Why I am a Feminist – Ophelia Benson

I’m a feminist because the world I live in isn’t.

I’m a feminist because I feel fully human, just as human as anyone else, including any male person, but the world is not arranged as if women were as human as men.

The local portion of the world I live in is much better in that regard than most of the rest of it, but I take myself to live in the whole world, not just my portion of it. The more you take a global view of now women are seen and treated, the less sanguine you can be about things not being so bad in your neighborhood.

In Afghanistan, girls get acid thrown in their faces for going to school. In the Dominican Republic a 16-year-old girl who had acute leukemia was refused chemotherapy because she was 9 weeks pregnant. Doctors took 20 days to argue about whether or not they could legally treat her – and then she died. In Iran 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses will be closed to women for the next academic year. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops expects all Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions even to save the life of the pregnant woman (which would be a violation of federal law).

One could go on listing examples, personal and societal, forever. I don’t see how anyone could be anything but a feminist, in the light of all that. Women are treated as property, tools, livestock, sex toys, baby factories, slaves – as anything but fully human beings like other human beings.

The situation has improved enormously in the developed world, especially in the last few decades, but it’s far from perfect. Barely hidden contempt and even hatred is all too common.

It would be nice to live in a world where there was no need to be a feminist because women were never seen or treated as inferior and subordinate, but that world is not this one.


  1. Great American Satan says

    Keep fighting, Ophelia! Wooo!
    And not “wooo” in a drive-by cat-calling way!
    But more of a you’re bad-ass and fighting the good fight way!

  2. says

    Women are treated as property, tools, livestock, sex toys, baby factories, slaves – as anything but fully human beings like other human beings.”

    Why is that? No, really, why do you suppose that the way things are? Beyond the familiar patriarchy, men are beasts, etc. Do you suppose it might simply be a matter of hormonal chemistry? And the simple solution might be simply a matter of chemical immunization at birth?

    Or is that too simple? Too Science-Fictionish?

    I enjoyed reading this well-written easily understood piece; thank you for posting it.

  3. Arty Morty says

    The local portion of the world I live in is much better in that regard than most of the rest of it, but I take myself to live in the whole world, not just my portion of it.

    I’m struck by that sentence.

    This probably sounds silly or naïve, but, I don’t know that I’ve ever really looked at it that way before. Or maybe I have, to a degree. But the idea of taking oneself to live in the whole world is surprisingly powerful (to me at least)… suddenly I see the extent to which I keep two separate folders filed far apart in my mind — the local-and-concrete stuff about us versus the abstract, way-over-there stuff about them. For a moment, they were shuffled together, and it was… illuminating? Yes, that does sound naïve, reading it over, doesn’t it? But it’s true. So I’m gonna go ahead and press the “submit comment” button and just let it be heard.

    Anyways, excellent, excellent post! Many thanks.

  4. says

    Why is that?

    Ah, you seek the reductionist approach. You surmise it might be a matter of hormonal chemistry, amenable to chemical adjustments? I doubt it, as I think you do, too. The answer would undoubtedly be very complex. There are anthropological variables, for one. Women, being the childbearing member of the species – with a fairly long gestation period, too – have always been at a disadvantage. This is not a commentary on the phenomenon of pregnancy and its relative merits/demerits, but a simple biological fact; it is presumable that since the beginning of the hominid species, gravidity would slow a woman down towards the end, and put her temporarily out of action peri- and post-parturition, whereas the menfolk have never had to encounter that physiological barrier and could pursue power and prestige unimpeded. I think a lot of the inequality between the sexes (as well as the current Republican idiocy on birth control and abortion) would vanish if men were to bear their offspring in their own body, just as women do.

    And let’s not forget the role that religion has played in subjugating women. Since the beginning of modern religions, it has been complicit in enabling and enforcing the patriarchy, and has aided and abetted all sorts of atrocities against women. In the modern times, everything that Ophelia and Taslima stand against – unfair, inequitable treatment as property, tools, livestock, sex toys, baby factories, slaves – all of these have been imposed on women, at some corner of the world, by the force of religion and religious tradition.

  5. says

    Reading your blog was an eye opener or should I say that was strengthening. Girls are taught to speak their heart out but even in today’s date seldom can they do so.

  6. says

    Hey, Arty Morty, thanks. I sort of realized it myself as I was writing, so I’m glad it spoke to you.

    Being next door to Taslima on FTB is one thing that helps me feel that I live in the world and not just locally.

  7. callistacat says

    Such a wonderful series Taslima, have loved all the posts so far. Ophelia, yours really brings home all the needs for feminism, globally, and brings it into focus. Thank you for writing this wonderful piece!

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