I was once a feminist – of the fourth wave variety. My activist ensemble consisted of a slogan t-shirt, leggings and Doc Marten boots. A rebuttal of my generation’s dichotomic embrace of Kardashian – like overt sexuality or Middleton-esque sedate social climbing. I supported gay marriage and adoption, was pro-choice, thought that gender was irrelevant. I felt I had finally found my tribe. However, I turned out to be a very bad, modern-day feminist.
This was because I had as much to gripe about towards the female sex than I did the male one. Reflection merely cemented that I had had as much difficulty with women as I had with men during my formative years. I encountered females who were manipulative, insensitive and authoritative. I met men who were kind, encouraging and reasonable. Human nature is not black and white, and neither is the battle between the sexes.
I loved Disney movies as a child and thought the Feminist diatribe against the more established Princesses were the very definition of first world problems. I realised that the role of Housewife and Stay at Home Mother had been unfairly ridiculed and maligned.
The vulgarity and audacity at the Women’s Marches and pro-choice rallies shocked and repelled me. I felt that the current women’s movement was pushing me to become someone I had either no desire or ability to be.
As the years went on into my twenties, I was no more fulfilled, content or happy than I had been when I subscribed to this ideology in my late teens. I just felt more and more like a helpless victim. That I would always be under the boot of the patriarchy. I would earn less than men, I would be harassed or assaulted every time I left my home and if I ever did get married, I’d probably end up being mistreated by my husband.
It was only when I stepped out of my echo chamber and started listening to people with a different opinion that I realised how misled, stubborn and masochist I had become. The first tangible example of this was during the Marriage Equality referendum back in 2015. I was walking home when I saw a group of canvassers coming toward me. I had been intending to vote yes. Someone in the group handed me a leaflet, it was for a no vote. However, out of mere politeness, I took it and said thanks.
It wasn’t until I sat down and read the leaflet that I realised that the other side made a few good points. Men and women were different but that didn’t mean that women were inferior or that it was a terrible thing. Men and women, thus fathers and mothers, simply complimented each other. Each sex had their good and bad qualities.
The following summer I travelled down to Bantry to hear Gloria Steinem speak at the West Cork Literary Festival. I was so excited to hear and see a living icon of female empowerment in person. But I just came out of the auditorium feeling even more lost and alone than before. This was due to the sycophantic audience, aversion to dissenting opinion and Ms Steinem’s tiresome repetition of limp talking points when challenged.
I then came across American women like Katie Pavlich and Dana Loesch. They were Conservative, Christian and Pro Second Amendment. Everything Gloria Steinem wasn’t. I thought I would disagree with everything they stood for. But they were of a similar age and from a small-town background like me. Again, they made valid points about everything from gun ownership to economics to liberal sexism, backed up by facts.
Closer to home, ladies like Maria Steen and Breda O’Brien introduced me to a woman’s ‘soft power’ and the strong influence it’s had since the dawn of time. Those Christian/Catholic teachings, particularly in relation to traditional marriage, hadn’t subjugated women after all. It had civilised men. It had afforded women the first ever type of 50/50 representation, resulting in raising the next generation and having a larger effect on the wider world.
Further learning and life experience opened my eyes to the myths, elitism and insincerity of post second wave feminism. The reason I wasn’t happy or successful wasn’t because of some evil, misogynistic system out to get me, it was because of my own choices, interests and capabilities. The reason I am at an economic disadvantage is because
I went to college when I didn’t need to. As a result, I ended up in debt with no job prospects or useful qualifications because I chose to study the liberal arts. I didn’t pay enough attention or make better choices. Not because of any gender pay gap which has since been disputed.
Women have been breaking down barriers, confronting the status quo and defying expectations forever. Without the help of any sisterly clique. Organisations such as Feminists for Life and New Wave Feminists revealed that there is a far more insidious misogyny prevalent in the abortion lobby. Camille Paglia demonstrated the importance of individualism. Phyllis Schlafly proved that women could do it all – just not at the same time. Margaret Thatcher showed that not only could a woman be a leader, but she could also be a great leader in her own right.
I slowly started to turn away from the current feminist tunnel vision. I began to think for myself. I matured emotionally. I no longer wanted to feel like a victim. I saw the destructive hypocrisy and wanted no part of it anymore. My anger, fear and bitterness subsided thankfully. My acceptance of conservative values and return to the Christian faith is what made my life better.