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Why Feminism Matters

Feminism. It’s somehow become a dirty word. People shy away from the sound of the word, from the label, treating the term like an invective or an insult. Feminism. To be labeled a feminist is be called a man-hater, to say that men’s struggles count as nothing.

All of these thoughts and actions betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the word “feminism,” and if we’re going to go anywhere with this conversation, we need to define the word. And so:

feminism2

There. We all on board?

Being a feminist does not mean hating men. It does not mean denigrating a woman for choosing to be a stay-at-home mother. It does not mean burning a bra. It does mean respecting someone’s choice to do any of those things and accepting them on their own merits, as a person.

Feminism means recognizing that women are people, on their own, as individuals, and that they have worth and value in and of themselves. This should be axiomatic.

Why isn’t it?

Feminist philosophy posits the idea of patriarchy, a culture that is biased towards the male in a way that is detrimental to both men and women. Patriarchy – not Feminism – denies men the ability to feel, denigrates homosexuality, and sees women as being worth less than men.

The existence of Patriarchy is not up for debate. Women make less money than men do. Women’s agency, health, and lives are seen as less important than men’s within popular media. Women’s choices are mocked, their interests are stereotyped, and their intelligence is downplayed in favor of their looks. It’s why there are family planning centers where not-doctors pretend to be doctors and lie to women about the risks of abortion. It’s why Lego unleashed a series of sets in malls aimed at girls, as opposed to realizing that Lego is already perfect. It’s why beauty pageants still exist in 2015.

When two boys drug and rape a girl in Ohio before dumping her on her front lawn in the wee hours of the morning, it’s excused as boys will be boys and popular media gets angry at the girl for speaking up and ruining the potential football careers of her rapists.

Patriarchy is a power that has, traditionally, controlled the media and been presented as a positive. Diminutive pet names are still the norm, with male senators denigrating female senators not because of policy, but because of gender. This is what changed the course of discussion by arguing about what feminism is, conjuring an idea that has nothing to do with what the actual movement is about, and making the word a dirty one. That serves corporate interests too, because feminism has grown and changed as both movement and philosophy, and is in direct conflict with people that are interested in keeping people divided.

So, let us delve further. The modern feminist movement advocates for additional causes which fall into the same purview. This changes the definition somewhat, so let us define feminism as the belief that all people should be afforded equal opportunity regardless of circumstances of gender, skin color, religious affiliation, sexual affiliation or identity, or any other denomination and should be respected based on individual capability and choice. 

That’s it. Done. Equality of opportunity and agency for all people. Simple, right?

One would think, but there’s still this idea that feminism is somehow bad; that by focusing on one aspect of a prejudicial conflict we belittle the suffering of those not involved and ignore other forms of prejudice while also hating on men. No less than Emma Watson addressed the United Nations on this very issue, and refuted it succinctly:

Her speech, intelligent as it was, found itself greeted with misognystic jingoism from Men’s Rights Advocates, with people claiming to be the hackers responsible for the sex crime of breaking into several celebrity’s private data and stealing pictures threatening to release similar pictures of her unless she recanted. She didn’t. The threat ended up being part of a poorly thought out marketing campaign – the acceptance of which does nothing more than prove her point.

None of this – not a single bit of thievery or slander or especially rape – is okay. It is never the victim’s fault. And we need to stop pretending otherwise.

Lucky for us, this is being redressed thanks to electronic media, so that we actually have something we can work with.

There’s this idea in popular media that feminism as a movement had it’s say, but research any of the grievances listed above and tell me with a straight face that we’re living in a post-feminist world. Click this link and read a misanthropic diatribe about forced celibacy that posits that women are objects to be won, not people to be respected. Hell, do a Google search and read the poisonous bullshit on any Men’s Rights Advocacy group and then tell me that we, as a society, think of women as equals. Read about women being jailed for miscarriages, women being blamed for being raped, women being denied access to birth control, women being lied to about abortions and birth control, and tell me there isn’t a war on women’s rights, on their agency, and on their ability to make decisions about their own lives.

It’s changing, thankfully. Ten years ago, this was barely a discussion – as if feminism had already won. It didn’t, but that was the lie we like to tell ourselves. The only reason it’s being spoken of now because we are able to communicate with one another via internet, via social media, via tumblr and facebook and youtube, and we are able to share our experiences and hopefully change this world for the better.

Perhaps we can begin by acknowledging that fifty-one percent of the human populace is actually human, and go from there.

3 Responses to Why Feminism Matters

  1. it’s so sad that it needs to be written, but I’m glad that you did. Awesome, insightful, to the point. Hope that it helps some people get more educated about feminism and women’s rights issues, and helps them realize that patriarchy hurts everyone.

