Why I am an egalitarian, not a feminist.

For quite a while now my facebook feed has been full of feminism. Feminist quotes, feminist videos, and memes showing why everyone regardless of whether they know it or not has to be a feminist if they believe in the equality of men and women. When you tell someone you’re not a feminist you are normally met with a bit of ridicule and a lot of patronising attitudes.

The Definition of Feminism

People will tell you that feminism means equality, so if you believe in equality you must be a feminist. If you deny this and  continue to say that whilst you do believe in equality you are not a feminist, the person you’re talking to either gives up on you entirely or just assumes that you don’t understand the definition of feminism in the first place. A lot of discussions don’t really go anywhere because the person you are talking to either assumes you don’t know the definition of feminism or they assume you have misinterpreted it. So just to clear something up let me bring up the definition of feminism as according to Google.


 1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
I am not saying feminists don’t believe in equality. The definition states that the aim of feminism is making women equal to men, not making them more powerful than men. The definition is not about taking away men’s rights, it is about giving rights to women. Some feminists do hate men and some feminists believe women should do away with them entirely, but crazy ideas and crazy people exist in all ideologies and the majority of people who identify as feminists do not believe that.

So why aren’t you a feminist?

You may be wondering at this point what the hell my problem is. If I know that the majority of feminists believe in equality and I believe in equality then why won’t I just identify as a feminist? Well the answer is in the definition, it’s just not the conclusion most people seem to come to. The definition above states that feminism is the advocacy of making women equal to men, so that implies that men are equal in all areas and women are not equal in all areas and so in order to achieve equality we need to bring women up to the level of equality enjoyed by men.
I believe that society in the present day is not as black and white as that definition assumes. I believe that women are at a disadvantage and do experience inequality in some areas of life, and I also believe that men experience inequality and are at a disadvantage in other areas of life. I do not believe men have the advantage in all areas and so I do not believe equality can be achieved by making women equal to men when in some areas they may actually be better off than men. Therefore I believe equality has to be achieved by looking at the issues that affect women and the issues that affect men.

Equality works both ways

I’m a little short on time at the moment and I will bring in detailed examples in a separate post a bit later on but some of the areas I am thinking about includes:
The disproportion rate of suicide in men, that fact that although male victims can make up as much as 40% of domestic abuse statistics they are still not taken seriously, the fact that men are often given harsher sentences for the same crimes whereas women tend to be treated more leniently, the fact that whether a man wanted a child or not he will have to pay child maintenance for the next 16+ years and still be called a deadbeat father.

The fact that men are more likely to be victims of physical violence and yet feminists claim men feel so much safer walking the streets at night. The fact that white working class males are now actually the social group that is least likely to succeed in school and go to university whereas female students up and down the country now outperform their male counterparts and yet white males are still constantly told they are the most privileged group in society. The fact that prostate cancer does not get anywhere near the same publicity or funding as breast cancer. The fact that there are far, far less men’s shelters than there are shelters for women and children even though men are more likely to become homeless in this country.

Feminists often say that they fight for men’s rights as well as women’s rights, and I am sure to some extent that is true. However what I tend to see is that when feminists talk about how feminism can help men it is still on female terms. Men will benefit because gender stereotypes will be pushed aside and men will be able to be emotional, these ideas of gender roles will be destroyed so that men can stay at home and take care of the children etc. This is certainly true for some men, but I do not believe all of men’s problems would be solved if they were allowed to be like women any more than I think the only way for women to succeed is if they act like men.

