Why I am a Feminist – Skeptifem

‘My feminism really began after reading The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf. The book is far from revolutionary by my standards now, but when I read it my world was changed forever. This was years after I had been involved in skepticism, and years after becoming an atheist, just barely into my twenties. The difficult questions being raised by her work felt awfully familiar to me, she sounded just like my skeptic and atheist friends who were critical of ideas that were supposedly too sacred to question.

The book didn’t just make me think, it made me angry. I had spent years suffering for ideas I found out were totally fabricated, and designed specifically to make me feel horrible about myself so someone else could profit from it. I suffered for ideas that elevated the status of men at the expense of women. I compromised my health many times to lose weight, and there was virtually never a time that I gave up constant vigilance against gaining weight. It is a pitiable, tiring way to live, and I had done it for about 7 years at that point. I didn’t suffer as badly as other women I knew, many abused themselves for weight loss but also put up with humiliating (and sometimes painful) cosmetic procedures to rid themselves of hair, wrinkles, and other normal human features. When I was a teenager my mother got acid poured on her face to sear the wrinkles off of it. A surgeon, someone who pledges to do no harm to patients, did that to her for money. It echoed so perfectly what popular culture told me about appearance and beauty that it wasn’t even remarkable to me, it was normal for women to hate their bodies and faces. It was so normal that the violence inherent in all of it was invisible. Such a hatred for my body meant seeing me, all of me, as a thing instead of a person. Other women had chipped away at their sense of self exactly as I had.

I wasn’t transformed over night, but I did change a lot about myself pretty quickly. Eating like a normal person actually resolves many psychological problems caused by starvation, so I felt much better in general. I grieved for the years I had wasted hurting myself. I grieved for women who were still hurting themselves. I began to see that I had worth as a person. I was worth listening to and nourishing. I got help from a friend in college and enrolled in some classes, something I never thought I would do. Feminism helped me feel like a real person. I thought to myself, “men get to feel this way all the time, they don’t even have to fight for it. Every woman deserves to feel like they matter.” I wanted more people to know what I knew.

The more I thought about and researched the way women suffer for beauty, and the way men gain from that, I began to see some interesting parallels with religion and scams of all sorts. I became eager to discuss feminism with people in the skeptics groups I frequented. I felt as though I had discovered some new interesting intellectual territory, and was excited to see what other people thought. So many friends had used their intellects to impress me in the past with analysis of various issues. Surely, a great discussion would ensue.

I could not have been more wrong. I was met at every turn with dismissal and embarrassingly fallacious reasoning. What had happened to the intellectual honesty, the curiousness, of the people I knew? Why was no one outraged at the poor quality of arguments being used to dismiss my findings outright? I never expected everyone to agree with me, but I expected the level of discourse afforded to creationists and homeopaths. It became apparent that most of the people in my circle were… men. They didn’t want to think about the things I brought up, and they all helped each other avoid confronting problems with sexism. I became disillusioned with these groups, even though I still strongly supported the stated principles of all of the groups. I still believe in those things, and believe feminism is inherent in critical thought about problems affecting women and girls.

It got much more troubling to me once I began to research things like rape and sexual harassment. I realized that I had either been subject to sexual harassment, witnessed it against another woman, at every job I have ever worked at. This was true of virtually every woman I knew. The ones who spoke up usually got in trouble or were ignore. I realized that sexual abuse was a common experience for women as well. I knew from personal experience how little the judicial system cares if you decide to report being raped. I reported having been raped as a teenager. I gave the police contact information for other women who I knew who had been abused by the same guy, and they never even called them to collect statements. They did question me repeatedly and gave me a card to call someone for psychological help, as if I wanted to discuss what had happened even more. That was all that ever happened. People I told outside of the police had mixed reactions, a lot of men simply thought I was a liar or a whore, and it made dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse much more difficult. I saw these attitudes mirrored all over society. Outside of feminism there was not much concern about these issues at all.

