Critiquing Feminism: A Response to #IDontNeedFeminism

This post originally appeared on March 10, 2014 written by Kelly Ehrenreich.

On Saturday, March 1st, the first day of Women’s History Month, #IDontNeedFeminism trended. It wasn’t the first time this HT appeared on Twitter, and certainly not the only time women have expressed the sentiment. But this time it got to me. I found myself going down the rabbit hole, getting more frustrated by the second as I read tweets mostly by young, Christian, Republican, heterosexual, white women (based on Twitter bios), spouting misconceptions about Feminism and why they were above the concept.

The most recent #IDontNeedFeminism trend started with @repubsunited. The vocal tweeter commented about her disapproval of Feminists, and tweeted a picture of reasons she doesn’t need Feminism:

Apparently it's sexist to advocate for women to work hard for what they want, make no excuses, and accept no leg-ups. Whoops.

— Repubs (@repubsunited) March 1, 2014

— Repubs (@repubsunited) March 1, 2014

@feministlady if you followed any more than one tweet you'd know I advocate for feminism globally, just where women are actually oppressed.

— Repubs (@repubsunited) March 1, 2014

From a former feminist. #IDontNeedFeminism

— Repubs (@repubsunited) March 1, 2014

I scrolled through @repubsunited and other’s tweets that ranged from slightly silly to willfully ignorant, to outright hateful and mean-spirited, but I didn’t respond to any of them. I make it a practice not to engage with people I disagree with on Twitter because I know it will never make a difference or change someone’s mind. It seems more difficult these days to attempt to make a coherent argument in less than 140 characters without coming across like an attack. That said, however, many from the online Feminist community reclaimed the HT with tongue-in-cheek#IDontNeedFeminism tweets:

Welp. So, #IDontNeedFeminism HT is quite a good portrayal of delusional privileged people shining their ignorance so brightly & loudly.

— Arnesa (@_arnesa_) March 2, 2014

#IDontNeedFeminism because let's face it, if we all just pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps the wage gap would magically disappear

— Sarah Jones (@onesarahjones) March 2, 2014

I know those who proudly tweet about defying Feminism are unlikely to be swayed by either reason or emotion, but I still couldn’t resist wanting to address these folks. Ultimately, there is one thing I would like to say to everyone who tweeted #IDontNeedFeminism: It is not about you.


Don’t get it twisted, I don’t mean to imply that “If you don’t want to play by my rules, then I’m going home and taking my beloved feminist Barbies with me.” No. I mean literally, Feminism is not about you or me. Feminism is a movement made up of individuals. It’s about the collection of people; about how all of us fit together and form society. It’s about the mosaic, not the individual tiles.

Based on their tweets, it would seem that the #IDontNeedFeminism crowd doesn’t seem to grasp the fundamental idea that feminism is about concern for all people, not just a myopic few:

@repubsunited #IDontNeedFeminism

— Right Wing Girl (@rightwinggirl08) March 2, 2014

#IDontNeedFeminism because my parents raised me to work for what I want. I shouldn't be entitled to anything just because I'm a women.

— Some Southern Girl (@SouthrnBelle302) March 1, 2014

Granted, folks claim Feminism based on their individual experiences. This idea ought not be confused with the premise that people choose to align with Feminism because they want to gain something for themselves. A Feminist wouldn’t cease being a Feminist if, for example, (s)he were to advocate against rape and gendered violence even though s/he didn’t experience any abuse. A Feminist wouldn’t say “I haven’t been attacked so *brushes hands* I’m good!” Furthermore, a Feminist who advocates for pay equity, and fortunately receives fair pay doesn’t say that the work for gender-based income equality is complete simply because she gets a nice pay check.

#IDontNeedFeminism because I think like a man and beat them at their own game.

— Melissa Pawlak (@MelissaPawlak) March 1, 2014

Feminism is fine and all but honestly if you really think the world is going to be fair, you're sadly out of luck.

— Melissa Pawlak (@MelissaPawlak) March 1, 2014

And look if you let people get in your way of doing things you're a weak person.

— Melissa Pawlak (@MelissaPawlak) March 1, 2014

Alright I think I'm done, #IDontNeedFeminism because I'd rather live in the real world than a fairy tale.

— Melissa Pawlak (@MelissaPawlak) March 1, 2014

Feminism is a complex idea, and although online activism has helped our movement, allowing more Feminist voices to weigh in (which we celebrate here at Hashtag Feminism) doesn’t mean that all Feminists do is complain. It may be difficult for some to understand that when Feminists critique the pay gap, or the lack of women and people of color represented in the media and politics, or other socio-cultural problems, we are not asking people to hand us a check, a job, or a Senate seat. We are asking of others and of each other to be more critical of the status quo.

We point out these things to encourage everyone to take a second look and consider the implications of not having diverse perspectives in workplaces, government, and society at large.

Moving Beyond #IDontNeedFeminism

Quite unlike the perception of those who tweet #IDontNeedFeminism, our online activism is doing work, exchanging ideas, asking questions, and opening minds. Most of all, Feminism strives to teach compassion, which all of the #IDontNeedFeminism tweets sorely misunderstand.

On Saturday, the NY Times wrote a piece on the “compassion gap” which nicely addresses these problems. Yet some may claim Feminism has a compassion issue.

I argue that Feminism isn’t about anger, judgment, and certainly not about taking away freedom or choice. To the women who say they do not need Feminism because they are happy to stay home and take care of their husband and children, I say two things:

  1. Brava! Feminism wants women to have the freedom to choose, even if other Feminists wouldn’t make the same choice for herself (or himself).

  2. I question why you so aggressively denounce Feminism. If you feel that you have been judged or attacked by Feminists because of your choices, I apologize on behalf of my cohort. We’re certainly not perfect.

On the other hand, if in some way you are projecting guilt or fear at the possibility of women making choices for themselves and not on your behalf, then I would ask that you to be more open-minded and empathetic.

In the vein of open-mindedness, I considered the most useful tweet I found in the#IDontNeedFeminism discussion:

#IDontNeedFeminism is a time to learn the misconceptions people have about feminism. Never belittle for you can always learn. #NotesToSelf

— Zaid Shahid. (@Tigershah26) March 2, 2014


Instead of letting exasperation win, and calling out the privilege or ignorance of these tweets, @Tigershah26 suggests that we learn from them. Taking another look at the #IDontNeedFeminismtweets, there are some helpful cues about how we can improve our online Feminist community. Ironically #IDontNeedFeminism mostly rejects behavior Feminist themselves abhor: hostility, hypocrisy, and exclusion.

For the most part, @repubsunited and others are critiquing behavior like saying someone should be raped, claiming that a man cannot be abused by a woman, or judging a woman’s choice about how we have a family. The problem may take some time to correct, but the proliferation of the online Feminist community may help to work out some of these misconceptions that Feminism is not a welcoming space for Republicans, Christians, heterosexual women who choose to stay home with their children, etc.

So, when you tweet #IDontNeedFeminism, you are rejecting these methods: calling out double-standards only when it benefits you, and rejecting others’ experiences. Congratulations, you may be a Feminist! Because, in this sense, I agree with the #IDontNeedFeminism crowd. I don’t need that kind of Feminism or those kind of Feminists, either.