‘Toxic Masculinity’

A lot of the time there is this assumption that all of masculinity is in some way toxic and that femininity can cure society of all its problems. This idea exists because these days we see masculinity as a social construct rather than a biological fact. It is true that your upbringing, the society you live in, your parents, your friends and your childhood will influence your adult life, but when you talk about men and women you can’t just pretend biology doesn’t exist because if you do you are ignoring half the argument. The nature vs nurture debate is an old one and one that has never been fully proven either way,  yet now apparently sociological theories are no longer theories but more factual than biological science.
When you look into it it does appear that women and men  deal with emotions differently. Women are more likely to find comfort in talking about it and letting their emotions out, whereas men are more likely to do one of three things: try to solve the problem, get angry or try to avoid the situation if they don’t feel it can be solved. This is of course not 100% accurate and people do vary, but again and again I keep seeing evidence that men and women’s brains deal with emotions in different areas and women typically find it easier to verbalise their feelings whereas men are more likely to try to solve or avoid the issue at hand.
I am not a scientist but I have watched videos and read articles that keep saying the same things, and I am happy to provide links if anyone is interested.
If this is true, even if it is not true for everyone, the type of talking therapy that is currently available may not appeal to men as much as women because they don’t find talking about their feelings as helpful, in fact they may feel unable to and this may cause them greater distress.
It is all very well to say that men have been conditioned not to express themselves because of toxic masculinity, but if their brains are literally wired differently when it comes to communication and emotion then surely we should be focusing on finding mental health care that benefits both parties, not assuming that all mental health care that works for women would work for men if only they could get away from toxic masculinity and just open up.


The biggest problem I have with feminism as an ideology isn’t what it says or does. I agree with a lot of the things it says and some of the things it does. What I do have a problem with is this idea that you have to label yourself a feminist or you are automatically a bad person/a woman hater. When a woman says she is not a feminist she has ‘internalised the patriarchy’ and she is ‘hurting fellow women everywhere’ because she has chosen her own definition.

I don’t mind if you want to identify as a feminist as long as you are open to debate, so I don’t see why the same can’t apply to me or to other non-feminists.Time and time again I see people pushing this binary view of the world, this idea that you either have to be a feminist or you have to be a sexist and there is no way you could believe in equality without defining yourself as a feminist. This idea that ‘my group is all good and your group is all bad’ is a really simplistic and reductionist way of looking at the world, and it is not helpful for debate or any kind of progression.

Egalitarianism (from French égal, meaning “equal”)—or equalitarianism—is a trend of thought that favours equality for all people. Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

I am an egalitarian because the definition works for me. I am an egalitarian because I  don’t see the proof in this black and white all or nothing oppressor and oppressed way of thinking. And I am an egalitarian because I am not just concerned with male and female equality but equality across the board, and in some cases I feel other cases of inequality are simply more important at this time.

I fully support the first, second and third wave feminist movements that have taken place in the last 100 years because they did fight for inequality and at that time women were less equal than they are today. The right to vote, the right to control your own body and the move towards strong and interesting female characters in popular culture (i.e Buffy, Dark Angel, Xena etc) were all fantastic things that I fully support. But I feel fourth wave feminism often focuses on the wrong topics, goes about things the wrong way and alienates and denies anyone who disagrees with them regardless of what that person actually says. I feel that I can support equality between the sexes/genders without having to identify with a group I don’t feel comfortable with, and I don’t see why that should be a problem. That is why I am not a feminist, and in the next series of posts I’ll be looking at things like the gender pay gap, sexism, inequality and structural oppression and questioning if the progressives are as progressive as they think.


Let’s talk about sexual harassment​


I am currently working on a new article which is going to focus on an upsetting but important subject. My article is going to be about the sexual harassment experienced by teenage girls on public transport (buses, tubes, trains etc).

I am writing about this because it is really horribly common, and yet no one wants to talk about it. Sexual harassment isn’t pleasant at any time, but it can be a lot scarier as a teenager. These guys are typically twice your age, and somehow they think that even though they may well have children at home it’s nevertheless totally acceptable to come onto a 14-17-year-old girl.

Note: This article is going to focus on girls but if you’re a male who has experienced unwanted sexual attention as a teenager on public transport by either sex I also want to hear from you. The same goes for girls who were harassed by women.