I got more involved with feminist groups, spaces that were much safer for women, and got introduced to feminism that dealt with more than the issues affecting economically privileged white women. I became interested in how racism and colonialism functioned. I am white and didn’t want to do to people of color what men had done to me. I wanted to listen instead. I made a point of finding people with experiences very different from my own, and trying to really understand their perspective. It was amazingly difficult but it helped me develop a lot of maturity, and to also see that social justice was a struggle for the majority of people in the world. I saw how we could all support each other. This is something I still try to do, something central to my feminism today.

Eventually I wanted to write, something that was outside the realm of possibility to me just a few years before. I had come a long way from thinking I was not worth listening to. Since reading The Beauty Myth I’ve discovered some troubling things about Naomi Wolf’s beliefs, but I will always be grateful to her for writing that book. I will always be grateful to other brave women who write, like bell hooks and Andrea Dworkin, for helping to expand my understanding of the world we women live in. My life had improved so much because of individuals who had decided that it was important to spread a message of truth. They wrote despite the ridicule and insults, they wrote because it was too important to let other people stop them. I want to be that person for someone else out there.’

(Dear fellow feminists, Skeptifem has shared her story with us, why she is a feminist. You can share your stories with us too! -Taslima Nasreen)


  1. Mac says

    You still have 100% state and federal rights and as a straight female you have made in the shade, that is why I will never understand this round of feminism.

    • Kevin says

      Seriously? You don’t understand “this round” of feminism?

      True story: My last job, all of the account execs were attractive young women. Each and every one of them was routinely called into the boss’ office for private “consultations”, which mainly involved him staring at their chests. They had no recourse. Suffer this daily humiliation or leave. None of the men were EVER called into this guy’s office for a “consultation”.

      This goes on everywhere, everyday, in every setting imaginable, both personal and professional.

      Women are demeaned, degraded and dismissed for no other reason that not having a penis. Constantly, with no let up. Ever. Every. Single. Day.

      And you don’t understand “this round” of feminism?

      BTW: what do you think the abortion rights debate is about? It’s about women having the right to autonomy over their own bodies. That’s 100% not the “same rights” as men.

      Either you’re living in a bubble somewhere and have never actually interacted with a real, live human being, or you’re the most clueless troll I’ve seen in years.

      It’s not about “rights”. It’s not about “law”. It’s about equal respect and equal treatment. Whether it be walking down the street, posting a blog, in the classroom, in the workplace, at the grocery store, in a doctor’s office, or anywhere else.

      BTW: the gender gap in pay (for exactly the same work with exactly the same amount of experience) still exists. And don’t you DARE say “womenz volunteer to has babeez.”

      • Patrik says

        Regarding your “true story”, I find it plausible that the boss had a professional incentive to keep track of his personnel. Nothing strange. If the boss used these meetings to flirt with the women, well so be it. Perhaps they should let him know that the attention is unwanted?

        These rights or laws you talk about are imaginary. We will never change our biological sex drive, women will always get attention for their beauty. Religion has fought our natural urges for thousands of years and not succeeded. Why would the feminist religion succeed?

        Oh by the way, there is no gender pay gap. Just another imagination.

        • mynameischeese says

          “there is no gender pay gap”

          [citation needed]

          Of course, it’s going to be really hard to find a source that will back up that claim since there has been so much research, so many studies and so much scholarship dedicated to the gender pay gap.

          • Patrik says

            If you take the average income for women and compare that with men then you will find a difference. However, if you include the type of work, education, employment, working hours and other factors then differences between men and women disappear. There are plenty of studies that show this and your remark is an obvious red herring so will not go any further.

  2. msironen says

    I for one appreciate that you don’t hide behind codewords like patriarchy but plainly state that it’s men you got beef with.

  3. says

    Patriarchy isn’t a codeword. It’s an accurate description of how much of western (and indeed, human) social organization is currently constructed.

    @Taslima: I’m not sure you read comments, but are you doing a “Why I am a feminist” series, like PZ’s “Why I am an atheist” one? If so, where do I submit?

