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:
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.