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Women Vs. Women - The Anti-Feminists

Like many people who identify as feminists, I'm frequently confounded by the actions of women who seem to fight against feminism. There seems to be no logic to it - sort of like shooting yourself in the foot. To be fair, though, I figured there had to be reasons, so I started to do some research.

For the purposes of this discussion, however, we need a definition of feminism or we can't have a perceived contradiction. For the moment, although it is admittedly limited in scope, we'll use my own construct of what I believe feminism to be, as best as I can explain it:

Feminism is the belief that all genders should have equal rights, equal responsibilities, and equal opportunities, with no gender being given benefits or difficulties over and above the other.

As you read further, please keep in mind that this definition is being used for comparative purposes. Not everyone defines feminism or feminists in the same fashion, including those who call themselves feminists.

There are plenty of examples in modern society of women who could be perceived as going 'against feminism' in very public ways. The belief that women's rights take away the rights of men is a common stance used by those such as Phyllis McAlpen Stewart Schlafly. She makes a very good target for accusations of contradicting behaviour and beliefs. For example, she has a law degree. Without the feminist movement, there would be no women with law degrees. Her own mother worked to help support the family. She's co-authored books on national defense, and is the founder of the Eagle Forum and the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund. This is not a woman who is sitting in her rocking chair, knitting booties for her grandchildren, or filling her days doing nothing but baking and cleaning. She had six children with her husband, and spent a great deal of time on her career. There is a great deal more to her biography than can be stated in a simple article meant to encompass the general behaviour of so-called anti-feminists, but those examples illustrate the point clearly enough. However, in case you're unaware of it, she was instrumental in the fight against the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment).

Michelle Marie Bachmann comes to mind as well, who has stated that women should be submissive to their husband's wishes. Yet, she is still currently in charge of a political office. Does this mean she asks for her husband's permission every time she needs to make a political decision? Is he the one that's technically in office then? Her 'pro-life' stance has also angered many feminists who do not believe women's reproductive rights should be legislated by the government.

Sarah Louise Palin is yet another highly visible woman who appears to have little regard for the independence of women, despite her life in politics. She's the mother of five children, but she certainly wasn't staying home to raise them. She's another proponent of 'pro-life' that is angering women who don't want their reproductive rights taken from them. In 2008, In Alaska, she cut funding for teen mothers. She advocates abstinence rather than choice, which promotes shame in young women. She also likes to call herself a 'true feminist' who embraces the real 'choices' that women will have when abortion is not an option.

As a final example we'll consider Ann Coulter, a conservative social and political commentator. This quote from her pretty much says it all:

"If we took away women's right to vote, we'd never have to worry about another Democrat president. It's kind of a pipe dream, it's a personal fantasy of mine, but I don't think it's going to happen. And it is a good way of making the point that women are voting so stupidly, at least single women.

It also makes the point, it is kind of embarrassing, the Democratic Party ought to be hanging its head in shame, that it has so much difficulty getting men to vote for it. I mean, you do see it's the party of women and 'We'll pay for health care and tuition and day care—and here, what else can we give you, soccer moms?'"

So, aside from the fact that all four of these women are Conservatives/Republicans, where is the commonality that binds them together? Is there a reason they believe the things they do? What was their upbringing that would lead them to believe women shouldn't have any choices, and that their lives should be dictated by men?

All four women call themselves Christians, and two of them are Catholic. Now, before anyone gets upset, this isn't a dig at religions. How a religion is interpreted has a much greater impact than the actual religion itself. Being a Christian doesn't make anyone anti-feminist. It's just something they have in common.

Let's consider where they were born. Phyllis Schlafly was born in Missouri, Michelle Bachmann was born in Iowa, Sarah Palin was born in Idaho, and Ann Coulter was born in Kentucky. All but Missouri are currently considered red states, although that does change throughout the years.

For a third possibility we can look to their upbringing. Did they have similar childhoods that would make them see things from a similar perspective? Well, Schlafly was raised with two parents being in the home. Michelle Bachmann's parents divorced. Sarah Palin's parents remained together. Ann Coulter's parents appear to have remained together as well.

Three of the women have long-term marriages, and one has never married at all, despite being engaged more than once. The three who are married have more children than average American families. Michelle Bachmann has five children with her husband, and as previously stated Schlafly had six with her husband and Palin has five. Ann Coulter hasn't had any children.

Frankly, the only thing that can really be taken from any of those things is that they mostly had conservative upbringings, with generally stable family lives and religion as a part of the glue that held their families together. In all comparisons, three out of four of the women fell in line with expected characteristics, but that's hardly proof of anything. The one thing that they have completely in common is that they are all Caucasian, and that alone is a state of privilege in most cases.