      • says

        Thanks Taslima.
        Skeptifem’s — I think you make a very important point here. For all other types of extreme discrimination based on color, race, religion etc. the oppression per se is not questioned blatantly, specially not by the oppressed group! Oppressed groups know they are oppressed and get angry about it.

        But, today women own only 2% of the land and resources world wide, and most people, including women, say Feminism is outdated and unnecessary. Both India and China, which together are 2/5 of the human population will have annihilated 20% of the women in each of the countries by 2030. There is no human group that has been subjected to that kind of savagery. Yet, I find women in India are not angry about this. Even women outside India don’t get angry about this. There’s a non-nonchalance in there attitude to their own subjugation and destruction, that is terrifying. Like you say, you see it. The question is — why don’t most women?

        • Michael says

          Thats a terrific question, women perpetuate these bad ideas as well and sometimes not only accept sexism but encourage it.

          I personally believe the biggest hurdle for femminists now a days, recognising that we are products of our environment and that whilst the system is rigged in mens favour…its not MEN doing this, your brother didnt cause this and neither will your son. Society has created this problem and a large number of people both men and women bought in.

          I am so glad you highlighted this fact

  4. ... says

    This’d be the same Naomi Klein who suddenly discovered that the burqa was all sexy and not at all anything to do with oppression?

    Oh, wait. Go figure. I’ve just had a look at this imbecile’s webpage; another hateful twit and waste of time.

    • ... says

      I also notice on her webpage she frankly announces she “hates most men”. Nothing like the stench of collectivism and bigotry to warn you that you’re dealing with a mind that’s growing white mould.

      • sambarge says

        Wow, says… You are just full of knowledge and wisdom. Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us all over FtB.

        Incidentally, Naomi Wolfe and Naomi Klein are 2 different women. I know, it’s hard to keep these “Naomi-feminists” separate when they have the same first name and similar mouths, vaginas and lady-brainz.

    • says

      OMG, seriously? First, wasn’t talking about Naomi Klein, fuckwit, she was talking about Naomi Wolf. And even if she was, she said she had since found out troubling things about Wolf’s beliefs. That doesn’t change the truth or impact of her other work, though. Even if you weren’t astoundingly ignorant–I know, I know, hard to imagine, but it’s a hypothetical–and Naomi Klein had written The Beauty Myth, you don’t have to agree with everything an author ever writes or says to appriciate some of their work. Unlike theists, we don’t believe in holy texts or infalible authors, and finding an error in one place doesn’t invalidate everything. I can find a lot of what Sam Harris writes brilliant while also thinking he’s an asshole and disturbingly irrational at times when it comes to Muslims. (Or do we only demand intellectual purity from female writers?)

      Really, do you fail so completely naturally, or did you have to train for it, first? It’s quite a gift.

    • mynameischeese says

      Are you going to recycle the same bad argument in every comment about feminism? Your argument, in this incarnation is Naomi Wolf holds problematic belief X, therefore we can assume everything else she writes about Y is wrong.

      Well, if you start employing this faulty logic elsewhere, you’re going to be in trouble. Because Darwin held some pretty offensive, problematic and incorrect views about race. Must we now dump everything he said about evolution in the bin? Einstein believed in the cosmological constant. Should we not bother to consider his ideas about relativity because they’re wrong?

      But actually, your argument is worse than that. Because it’s more like you’re saying Naomi Wolf holds problematic belief X, therefore the whole of feminism can’t be trusted. Well, Einstein and Darwin both held problematic beliefs, so are you hostile to the entire body of physics and biology?

  5. Corelich says

    I agree that there is a problem and this story helped me to undersand you better. Sexism is bad and I cant understand the men who are doing this to woman. But I want to say that sexism exists the other way around in a more subtle way.
    1. women (at least here in germany) have a far better chance to get the children after a divorce, even if the women has a worse situation. This is a big topic right now in germany and I hope for equal treadment here soon.
    2. There are many woman who marry to get money out of it. Even Women who want to get a child to get more money after a divorce.
    3. In our society its possible to say or lough things about men which you cant say about woman. Making jokes about cutting dicks of is joking but saying something compareble about women would make you socially unacaptable.

