In the past fifty years two centuries of feminism have been co-opted by a populist movement that bears little similarity to its historical namesake.
It took me a very long time to accept feminism. The name was always problematic, as it did not seem to recognize me. But the more I learned about it, the more I came to understand that feminism is not about women, it is about a very specific type of equality that applies to every single human being. Feminism is about self-ownership and personal agency, the ability for everyone to make their own choices and have them equally respected by everyone else. It is inherently anti-authority.
Womenism, on the other hand, is basically patriarchy for women. It is a trite ideology full of empty slogans and even emptier values. Womenist are not against authority, which robs us all of our personal agency, they just want it for themselves. Womenists call themselves feminists, are generally not even clear of the difference themselves, and are hopelessly uneducated on the historical roots of their ideologies namesake.
In order that you can see the difference between feminism and the authoritarian ideology that appropriated it, I will list some issues below and show the different position each side would take.
Womenists: Females should have the same access to public education that males have.
Feminists: Compulsory education violates personal agency. We should end public education as we know it and provide resources for self-directed learning.
To see an expanded take on feminism vs. womenism in regards to education READ THIS.
Womenists: My body, my choice. Women’s reproductive health should receive public funding, and our choices should be ours alone with the cost of those choices distributed among taxpayers who may disagree.
Feminists: My body, my choice. But also ultimately my responsibility.
The Wage Gap
Womenists: There need to be laws to ensure that women make just as much as men for doing the same jobs.
Feminists: Wage slavery is theft. Our labor should not be used to create surplus that benefits the few and contributes to economic inequality. Jobs are an archaic paradigm being made increasingly obsolete by technology, and it is time to start thinking beyond them.
Mental Health Ableism
Womenists: All acts of misogyny require punishment.
Feminists: Misogyny is a grotesque ideology and behavior, however it is important to realize that mentally ill people who commit these offenses should not be held to the same standards as healthy offenders.
This is actually something I have experienced several times where I work. Two female employees were addressed inappropriately by a regular customer with severe mental illness and each of them wanted him to be removed and/or banned from the store. I suspect that the ‘women and women first’ attitude is widespread among womenists, which is about identifying as perpetual victims, and not human compassion or the quest for equality.
Womenists: We should be in charge.
Feminists: Centralized authority is the most pervasive threat against personal agency. State nationalism should be discarded entirely and people should be free to organize communities through voluntary association; without force, coercion or compulsion involved in any way.
Are you beginning to see the difference yet?
The problem isn’t just that womenists have appropriated feminism, but that the ways in which they have done so have created ill will towards feminism in general. Womenism erodes trust and creates division. It is a barrier against the goals of actual feminists. At the same time it causes patriarchs, misogynists and other toxic males to dig their heels in. The further they do so, the more of a threat they potentially present to women. Womenism is bad for women, and that is bad for everyone.