So why is it that they seem, to feminists anyway, so hell-bent on being destructive to equality? The sad reality is that they simply don't see it that way. Either they don't care what they're doing to the equal rights movement, or they believe that what they're doing really is the right path. They live lives of privilege now, if not in their youths. Living narrow lives, with narrow views, has blinded them to what other have to live with.

In cases where the women have submitted to their husbands, and they were treated well for their submission, there were no terrible consequences for their choices. They most likely didn't find out after-the-fact that the man they promised to submit to was a wife-beater - at least there haven't been any public announcements regarding such a thing. They had their freedom to pursue a career, rather than being told by their husbands that they had to stay home with the children. Their dreams were not brushed aside. In Michelle Bachmann's case, her husband actually told her to get her law degree, and she has publicly stated that this was the only reason she chose to do so.

How different would their stances have been, however, had they been treated differently? Would they still be so willing to say that women shouldn't be allowed to vote, as Ann Coulter stated? That one confuses me, because she's a registered Republican, and I'm pretty sure she votes. Would they still think a husband should dominate his wife, if that husband had told them they were good for nothing but breeding purposes and to get back in the kitchen to make sandwiches? Would Palin have cut funding to teen mothers had her husband abandoned her, pregnant with one of his children?

Most likely none of these women have had to walk a mile in the shoes of anyone who didn't live a privileged life, or had choices thrust upon them by someone else that they couldn't escape the consequences of. Far too many women fall into categories that don't apply to them. Teenage girls who run away because they're being raped by a family member don't seem to be on their radars. Young women with mental illnesses and no financial resources are not people they have apparently come in contact with. They don't appear to think anything of taking away the resources to help women in these situations, because they never have, and never will, face those situations themselves - unless, of course, something has been well-hidden from the public eye.

Of these four women, Michelle Bachmann came closest to poverty while growing up, from what information is available to the public, because of the divorce of her parents. When she recounts that time in her autobiography, she says,

"I took every baby sitting job I could get, because by ninth grade, I was growing conscious of my appearance. In those days, girls had to wear dresses to public school, and if I wanted pretty dresses, I had to buy them, because mom couldn't afford them for me; she couldn't afford lunch money."

She doesn't mention not having enough to eat; she says they couldn't afford lunch money, which isn't the same thing at all. Plenty of kids bring their lunches to school rather than pay for cafeteria food. No, Michelle Bachmann wasn't working to give money to her mother for the electric bill; she was worried about having pretty dresses.

This inability to grasp the realities of life translates as vacuousness to many people, when it's quite possibly naïveté. Clearly they must have faced a certain amount of frustration simply for being women in the largely male-dominated area of politics, whether it was specifically as a politician, or as someone whose career is based on politics. Schlafly might be older now, but for the most part we're talking about women who are still considered attractive. If nothing else they would have been listened to far more readily by the men they spoke to, simply because they were pretty. They didn't face the stigma of being gay, transgendered, bisexual, or transsexual. There is every reason to believe they are heterosexual and cisgender, but even if they're not, they are firmly in the closet and won't likely be coming out any time soon. Every one of them is white, as previously stated, which means they've never once endured racial slurs or the cultural assumptions that are heaped on other ethnicities.

This level of privilege translates into women who know very little, if anything, about what it means to be under-privileged. There is little hope that they will change their spots at this stage of the game, either. They've not only undercut their fellow women, they've gained a great deal from doing so. They've managed to join the good ol' boys club by taking actions that subjugate other women. They've gained fame and popularity at the cost of true respect, either from themselves or the peers they have sold out for. Never mind the countless women who have suffered from their decisions.

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Rain Stickland is a Canadian writer with a passion for ferrets and a love for sentient creatures. She produces The Kovacs Perspective, hosted by Steve Kovacs.

Her professional background includes freelance writing, consulting, technical writing, procedures manuals, payroll and HR, investment analysis, and accounting. She owns a company that develops and manufactures safe pet toys, and donates the proceeds to ferret shelters in Canada and the US.

Rain's writing background includes topics such as stem cell transplants and feminism, and position papers on charitable organization development. She's also a staff writer for a popular online feminist publication. A crime-fiction series is in the works, as she continues to contribute to various online and print publications.

Follow her on Twitter @RainStickland

You can follow her blog at: Torrential Rain

Future articles can be found at: Soul of Wit where she will contribute articles formerly written for

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