These encounters can be terrifying. They can keep people living in fear for years. And yet somehow even though this has happened to many, many young girls at one time or another still whenever I hear about public sexual harassment it always refers to adult women, perhaps because they know that they can talk about it. Sexual harassment is an important issue full stop, but I want to bring the experiences of younger women out into the open.

The stats ignore younger people

London, United Kingdom: In a poll conducted by the Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition in London, 43 percent of young women ages 18-34 had experienced street harassment just during the past year alone. The total sample size was 1047 adults and the poll was conducted in early March 2012.”

This is an important poll, but the youngest age to participate is 18. From my experience and from talking to other people, I’ve found that a large number of girls aged 13-17 have also experienced these things. This is vitally important because teenage girls are more vulnerable, less confident and even less likely to want to report it.

My aims

I want to show how disgusting  these harassers really are. To show adults it is not okay to treat children like that. To show that it’s not a 14-year-olds fault that they have somehow become catnip to creeps. To show that young girls are not alone in this experience, that people will understand, and that they don’t have to just put up with it because it’s something that ‘just happens’.

How you can help

I need your help to write this article because I want to show how widespread this thing is. I understand this is a sensitive topic, and all contributions will remain anonymous in the article itself, but if you don’t want your identity known at all that is absolutely fine. I believe you can leave an anonymous comment in the section below, or if you would prefer you can send me an email at Sophialb1993@gmail.com. No need to give your name or say anything you don’t want to.

I just the age you were at the time, a brief description of what happened, and what you think we can do to make young people safer on public transport going forward.

Thank you



Gone Girl and ‘misogyny’

I’ve just read a Guardian article published in October 2014 in which the author appear to have taken offence to the film ‘Gone Girl’, in the article she claims that it perpetuates myths about false rape accusations and paints women in a bad light.

*Spoilers for the second half of the book, read on at your own peril*

I should admit now that I’m still reading the book, I’m really enjoying it but haven’t finished it yet (so please, for the love of all deities, no spoilers PLEASE!) and I’m not going to watch the film until I’ve read the book. However, from what I know from the book so far (including the false rape accusation) the point of its inclusion was to demonstrate how ruthless,manipulative and cruel the character Amy can be when someone does something she doesn’t like, and to show that her husband was not her only victim. She is meant to be a psychopath. She is not meant to be representative of women in general. She is not meant to be nice or particularly likable, although one of the disturbing (and great) things about this book is that none of the characters are innocent or inherently good, but the reader does find themselves identifying with some of the things they say and feel (although hopefully not their actions). She uses the persona of the innocent female victim to her advantage because she knows how to play it, because she knows how to manipulate people, because she is good at playing a character and admits herself that she does not have a ‘real’ personality. All the things she does is for the story and for her character, I see no evidence it was in any way intended  to be about rape accusations or women in general, although the fact that it has created so many discussions can only be a good thing in my opinion. It is a work of fiction, and fiction is allowed to portray life in the way it wishes without necessarily having an outside agenda or a moral message.  Art is art, and art is neither moral nor immoral (to quote my darling Oscar Wilde). I am also quite glad to see complex and unpleasant female characters in books and film because it opens up the opportunity for new and fresh story lines, and it accepts that women can be as complex and as immoral as men. It should not be seen as a representation or accurate depiction of women, but the fact that we have come a long way from giving men all the interesting story lines should be celebrated.