    I dont want to belittle the problems of women, which are bad. Just want to say it exists both ways.

    • Arakiba says

      lol, not even ten comments and we’re already into the “but what about teh MENZ” comments! Oh, it’s laughable. Any time a group that’s not at the top of pyramid speaks out about repression, those at the top immediately belittle their arguments. As if the privileged people know more about the situation and the lives of those “beneath” them! It really is funny.

        • Corelich says

          And btw I really see the problem of women in the world and even in Western civ. But all this speach about privileged sound strange to me when i see my male friends (and female friends to yes) stripped away of important things like children or money whithout justice.

        • sambarge says

          Wait until you’re forced to raise children alone, in poverty, because their father (your ex-husband) has failed to pay support for his children, before you cry about privilege, please.

          Women don’t have a ‘better’ chance to get the children. Statistically, men are less likely to sue for full custody; they don’t want the kids. Kids are work and that work is disproportionately done by their mothers.

          • Corelich says

            Again I see the problems men do to womans. No question. But that doesnt mean every man is evil like some feminists say. I saw a talkshow in which a lady said we should cut off all dicks and all problems would be solved.. and part of the audience applauded!
            In my eyes its more of a abuse of power problem. I some cases where women have power similar problems happens.
            And in the Kids divorce case: The german law was already changed because the law was very sexist against men. Woman had far more rights then men. But some cases has been reportet where judges dont “handle it the new way”.

            I dont say: “hey stop nagging, we suffer too”. I want to say: We should fight sexism, all sexism no matter which. Keep on the fight but dont blame all men. And I think saying to someone: “shut up you ‘re privileged” doesnt help you getting support. Its better to explain the problem more clear. Maybe Im missing some point. then pls help me understand. I want a sexist free world. I want that woman dont have to suffer because of idiots. But pls understand that when I get phrases like: “no you dont get financial support in your project, you are a man and should get it done by yourself” from a female professor during my academic studies I feel opressed (and not very privileged) because of my gender aswell.

          • Corelich says

            She wasnt in charge of the support, I just asked her for her if I should make a request for financial support. But I felt attacked anyway.

          • sambarge says

            Yeah… And feminism does that. It’s a false argument to say that men are served by the patriarchy 100% of the time and feminists don’t make that argument. On the balance, men do better with patriarchy but there are intersectionalities of oppression and masculinity is policed just femininity – in some cases, it’s policed more.

            Feminism says all of that. So your argument is with patriarchy, not feminism.

      • Patrik says


        I’m amazed by your reply to Corelich, didn’t you read his last sentence:

        “I dont want to belittle the problems of women, which are bad. Just want to say it exists both ways.”

        The reason I bother to write this is because I see this often with feminist. They refuse to see how society also harm men and their rights.

        The right for fathers to their children is also a big topic here in Sweden and feminist absolutely refuse to recognize this and many other problems. For instance today in Sweden only men are discriminated against in law (women became more “equal” 1983 when the last laws discriminating women were abolished).

        • mynameischeese says

          Are you really trying to tell me that, *before* the advent of feminism, Swedish men did exactly 50% of the childcare and got custody of children exactly 50% of the time?

          Because that’s pretty much what you have to prove in order to claim that feminism caused the disparity in custody.

          (Hint: I’ve already looked into this, so I know you haven’t got a leg to stand on here.)

          • Patrik says

            I’m not claiming feminist caused the disparity in custody, in fact feminist have help making society more equal. The problem is that today’s feminist ignores the fact the men are the one’s who are discriminated against by law.

            “Swedish men did exactly 50% of the childcare and got custody of children exactly 50% of the time?”

            You subscribe to “equal outcome” and not “equal opportunity”?