  2. […] Swift herself is a controversial figure who picks up a lot of flack because double standards and patriarchy. Her latest album, 1989, makes it clear that she’s had enough. From Blank […]

  3. Henry Jenkins says:

    “The existence of Patriarchy is not up for debate.”
    You’re right about that, in the same sense that the existence of Santa Claus is not up for debate. Everyone with common sense should know both are myths.

    “Women make less money than men do.”
    Not for doing the same jobs. The ONLY way you get the “gender wage gap” crap is by taking the total earnings of all men in this country and dividing by the number of working men, taking the total earnings of all women in this country and dividing by the number of working women and comparing them. Which tells you… nothing of value. Because it fails to consider the numerous variables, that women gravitate towards the easiest jobs which tend to be the lowest paying (think retail, food service, hospitality etc.), women avoid the difficult, dangerous jobs like the plague, jobs which pay more, women work a LOT less hours than men do, women tend to call in sick a lot more than men do, nine out of ten of the college degrees that translate into the lowest-paying jobs are earned by women while nine out of ten of the degrees that translate into higher-paying jobs are earned by men, and moreover men don’t take three or four years off to raise the baby. You consider all that and it’s a wonder women don’t make a hell of a lot less than they do. But if you consider women and men in the same job, same qualifications, same amount of time then you see women making what men make. The “discriminatory wage gap” is a myth, a myth that has been debunked and debunked and debunked countless times by actual economists, you know, people who majored in something in college a bit more useful than “gender studies” with a minor in 17th Century French lesbian poetry.

    “Women’s agency, health, and lives are seen as less important than men’s within popular media.”
    Wow you have a good sense of humor. Women are not the ones society routinely views as disposable. No, that would be men. Let’s see… how many women have been drafted to fight and die in wars? Why does breast cancer get the lion’s share of cancer funding when prostate cancer kills more men than breast cancer kills women? Why do women’s homeless shelters get the vast majority of the funding, to the extent that finding a men’s shelter is like finding hen’s teeth by comparison, yet men make up the overwhelming majority of the homeless population? Why are there useless “women’s studies” courses on every college campus in the western world without comparable “men’s studies” courses? Why is there a National Organization for Women but not a National Organization for Men? Why does the N.F.L. make its players wear pink shoes, pink towels, pink this and pink that for the month of October? Why are there “female-only safe spaces” but no “male-only safe spaces”? Because society and popular media sees women as “less” important than men?? Are you out of your tiny little mind?

    “Women’s choices are mocked, their interests are stereotyped, and their intelligence is downplayed in favor of their looks.”
    Oh yeah, that’s why stay-at-home dads are so popular in society, right? No they’re not mocked at all. Yet a woman can be anything from a ballerina to a construction worker to a cop to a teacher to a nurse and nobody says boo. That’s fine. How many straight men find work as wedding planners or interior decorators who aren’t laughed at by society? I would wager that they would be subject to a hell of a lot more ridicule than a woman who decides she wants to be a firefighter or a police officer.

    “It’s why there are family planning centers where not-doctors pretend to be doctors and lie to women about the risks of abortion.”
    First of all if your “patriarchy” existed then no woman would be allowed to have her unborn baby dismembered and sucked out of her uterus because she doesn’t want the responsibility of being a mommy. There would be NO abortions aside from those that are medically necessary to save the mother’s life, i.e. about less than 1% of abortions. A woman certainly would not be able to say “Oh well, I just had sex with some random guy and got knocked up but I don’t WANT to be a mommy! I don’t WANT that kind of responsibility! It’s not FAIR! I know, I’ll just go down to the abortion clinic and have my unborn baby butchered so I don’t have to deal with the adult consequences of my adult actions.”

    Now ask yourself, what man has that right to escape from the consequences of his actions like that? Ask yourself, if we have a “patriarchy” then why in the hell are men held to their responsibilities, forced to act like adults and take responsibility for their actions and made to pay child support for 18 years for a kid they may never see? Why does the same legal system that says “Sure lady, go get your unborn kid sucked out of you, it’s only a human being after all, no big deal, if you don’t want it then why should you have to face the consequences your own actions brought about?” then turn around to the man and say “Tough tittie son, if you didn’t want to be a daddy you should have kept your pants on so now you’re looking at 18 years of child support for a kid you may not ever see because you are going to act like an adult if we have to throw you in jail over it”??? Are you effing KIDDING me?? A woman can escape from the consequences of her adult actions even when it is at the cost of a human LIFE but a man cannot escape from the consequences of his actions when it is only at the cost of the mother not getting a monthly check in the mail?? Are you effing KIDDING me???!!

    If you think there is some kind of a “patriarchy” in this country, if you think women are “oppressed” and somehow are second-class citizens then you have shit for brains.

    Go fuck yourself.

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