” I’m a feminist ” – These three words come across to a lot of people as some sort of a threat. A threat that will overpower men. A threat which will prove fatal for the established structures of society. A threat that might just lead to the doom of humanity. High time, we clear the blurriness around the world’s most misconstrued and hated ‘F’ Word – Feminism. Feminism is not a threat. It’s not a curse. It is indeed a blessing.
When you start speaking/writing about feminism, it’s like diving your nose into a cesspool of ignorant shit. That’s the best analogy I can give here. Most people on hearing the ‘F’ word assume that to be a feminist is like, “Get out of my way, I don’t need anyone.” .. or something along the lines of “So you’re a feminist. That means you hate men, right?” Pretty sure those people have no idea what feminism means. There are dozens of people who won’t identify as feminists, probably representing thousands upon thousands of other women (and men) who then won’t either. And they are just perpetuating the idea that being a feminist is a dirty thing to be… which, if you think about it, is probably the best example of why feminism is relevant. I don’t believe that anybody should be pressured into identifying with a group, movement or label. So don’t interpret this as me believing everybody has to identify with something or another. However, I think the problem we have here is that people aren’t identifying as “feminists” when they otherwise would because they don’t want to be associated with the dirty stigma, or rather, they don’t really know what it means to be a feminist. Just because people have demonstrated extreme actions before and identified with “feminists” does not mean that accounts for the concept in and of itself. Feminism, mind you is NOT a dirty word.
But first: what the hell is feminism, anyway? Feminism is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. You hear it – ‘of the sexes’ – not only of women. Many people who are diametrically opposed to the feminist movement believe that it is a ‘war between the sexes,’ and that feminists are campaigning for their rights at the expense of men’s rights. This is what has led to the rise of a ‘Men’s Rights Movement’ (which sadly is not a movement for equality but anti-woman). Feminism is not about hurting men, but about empowering women to be equal to them in all areas of society. Here’s the thing – Feminism is about gender equality. Feminism is “equalism”, which, by the way, isn’t a word. I think “humanist” is the one I’m are looking for. Feminism is about fighting for women to have the same rights and freedoms afforded to men. Feminists want equality, not supremacy. Hating men is a different thing altogether. Ever heard the term misandrist? It’s like misogynist but for hating men instead of women (feel free to look it up in the dictionary). There’s a difference between “feminists” and “misandrists.” Yes, ‘misandrist’ is a word people should despise, not feminism. Feminism and misandry are, by nature, mutually exclusive. You can’t want gender equality on one hand and hate one of the genders on the other. That would make no sense at all. Humanism is the goal we are all striving for. Humanism is the dream.
Pat Robertson had famously said a very obnoxious thing in the 90s, which is – “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” Sadly, the sentiment still rings as true in the ears of many today. It’s an understatement to say that feminism has a bad rap. It does, sadly though. Feminists don’t hate men. We hate patriarchy. People have got to understand that Feminism is not equal to hating men. Feminist doesn’t mean “ a person who hates men.” Feminist means “ a person who believes people should have equitable places in society regardless of their gender.” Some women claiming themselves to be feminists (who have got it all wrong by the way) may be misandrists. But it’s by no means a criterion to join the club. Though they’re not even that loud, can seem so because the anti-feminists somehow like to cherry pick quotes and ignore the much greater number of feminist writings, people, and organizations that say otherwise.
Some individual females can hate men. It’s irrelevant. What is relevant and what matters is that feminism, distilled down to its absolute core, is about gender equity. The goal of feminism is to create a society in which individuals’ genders don’t restrict them from an equitable shot at success and happiness. Most feminists actively disagree with the belief that women are better than men and think that feminists who are anti-men are going against the fundamental principles of feminism, which says we’re all deserving and worthy human beings – women, men, trans-genders everyone – and should be treated as such. So men-hating isn’t a part of that goal…Frankly speaking not an issue to be given any weight. It’s an unfortunate reactionary sentiment bought into by some people (misandrists) who also identify with the feminist movement.
