Feminist website Refinery29 got more than it bargained for when it teamed up with CBS to poll 842 women ages 18-35 about — among other things — feminism. When asked, “Do you consider yourself to be a feminist, or not?” over half (54 percent) of respondents said, “No.” Not only that, only 19 percent of respondents identified as Republican. In fact, the largest group of women polled (34 percent) identified as Democrat, with 27 percent identifying Independent, and 20 percent unsure of their political party.
“These are surprising results,” writes Refinery29’s Ashley Alese Edwards. “Feminism seems to be more en vogue than ever,” she insists, “even men call themselves feminists now.” And what about “the Women’s March, the ‘resistance’ (which is largely women-led) and #MeToo,” Edwards laments. How could you not be feminist?!
To her credit, Edwards actually interviewed some of these strange non-feminist creatures, presumably to find out what on earth was wrong with them. Leah, a 22-year old independent, told Edwards, “I feel like the movement has been largely taken over by far-left wing activists that make it nearly impossible for me to identify with.” She also called feminists “disingenuous” for denying “any negative emotional backlash or health risks for women having an abortion.” She continued, “Although not all women suffer emotionally or physically after an abortion, many do, and their stories are ignored by mainstream feminism because it doesn’t fit the narrative of abortion being a good thing for women.”
A 25-year-old Republican named Stephanie, whom Edwards spoke to, even went so far as to say, “I don’t think women in the modern western world are oppressed.” Stephanie continued, “I think modern feminists try to create a boogeyman out of what they call the patriarchy and hunt it down, but it’s not necessary…. Men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledging that is not sexist.” The truth! It burns!
Even the Democrats Edwards spoke to couldn’t be trusted. Malina, a 34-year-old Democrat, said that the feminist movement has devolved into bickering over “the tiniest politically incorrect commentary.” Edwards says that the common thread among women who don’t identify as feminists was that “they simply don’t see themselves reflected in the current movement.” But how can this be? Feminism is empowerment for women! It’s equality! It’s social justice! It’s death to the patriarchy! It’s… it’s… hello? Is anybody out there? Can anyone hear me? Wait. How did I get in this echo chamber?
More than anything else, this survey reveals a truth that many of us already know: there is a whole country full of regular people that the media doesn’t even know is there. Major news outlets like The New York Times and CNN regularly run stories that show how far removed they are from the pulse of the nation. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out this New York Times piece about living with “white privilege,” or this CNN article about how the “patriarchy” is killing people.)
It might be easy for those steeped in feminist ideology to say that these poll results show how much more work feminists still have to do. Clearly feminists just need to work harder to convince women to break free of the shackles of oppression and become “empowered!” But none of the women Edwards spoke to sounded oppressed. In fact, it sounded distinctly like they were saying it was modern feminism that was becoming oppressive.
The majority of millennial women do not identify as feminist. They feel that the ideals of feminism have been corrupted beyond recognition. But the media continues to act like feminism is just the air we breathe. Something’s got to give. Let’s not let it be us. If the future is female, let it represent who we really are, not some out-of-touch media version of us. We are not feminists. We’re women.