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Trapped in defiance; fleeing from conformity

There is nothing that beats the adrenaline rush that comes from standing out in defiance, going against the grain, challenging the status quo and refusing to compromise one’s personal convictions.

We are socialized to count ourselves among the collective, to protect the interests of the group and deny ourselves for the sake of keeping the cultural edifice intact.

An unfortunate consequence of feminism has been the alienation of its proponents from mainstream platforms of social intercourse and interaction.

In our endeavor to be distinct from the traditional portrait of a woman, we have abdicated our choices, limited our scope and denied ourselves some of life’s simple pleasures to prove the point.

Yes, feminists of my generation are trapped in defiance. How so?

The best proof of our convictions often lies in total repudiation of what we choose to reject . . . therefore we are forced to be reactionary in our thinking, rebellious in our way of life and cynical in our outlook.

If the world states that womanhood entails the barefoot, pregnant image bending over an oven baking pie and preparing dinner – then my repudiation of it must culminate in me refusing to don an apron, carry a pregnancy and bake anything.

Of necessity, feminism must reject the image of womanhood proffered by society and seek to define the concept of womanhood in a context devoid of cultural norms, social constructs and the ideologies that we internalized during childhood and we were socialized to believe in adulthood.

For instance, I have found that there is a near frantic effort to assert one’s feminist credentials by expressing no desire of marriage.

Because marriage is an ideal hammered into us for so long, to free ourselves we believe that opting for a non-marital status is the best way of defining ourselves outside the societal portrait.

What of the feminist who happens to think nothing is wrong with marriage? The one who believes that marriage is a good institution and aspires for it? Has she betrayed the ‘feminist’ cause?

While I believe that marriage for women as for men, must be an incident of life not it’s purpose; I am not comfortable with the idea of scoffing at the marital institution.

Recently I overhead colleagues pondering why most female politicians are unmarried, why most gender activists in the country are single and why marriage is so abhorrent to the feminist?

The answer to all this is simply that the goal of the feminist is attained through a consistent non-conformist stance.

Marriage for the feminist is regarded as the height of conformity so to counter this the feminist goes the single route.

Motherhood to the feminist is too engendered a status as to hold appeal so she will go the adoption or artificial insemination route.

The family unit is too encumbered with societal expectations, breakfast on the table, laundry to do, dishes to clean, diapers to change, meals to prepare and a house to keep clean – and it is all such a cliché that the feminist refuses to reinforce social stereotypes and thus forgoes the role of nurturer, mother and wife.

By wearing the label of feminist, it appears ours is a task of fleeing from conformity but in our flight we are incarcerated by our defiance.

For if our world is painted in shades of black and we are dead opposed to the colour, our expression of this opposition is served well by us donning white, is it not?

Where then is this freedom we are clamouring for? While we refuse to be defined in terms of blackness, we automatically find that our deviation is itself a cage in which we have to ‘conform’ to certain concepts.

To be regarded a feminist, you have to adhere to certain values, is this not another form of conformity? Where in this blanket term called feminism is the individual’s so-called self-definition?

For if we are labelled feminists then the definition of who we believe ourselves to be is a foregone conclusion, there is no room for ‘self-definition’ within the confines of a tag.

I have found out that my brand of feminism does not preoccupy itself with fighting men, man-made institutions, customs, rituals and traditions.

Mine has always been a repudiation of the supremacy culture holds over my life. For it is this seemingly infallible thing called culture that has the final say on matters pertaining to conduct, identity and beliefs.

I challenge this thing called culture that is viewed as being beyond reproach, the ultimate authority governing every aspect of my life and stuffing me in the pigeonhole of stereotype.

I will not uproot it and throw it into deep abyss, no. I will prune it, I will concede that there is some good in it as I recognize the evil in it and it is the evil that I rage against.

When society demands that I get married – it is not ‘freedom’ when I choose not to – that is mere rebellion.

If society bids me to get married, and I want to, then my freedom would lie in me getting married on my own terms.

The feminist’s freedom does not lie in passive defiance, neither does it lie in refusing to conform, it lies in choosing to live life on her own terms.

If she is to be a mother then it should be on her terms, if she is to be a wife, it should be on her own terms, if she is to have a home, it should also be on her own terms.

I fear my generation’s brand of feminism has added up to nothing more than the throwing out of the baby with the bath water.

I will not flee from conformity; I will free myself of it by living on my own terms. I will not seek refuge in defiance because rejecting a thing and having nothing to offer in its stead is nothing short of foolhardy.

To paraphrase Mary Wollstonecraft’s sentiments, I do not wish them (feminists) to have power over men or society, but over themselves.


JaniceW's picture


I really appreciate your straightforward and candid discussion on this topic. After the last generation waved the banner for equality, I think the subsequent generations who benefited from their stance, are somewhat confused as to what "feminism" means in today's world. I am glad to see you weighing in on the discussion of "what is feminism?"

Sophie wrote a wonderful commentary titled "Born a feminist?" which you can find at:

...while cultural correspondent wonders if "Feminism [is] on the Outs?"

Taryn meanwhile takes a critical look at "The Language of Feminism"

You might also be interested to join the Feminist Discussion Group ( where moderator Katie generated a lively debate over the issue:

Sharese's picture

Opening the door.


I think you hit the nail on the head when you said If society bids me to get married, and I want to, then my freedom would lie in me getting married on my own terms.The feminist’s freedom does not lie in passive defiance, neither does it lie in refusing to conform, it lies in choosing to live life on her own terms.

I think the "brand" of feminism that labels itself as "counter-culture" i.e. not conforming to any norms is not only playing into the structure by seeing their only choice is to do the opposite of it, but I see it as a very immature "brand" of feminism. One that I myself subscribed to when first discovering that I had an option to not go along with the crowd. Then, through maturity, I realized that this was not what true feminism was, it was- as you so precisely put- a rebellion.

So going back, I agree with you that feminism- my feminism and the feminism I choose to surround myself with- is when a woman has choices and lives her life on her own terms.

But do not be disheartened my dear sister, there are many of our generation that view this feminism as true feminism. Check out or Feministing is especially interesting because of the Community aspect where you can write your own worldview. I think that yours would be one that many of the bloggers would be interested in. I hope that you decide to check it out.

Much Peace,


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