      • Michael says

        Well it depends, in your view is feminism suppose to deal with sexism?

        or is suppose to only deal with womens issues?

        The reason it keeps popping up I think is not because these men are looking for sympathy or to belittle womens issues – sure some are and they are fools or trolls but the more important point is that the issues that face women are not as a direct result of men

        They are a direct result of our society to which both men and women suffer due from restrictive gender roles and stereotypes

        OFFF COURSE women have it worse than men but its not all males to blame, especially as you have males here supporting you

        In my mind Femminism is not a womens only movement focusing on women only

        A Feminist in my mind is about oppression based on gender or sexual preference, it stands up for gay rights and trans gender and bi sexuals and straight men and women

        Maybe you disagree? please let me know if you think I am mistaken

        • msironen says

          “A Feminist in my mind is about oppression based on gender or sexual preference, it stands up for gay rights and trans gender and bi sexuals and straight men and women”

          History has shown this to be untrue. Especially about transgender rights, but also men’s rights.

          “Maybe you disagree? please let me know if you think I am mistaken”

          You are completely mistaken. Feminism isn’t about equal rights. It’s about womens rights, which I don’t begrudge them at all. For sure, women should have an organization/ideology that looks out for their interests. What is false and a complete fraud is that feminism is also about men and their rights (=equality), and this should be stopped.

    • Kat says

      In Germany, currently less than 25% of fathers take paternity leave. Of those 25%, 75% only take at most 2 months of paternity leave. Up to the year 2006, only 1,5% of men took paternity leave. At the same time, every single woman *has to* take maternity leave. And almost 100% take more than the minimum requirement.

      Also, look at the 2011 Study by the OECD, Society at a Glance. They come to the conclussion that despite a lot more women having a job in Germany, child-rearing is still mostly done by women.

      This is why women get the children after a divorce. They take care of the children before the divorce, so the get to/have to take care of them afterwards. You want equal treatment in a divorce? Then take an equal share of the work and responsibility during the marriage.

  6. Michael says

    Great Post, I just want to add tho that the problem is not men

    I am a man, I am 100% supportive of what you have written and I empathise

    The problem is the society we live, both men and women perpetuate bad ideas that are harmful to everybody

    It sucks that the men in your life didnt support you but dont get to bent on hating males – its unfair, sexist and is only going to hurt your cause

    I dunno, Not all muslims are terrorist but all terrorists are muslims therefor hate all muslims

    Not all men are sexists but all sexists are men….both seem incorrect to me

    • Grr says

      “It sucks that the men in your life didnt support you but dont get to bent on hating males – its unfair, sexist and is only going to hurt your cause”

      No no no. Familiar with strawmen arguments?

      “It sucks that the men in your life didnt support you”

      Lets try, “It sucks that the men in your life dehumanized you, abused you, raped you, killed you, and and told you it’s all your fault.” that’s probably a more accurate assessment. Now lets tack on how you think women should behave…

      “It sucks that the men in your life dehumanized you, abused you, raped you, killed you, and and told you it’s all your fault but don’t get to bent on hating males – its unfair, sexist and is only going to hurt your cause.”

      The women/feminists who are “male-hating” are justified in feeling however they do. You’re male privilege shows when you presuppose you have the information to tell women how they should feel and react to their life experiences. How can someone not hate you for that? Do you not see how condescending it is to tell someone that YOU understand better what has happened to them and how they should feel about it?

      Not all men are sexists but all sexists are men

      You’re right. This is incorrect and I have no idea where you got this. This might be a little more accurate:

      Not all men are sexists but all men benefit from male privilege.

      And fighting against that constantly, every day, with almost every interaction with men, is tiring and defeating. And most understandably leads to male-negative attitudes.

      Just as fighting against the tyranny of religion, constantly, every day, is tiring and defeating and most understandably leads to anti-theistic attitudes.

      • xol says

        “The women/feminists who are “male-hating” are justified in feeling however they do.”

        This is a ridiculous statement.

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