The idea of a manipulative woman who lies to get people into trouble is not that outlandish idea, nor is it misogyny to admit that. I have known of several abusive relationships which involved the woman emotionally and physically abusing the man, and often using emotional manipulation to make them feel crazy and threatened. Admitting that women can and do do bad things is not misogyny, it is realistic. Women, like men, are human beings with varying personalities, experiences and actions, and complaining about a female character who does bad things because it sullies the image of real women is ridiculous, because the whole point of good fiction is to create memorable and sometimes controversial characters.  Patrick Bateman of American Psycho murdered women, raped women and even carried out his own abortions. Was he meant to be representative of men in general, and was the book trying to say that all men are evil psychos who murder women, cut up their body parts and then keep them in gym lockers? No. It was a work of fiction about a character that was quite possibly mad, and it is meant to shock and disgust us and show the depravity that can exist underneath seemingly normal, attractive and privileged people. The misogyny in this book (if you have read it you cannot deny that that is what it is in this case) is disgusting, but it is used because that is who the character is, not because that is what men are. It is a story designed to create a reaction, but it is still a story, and art is allowed to delve into the corners of life we in real life may not want to think about  because art without censorship means art can discuss what it wants, and that to me is the whole point of fiction. To think that people believe and take everything they read or see in films at face value is insulting, surely people are intelligent enough to know the difference between fact and fiction and can be trusted to see a film about murder, or false rape accusations, and not go on to assume this is normal behavior that everyone is engaging in.

I do not consider myself a feminist. That does not mean I disagree with a lot of things feminists say and do, I believe in gender equality and that men and women should be able to do what they want regardless of their sex. A girl can be a soldier and a boy can be a ballet dancer and that’s fine, it is about the individual rather then the sex. However, what I do not like about the feminism I have encountered is the anger many of them have when a woman, even if she agrees and is willing to support many of the things they say, does not wish to label herself a feminist and does not take everything feminists say as truth without looking into it. I do not wish to call myself a feminist because I believe the word itself inherently is just about women and does not include men, and whilst many feminists want equality for both genders I think you can believe in that and promote it without having to go around telling everyone you are a feminist.  I will support the causes I believe are helpful to women and beneficial to society, but I will not throw myself behind a label I often find myself disagreeing with, and I do not see why this is an issue.

Sexual harassment and un-wanted advances are unfortunately part of every day life, and campaigns that illustrate this should be celebrated (the one in new york where a girl walks down the street and videos all the creeps that come up to her and follow her was excellent, we need more of these). We also need to acknowledge that this kind of attention often starts very young, and some of the most likely victims of this are going to be teenage girls. I experienced it, all my female friends experienced it and young girls still experience it every day. We need more campaigns aimed at younger girls, to show them that they can speak out, and to show the men often twice their age who subject them to unwanted behavior that it is not acceptable. This is the kind of feminism I believe in, the kind that tackles real issues and aims to create a safer and better world, and shows women that they do not have to accept this behavior, they are not alone, it is not their fault and they can do something about it.

However, the kind of feminism that is often perpetuated in the Guardian and thrown around to varying degrees of extremity is not the kind of feminism I want to support. The kind of feminism that claims to be about real issues but uses inconsequential and often irrelevant things to back up their cause, and often end up taking something that really isn’t a big deal and warping it into yet another example of ‘patriarchy’ and ‘misogyny’ and, whilst saying it is related to other actually important issues, do not seem to have any real examples to choose from. Like the outrage over physicist Matt Taylor’s choice to wear a t-shirt depicting girls shooting guns in bikini’s on television, a man who made a very important contribution to physics and who was forced to apologize on national tv because of his t-shirt and was reduced to tears, the guy who is now just going to be remembered for that t-shirt. That t-shirt was designed by a female friend of Matt, who has created several other artistic garments with similarly scantily clad women and was herself shocked at the reaction. Whilst it may have been an inadvisable choice I do not see how or why it created such a backlash. I quite liked the t-shirt, personally. I probably wouldn’t wear it outside, but I don’t see why bikini clad gun shooting women have to be offensive, or why it is the best example of our ‘misogynist society’. The same goes for Tim Hunt (see my earlier post) who was fired because he said that girls cry when you criticize them. A poor thing to say yes, but a key example of misogyny? Really? He literally just said that sometimes men and women fall in love with each other in the work place, and as his wife is also a scientist he may have been speaking from personal experience, and that women cry. Which is annoying, but seriously. Is it a big deal? The guy was 72 years old, he would have grown up in a very different world and although his comments may be a little insulting his actions appear to suggest he supported female scientists and was actually in South Korea to promote them. Sexism is a real thing, but personally I feel that using these frankly pathetic examples actually works against women, because it portrays us as petty and over-emotional people who, not having real examples, will fall back on any questionable comment or choice of clothing and take it way out of proportion in order to promote a feminist agenda. And this is not helpful. There are real problems, we should be focusing on them, not on victimizing and singling out scapegoats like Hunt and Taylor and blaming them for all the ills of the world that they have nothing to do with.