The whole “feminists hate men” thing has been tossed around for quite a long time now. It’s not new. The first feminist women who began advocating for equal status of women in the US did so in the late 1700′s, but it didn’t really pick up steam until the late 1800′s. What crazy radical things were these feminists, you call them man-haters asking for, by the way? Primarily, the rights to own property, to attend college, and to vote. In response to these requests, they were labeled as anti-family, anti-God, anti-men radical hedonists. That labeling has continued to today, because of — surprise! — a group with a lot of power (men) tends to do whatever it can to maintain that power (dismiss equal rights as radical). It’s not new. It’s happened with every oppressed ethnic group (from the Irish to the Africans). It happened with oppressed religious groups (from the Catholics to the Muslims). And it continues today with the oppressed gender group.
Most men aren’t bad ( I can proudly say that about my generation) but somehow think Feminism says they are. In actuality, sexism is the problem — sexism that a lot of men engage in and a lot of women internalize. Men engage in sexism because they’ve been taught to behave/think that way. Women internalize it for the same reason. Feminism asks both men and women to critically think about that normalized behavior and its impact and holds people accountable for sexist thinking and behavior even if they didn’t initially realize it was sexist. So yes, it’s natural to get defensive when someone brings up feminist issues because it’s likely you never thought you were doing anything wrong. Does that make sexist behavior acceptable? No. That’s why we need to do a better job as a society to teach people how to treat each other with equity. That’s what feminism is trying to do here.
Feminists are mothers, daughters, and all kinds of women who have wonderful relationships with men in their lives; however, feminists hate some behavior displayed by men who are misogynistic, who put women down, who believe that women are not equal beings, and who sexualize women. Feminists simply want to be treated equally and with respect. Feminists absolutely do not hate men. The statement is actually formulated to paint all feminists in one broad stroke, which is a shame. Feminism has historically come in different waves starting from the drive for voting rights. To put it simply: not all feminists believe exactly the same thing. It depends on the era they come from and the point of view they have developed. It’s a shame that some men feel intimidated by a woman demanding the right to pay equity and other rights. Asking men to treat women fairly is not the same as hate.
Feminists simply want women to have an equal place and equal status in society. Feminists are normal beings. They get married, have children, and love the men in their lives. And to be honest, many wonderful feminists actually ARE MEN themselves. They clearly do not hate men. Feminism isn’t about hate. There are some feminists that hate men and those feminists have lost the point of feminism. Feminism by definition is about equality. You might argue that feminism is pointless in the first world, however, inequality still does exist. Women are still not always treated equal and the way I see it, anyone who believes in human rights and equality, is a feminist. Both men and women can be feminists, feminism is about gender equality, so it also includes standing up for men’s rights too. Men are very involved in feminism, we just don’t see them as much. Men understand that these issues impact them as well, that patriarchy and double standards hurt them, and they want things to change. Feminism has normally been a wonderful movement, evening the turf, fighting for the rights of women and men.
We live in a world of measurable, glaring inequalities. Look at politicians, CEOs, film directors, law enforcement officers, comedians, tech professionals, executive chefs, mathematicians, and on and on and on—these fields are dominated by men. (And, in many cases, white men.) To claim that there is no systemic inequality keeping women and minorities out of those jobs is to claim that men are naturally better. If there is no social structure favoring men, then it stands to reason that men simply work harder and/or are more skilled in nearly every high-level specialized field. It’s fine (though discouraging) if you legitimately believe that, but you need to own up to the fact that that is a self-serving and bigoted point of view. If you do not consider yourself a bigot, then kindly get on board with those of us who are trying to proactively correct inequalities. It is not enough to be neutral and tacitly benefit from inequality while others are left behind through no fault of their own. Anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia—that’s where we’re at now. Catch up or own your prejudice.
If there’s one movement that upholds the idea of equality – it is feminism. I can say that because there is a whole set of issues concerning men that feminists are working on. Feminists do not want men to lose custody of their children. The assumption that women are naturally better caregivers is part of patriarchy. Feminists do not like commercials in which bumbling dads mess up the laundry and competent wives have to bustle in and fix it. The assumption that women are naturally better housekeepers is part of patriarchy. Feminism never made that claim, patriarchy did and that is why we hate patriarchy. Feminists do not want you to have to make alimony payments. Alimony is set up to combat the fact that women have been historically expected to prioritize domestic duties over professional goals, thus minimizing their earning potential if their “traditional” marriages end. The assumption that wives should make babies instead of money is part of patriarchy. Again patriarchy! Feminists do not want anyone to get raped in prison. Permissiveness and jokes about prison rape are part of rape culture, which is part of patriarchy. Feminists do not want anyone to be falsely accused of rape. False rape accusations discredit rape victims, which reinforces rape culture, which is part of patriarchy. Feminists do not want you to be lonely and we do not hate “nice guys.” The idea that certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is part of patriarchy. Feminists do not want you to have to pay for dinner. We want the opportunity to achieve financial success on par with men in any field we choose (and are qualified for), and the fact that we currently don’t is part of patriarchy.
