that men can stop sexual assault on their own, you are imagining men as one big group who congregates and is able to stop the sociopathic individuals who prey on others. Sexual assault is not a mistake or a lapse in judgment. It is not something learned or taught to rapists by society. It is instead a rejection of society. It persists in spite of those who preach equal treatment.
This narrative erases victims of female predators who operate like male sexual predators and exist in greater numbers than you would expect. The problem is that because feminism preaches that men are the abusers who can stop rape, it erases men and women who are victimized by women. Even worse, these women do not face jail time equal to that of their male counterparts. That is not equal treatment and that is not justice.
Painting women as victims does not help them to be seen as the equals of men. It makes them appear weak, which is contrary to what feminism says it wants to accomplish. Because of that, you have female predators out of jail after only a few months, ready to prey on their next victim.
This is not the story that modern feminism wishes to tell. It is not the story that it wishes to acknowledge. It won’t mention women in “oppressed” countries rising to the occasion in spite of everything. It won’t mention that women in these “oppressed” countries enter STEM fields in greater number than those of the West or that many of them are strong in their own right. Feminism didn’t make them so.
Instead, feminism preaches, “Look at those women, they are victims, we have to get men to save them.” Is that not the worst thing you could do? Are you not continuing gender stereotypes by assuming that men need to empower women? Is it not harmful to tell a woman that she is not strong enough on her own, and that she needs all these other women to empower her?
Women won’t identify as feminists because the women within feminism rely so much on the sisterhood that they do not pursue self-reliance. These women do not heal when they’ve been victimized because the sisterhood tells them that it’s fine to live as a perpetual victim instead of a survivor.
These feminists do not live up to your lofty ideals. The feminists who govern these groups are often corrupt and profit directly from keeping women in a state of victimhood. They profit from the narrative that men are the aggressors and women are the victims.
If you are looking for gender equality in what they say and do, you will not find it. This is the problem. The majority of women feel alienated from modern feminism because it is not providing the equality that many of them so desperately crave and it ignores the women who use this ideology to further their own ends.
Instead, feminism is the cause for much of the disparity. Policies meant to help women fail in one major respect because they often assume women in general to have a kind of moral superiority. It does not assume that women can act immorally in ways that are equivalent to men. Laws like the Violence Against Women Act in the United States presume men to be the aggressor even when men are calling to report violence against them by their partners.
If you want to help women to be seen as equal to men, we must acknowledge that they are just as capable of vice as their male counterparts and must face equal consequences. If you want real equality, you must dismantle gender bias against men and benevolent sexism against women perpetuated by the legal system.
Women must be willing to take the higher-paying dangerous jobs men take. They must be willing to be held accountable, and we must be willing to hold them accountable in the way we hold men to be accountable.
We must acknowledge that the disparity mentioned most often by feminists can be accounted for by things like life choices and economic mobility. Poverty accounts for much of the problems of Third World countries. War brings poverty and violence to these countries, harming men and women in different but equally horrific ways. Yet women are the ones most likely to receive money and aid.
Child brides arise out of necessity first in impoverished countries. Families cannot afford to feed all of their children, who as a result are married off young to keep families afloat. In the minds of those parents, they are making certain that she is fed and clothed. You want to help women? Then acknowledge that the problem is a toxic mix of ignorance, tradition, and crippling poverty in (often) war-torn countries that drives these problems—not a lack of chivalry.
It is difficult for women to even dream of a future when their families can barely afford to feed them. How can women get ahead when their clothes are rotting off their bodies and their brothers are being drawn into war because it’s their only hope of making some kind of change.
Feminism cannot put food on their tables or stop those wars because it is attempting to treat the symptoms of these problems and not the disease. You want to help people? Then wake up! We don’t need chivalry! We need honesty! Life is hell for the impoverished: it cultivates victims and criminal behavior.
Those people are in pain, and the discussion as to how to help them begins when we have honest discussions about how men and women both suffer in equal degrees, but the source is this toxic mix of human problems that we’ve yet to solve. Some of which we may never solve. Treating the symptoms is failing.
We must approach the source and come to creative solutions because as it stands people are dividing themselves over the belief that everyone can be an oppressor or that people are being oppressed in the First World. The wage gap has long since been debunked. Single, childless women often out-earn men because they make different choices now. They can wait longer to have children due to technological advances, so they make career-orientated decisions that allow them to get ahead.
The greatest determination of poverty for a woman is how many children she has and when she has them. Women often make work decisions based upon wanting to spend time with her children. So she’s more likely to take time off to tend to her sick children and to leave work early to pick them up from school or to get them to activities like soccer practice.
This all adds up to be the major contributor to the disparity in the wage gap—not gender discrimination. When you compare many of the well-paying jobs men take with something like being a kindergarten teacher, there is an obvious difference in pay. The studies speaking of a massive pay gap rely on lifetime studies that don’t account for differences in job, whether these women have children, or choose careers that pay less but make them happy.
The key to aiding this problem may well be in making birth control available to men and women and allowing them to choose when to be parents. This will also reduce the population in many problem areas and make it possible for people to do better with the same amount of resources. But it will be difficult, and many religious groups simply will not allow it.
But you will likely find that the key to aiding poverty-stricken people is in advancing science and technology overall, and in safe, effective, affordable, and readily available birth control methods for men and women. The recognition of science and its continued progression is the only thing that can move us in that direction.
So I ask that instead of funding campaigns to promote chivalrous behavior in men that you fund the people who will make that line of reasoning obsolete. I ask that you fund science and technology.
Thank you for your time and I hope that you will consider what I have written.
Rachel Marie Edwards
Feature image by Marco Bond