The same goes for Gone Girl, a fictional depiction of fictional messed up characters which is being taken, again by the Guardian, as an example of our misogynist society because it depicts a woman lying about being raped. 1: It is a work of fiction, and 2: It is a fact that some women do lie about being raped. This does not mean that this should be the assumption and that women should not be trusted, but as with any crime it is not always as straightforward as it seems and it is important for us to acknowledge this. Accepting that men can sometimes be victims does not suggest that women are liars, but to have a fair society we have to acknowledge that there are variations and we cannot work on absolute principles, such as men are never wrongly accused and women never lie.  I do not like the feminists who would censor every account of a man being genuinely wrongly accused and having their life messed up because it may perpetuate a bad image of women. The point of free speech is to show different sides of a situation, and to encourage open discussion and debate, it is not to suppress someone else’s experience or to refuse to ever be challenged.  To do so implies you have a weak argument, and it hurts your cause more than either a genuine individual case of a man being victimized or an illogical and obviously flawed misogynist tirade every could.

Basically, people need to stop complaining about fictional characters and irrelevant fashion choices and start to focus on the real issues that effect women. We can talk about misogyny in the work place, and in the police procedure and in any aspect of life, but do not blame Tim Hunt or Matt Taylor or anyone who hasn’t done anything that directly harms women (because I am sorry, saying girls cry does not harm anyone with any kind of self confidence or maturity) and definitely do not blame Gone Girl, which as I cannot say enough is a fictional story about fictional characters in a fictional situation.

The article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/06/gone-girl-rape-domestic-violence-ben-affleck#comment-41854506


Tim Hunt

The response to Tim Hunt’s ‘trouble with girls’ comments went too far. It is one thing to be angry about the comments he made, and he definitely needed to apologize for them, but his being forced to resign, kicked out of various organisations and basically being shunned from the scientific community for the rest of his life seems a bit of an over-reaction. Not an over-reaction to job inequality itself, but to what Tim Hunt actually said himself. Doesn’t it seem a little extreme that someone was fired and his reputation ruined for saying girls cry, something that you’d get a telling off and be made to apologize for in school or the work place? I would say yes, it is very extreme and actually a little unnerving. It has been taken out of context and used to highlight issues that are important, but are not the fault of Tim Hunt.

What he said was insulting. His exact words (as has been quoted everywhere and that will probably now haunt him forever) were: “Three things happen when they are in the lab, you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry.”

This was a really stupid thing to say. Men and women can work together and not fall in love, and a lot of women are not going to cry if you insult their work (although I did find Boris’s comments on male and female tears quite interesting) . To suggest women cry whenever you criticise them has a lot of sexist connotation to ideas of women being infantile and emotional. Suggesting labs should be segregated is also a stupid thing to say (and not a good thing to imagine). However, it is important to remember at this stage that 1: there is a lot of evidence to suggest he was supportive towards female scientists, 2: He fell in love with a female scientist and may have had her in mind for the first part of his statement, falling in love at work doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and 3: He never said women made bad scientists. He implied that they were emotional, and that men and women may be better suited working separately, but he did not say women could not or should not be scientists.