The idea that men should coddle and provide for women, and/or purchase their affections in romantic contexts, is condescending and damaging and part of patriarchy. Feminists do not want you to be maimed or killed in industrial accidents or toil in coal mines while we do cushy secretarial work and various yarn-themed activities. The fact that women have long been shut out of dangerous industrial jobs (by men, by the way) is part of patriarchy. Feminists do not want you to commit suicide. Any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of any gender are part of patriarchy. The fact that depression is characterized as an effeminate weakness, making men less likely to seek treatment, is part of patriarchy. Feminists do not want you to be viewed with suspicion when you take your child to the park (men frequently insist that this is a serious issue, so I will take them at their word). The assumption that men are insatiable sexual animals, combined with the idea that it’s unnatural for men to care for children, is part of patriarchy. Feminists do not want you to be drafted and then die in a war while we stay home and iron stuff. The idea that women are too weak to fight or too delicate to function in a military setting is part of patriarchy. Feminists do not want women to escape prosecution on legitimate domestic violence charges, nor do we want men to be ridiculed for being raped or abused. The idea that women are naturally gentle and compliant and that victimhood is inherently feminine is part of patriarchy. Patriarchy is what we’ve got to criticize, not just criticize – essentially oppose and change. If you really care about the issues mentioned as passionately as you say you do, you should be thanking feminists, because feminism is a social movement actively dedicated to dismantling every single one of them. The fact that you blame feminists—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting men isn’t nearly as important to you as resenting women. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?
To all the men who have had shitty lives and mistake that pain for “misandry”: I totally get it. And I’m sorry if you haven’t found that so far in your life. But it’s not women’s fault, it’s not my fault, and it’s certainly not feminism’s fault. The thing is, you’re not really that different from the women you rail against so passionately —the women who are trying to carve out some space and assert their value in a world of powerful men. Plenty of women know exactly what it feels like to be pushed to the fringe of society, to be rejected so many times that you eventually reject yourself. That alienation is a big part of what feminism is fighting against. A lot of those women would be on your side if you would just let them instead of insisting that they’re the villains. It’s better over here, and we have room for you. So stop trying to convince us that we hate you and I promise we’ll start liking you a whole lot more.
Life isn’t fair always, because of coincidence and circumstance and the DNA you were born with, and we all have to accept the hands we’re dealt and live within that reality. But life doesn’t have to be additionally unfair because of imposed systems of disenfranchisement that only affect certain groups. We can fight against that. Feminism isn’t about striving for individual fairness, on a life-by-life basis—it’s about fighting against a systematic ‘removal of opportunities’ that infringes on women’s basic freedoms. If a woman and a man have equal potential in a field, they should have an equal opportunity to achieve success in that field. It’s not that we want the least qualified women to be handed everything just because they’re women. It’s that we want all women to have the same opportunities as all men to fulfill (or fail to fulfill, on their own inherent merits) their potential. If a particular woman is under qualified for a particular job, fine. That isn’t sexism. But she shouldn’t have to be systematically set up, from birth, to be underqualified for all jobs (except for jobs that reinforce traditional femininity).
Hence, we have a lot of thinking to do as ‘humans’ – not as women, not as men; just like human beings. We have to really ponder on the fact that every time we refuse to call ourselves a feminist or make a disparaging comment about “feminists” as a group of people or “feminism” as an ideology and movement, we are inadvertently implying that women don’t deserve gender equality. We are reinforcing the divide that already exists. Feminism, therefore, is not a threat, never was. It’s a movement, a change already happening that is benefitting both men and women. It is helping us realize our humanity. It is helping us prevent to the image of ourselves imposed by patriarchy as a construct of society. It is helping us unburden ourselves of the continual fear of failing that construct. Feminism is a gift to us. It is a way we can deepen our own humanity and, in fact, sometimes even claim our own humanity for the first time. A humanity that has been long lost. Time to revive it.
I take pride in calling myself a feminist. Do you ??
(With inputs from Lindy West & Samantha Bradley