It is understandable that this spurred frustration. A lot of STEM related jobs are dominated by men. Women are still less likely to be in positions of influence (partly because there are less women in the professions so the stats are going to be lower, but they may also find it harder to be promoted) and some are still insulted and stereotyped by their male co-workers. There are still gaps in pay, pregnancy is still being used as a reason not to further women’s careers, and some men are still misogynists.  A lot of this is probably because as there are less women in STEM careers (I saw a figure that said around 15%) there are less women to fight for equal rights and discourage sexist behaviour (not to suggest men won’t also discourage it, or that all men will be sexist as they really won’t). Female equality in the work place has still not been around that long, and its still not perfect. It’s far better than it would’ve been forty years ago, but in some areas it still has a while to go. Attitudes towards women have also greatly improved, but some men still see female co-workers as lesser than male co-workers and will treat them as such. Women can also be sexually harassed by make co-workers, and may feel in danger. All these things are true and should change.

Less girls on average will study certain STEM subjects at A-Level and degree than boys (I remember at my university there were far less girls in the engineering department than boys) and this is partly because we do encourage girls and boys to be good at different things (you will find more girls studying history and english than boys most of the time).  We need to encourage children to pursue what they are interested in regardless of their sex, and do more to help girls that are science and engineering pursue their ambitions.  We also need unions and points of contact if anyone in the workplace does feel mistreated.

There are also of course wider issues of sexism and unwanted sexual advances in everyday life which I won’t go into now as I wouldn’t say its relevant to the Tim Hunt argument itself, but it is an issue that almost every woman will have experienced at some point (often frequently) in her life, it is disturbing, it is not at all pleasant, it can result in sexual violence and rape and people need to know about it and know that it’s not okay. This article does not address these issues, but don’t think for a second that I don’t take them seriously.

However, we don’t need to use individual men who said stupid things one time as a scape goat for all the injustices that women face in today’s society,. Tim Hunt is an old guy (72) and belongs to a different generation. From what I can gather (as I don’t know the guy) he has a good relationship with his wife, he doesn’t advocate violence towards women (or practice it) and he has supported male and female scientists. Nowhere in his interview did he say women should be murdered, raped, hurt, or that (apart from being emotional) they were any lesser than men, and he didn’t even say women couldn’t or shouldn’t be scientists. I won’t deny that his comments suggest he has stereotypical and outdated views of women, but in light of his age and from what we know of his typical behaviour towards women (that we can know of based on newspaper interviews) he was not an abusive man or a terrible colleague who tormented women in his daily life, in fact it appears he encouraged female scientists and was in favour of women being in the field.

As he has caused a lot of offence he should have been forced to issue a public apology, UCL, The Royal Society and other organizations associated with him should have issued statements along the lines of “nothing Hunt said represents our views, we are committed to diversity” and they may even have used some of the bad press to promote women in science. I understand why they fired him in view of public opinion, but I don’t believe they should have.  In the grand scheme of things, he is an old man who said some stupid un PC things (not unlike a lot of our grandparents) and who got told off by his wife for it. If he had suggested that women shouldn’t be scientists than the response would have been more understandable, but he didn’t. It does appear to have been a bad joke that severely backfired and has been read into too much. People are bringing up real issues that need to be taken seriously, they are just blaming the wrong guy for it.

These attitudes may make it harder to work in this field, but I find it extremely hard to believe that someone who really wanted to be a scientist would be put off by some dated remarks like this. To suggest that women are so timid and easily swayed that something this small could put them off a career they wanted to pursue is as insulting as what Hunt said in the first place, in my opinion anyway.  His dated views are luckily not the norm any more, but should he be that severely punished for what he said? Hunt is not the reason for unequal employment experiences between men and women, he may remind us of it but he is not responsible for it. You can’t blame this one old man for your own experiences of inequality, and it isn’t fair to suggest he is responsible for or even advocating inequality. Please take a moment to read what he actually said, and feel free to be annoyed at the dated stereotypes, but don’t take it for anything more than it was. There are serious issues here that need to be improved, but these issues are not because of Tim Hunt and it seems unfair and quite cruel to blame him for them.