F*ck Off with Your Denigration of Feminism
Social, Economic, and Legal Equality for all Genders is a Good Thing
July 27, 2018
If we judged the whole world by the outliers of a group, it’d probably be considered a shittier place than it really is. For example, are all lawyers assholes because a few may be sleezy? Are all doctors fuckups because a few have screwed up? Are all feminists bad because some of them have expressed their hurt and anger in ways that became detrimental to the cause? Hell to the NO!
So let’s talk about Feminism and the reason why some people recoil with distaste upon hearing or reading the mere term, instead of embracing the term.
First, ‘Feminism,’ according to Merriam-Webster is defined as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” According to that link It entered the language in 1895, at a time when efforts for women’s political equality were becoming organized and widespread in England and the United States.
The Online Etymology Dictionary cites 1851 as the first usage in regards to “qualities of females;” and then 1895, “advocacy for women’s rights.”
Sounds reasonable, right? Who wouldn’t want men and women to both have the same opportunities and rights in a community? The next question begs, how and why did it get to be such a hot button packed with negativity? Before we delve into that muck ’n’ mire, let’s start with a brief history on Feminism and where we are now.
Brief History of Feminism
The general consensus with scholars is that there are Three Waves of Feminism. Some may bring in a fourth to acknowledge the history of women who went against society for the betterment of women before the word even existed.
The First Wave of Feminism
The First Wave of Feminism refers to the years around 1830 to the early 1900s. It was focused on Women’s Suffrage and legal right of women vote and eventually on other political agendas as the movement progressed. Women were basically owned by their fathers or their husbands and were not privy to direct their lives in areas such as:
- Property Ownership
- Signing Legal Documents
- Attending University
- Serving on Juries
- Refusing Sex from their Husband
Basically the first wave was about organization and focusing on equality for women. The movement grew out of the abolishment movement, yet it did not include non-white women. Women of Color (WoC) did not get rights to basic autonomy for decades after their white counterparts.
The First Wave also saw a rush of new blood at the end of WWI, when many women worked outside the home for the first time. The wave is marked by those feminist greats such as Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
The Second Wave of Feminism
The Second Wave began in the 1960s and continued into the 90s. This wave brought attention to anti-war sentiments, civil rights, and awareness of equality for minority groups.
Instead of fighting clear cut equality laws, the Second Wave included a focus on theory and systemic inequality within Patriarchal boundaries. The Patriarch was called out as a system that worked against both men, women, and children. Sexual freedom for women, intersectionality (inclusion of all kinds of women – not just cis white women that has been the face of Feminism previously), sexism at work, school, and home, class inequality, and environmentalism were all a big part of this wave.
Women wanted to control their bodies, use birth control, get an abortion, have their own credit, say no to their husband’s sexual advances, create women only spaces, and declare, “I am woman, hear me roar!” We saw a push for equal wages, even if only on record, and workforce equality.
The movement saw the once great Gloria Steinem rise to speak for women across the US that were tired of being a door stop. We won Title VII, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the formation of the National Organization for Women (NOW), the passage of Title IX, which allowed women to participate in the benefits of sports in schools, Roe vs Wade, the rejection of gender norms, and the empowerment of the LGBQT+ community.
The Third Wave of Feminism
Depending on the historian, you’ll see dates of this was starting in the 1980s or in the 90s. The Third Wave is best described as compartmentalized. Here we see Feminists whose focus may vary amongst each other, and even at odds in some ways.
Although women have made massive inlines in wage and workplace equality, there is nothing but miles of scenarios in which laws are broken, or the existing power structure prevents equality.
The young women of this wave grew up with Internet, constant US involvement in armed conflict throughout the world, and Neoliberalism that destroyed the Middle Class and opportunities for the poor. They in turn reclaimed words that have been derogatory towards women such as: bitch, whore, cunt, slut, etc. They also grew up with an acceptance of the fluidity of gender and have embraced the many differences that do not necessary coincide with one’s biological sex.
Working against the Patriarchal system that oppresses women, men, and children has been a giant focus during the Third Wave. Ownership of companies, ownership of career choice (including sex workers), intersectionality that also includes global issues, have all been part of dismantling the Patriarchy.
Where was I going with this?
Again, it all sounds so basic and positive for a movement. From the very beginning there have been anti-feminists that disagree with women’s empowerment. While the most rational person would consider them a chauvinist, the misanthropic response from anti-feminists has morphed into a hatred for anything Feminism.
Let’s try to break down the rhetoric and see why Feminism really is for everyone.
The Assumption of Legislation
Many men and some women think we no longer need Feminism because women have the right to vote, hold credit, hold power, and direct their lives. It says so right there in black and white in law books throughout the USA. Yet, these same people don’t realize that just because something is legal, doesn’t make it true.
The women who are in this category generally have not experienced sexism because of their privilege, or they don’t recognize it because of how they are socialized while growing up (culture, family dynamics, etc.). The men that think all is fine and dandy because the laws say we’re equal have no clue what it’s like to live the life of a woman, especially a woman of color.
For example, let’s talk about rape. Rape affects women and men, is predominately perpetrated by men, yet the rate in which rapes are processed is abominable. We live in what is called a ‘rape’ culture, in which rape is used in jokes, often blames the victim, and is normalized in attitudes.
Another example is Birth Control vs Viagra. According to an older article, “Studies have shown that women of reproductive age spend about two-thirds more than men on out-of-pocket health-care costs. Birth control and reproductive health-care services are believed to account for much of the difference.”
Since then, the paradigm of companies covering birth control has been litigated quote often, including said companies determining the exact kind that is acceptable.
Recently the birth control issue again came up. Let’s face it, it comes down to the simple fact that insurance companies have never stopped covering Viagra, but birth control is constantly on the firing line.
I can go on and on about various ways in which the laws are there, but the equality is not. The tip of the iceberg:
- The Pink Tax
- Men have it more difficult changing their name after marriage
- Women’s Reproductive Rights
- Wage Gap
- Equal Representation in Congress
- And other ways
The ‘Women Only’ Assumption
Many men and women are under the impression that the word itself means it’s only for women. The root word “fem” has been slang for “woman” since 1896. Stemming from the word female, the assumption is that “feminism” only relates to women. The truth is feminism’s goal is equality. As feminism evolved after the First Wave, it became paramount that men and children also suffered from a Patriarchal society.
When a little boy is told to suck it up and not cry when he gets hit in the face with a soccer ball during play time, that’s Patriarchal abuse. When a male child is told they can’t wear pink, play with dolls, take dance / ballet, have feelings, etc. it suppresses their natural personalities and is toxic for the child.
When a man can’t walk hand in hand with another man, hug, kiss on the cheek like women, show deep feelings, cry, etc. it’s a continuation of that toxicity. We call it toxic masculinity and it arises from a Patriarchal society.
A Patriarchal society that gives all it’s power to white cisgender men forces everyone else to take a back seat.
The Victim Assumption
Now more than ever, Feminism has compartmentalized. This means that we have all sorts of feminism going on:
Eco-Feminism, Cyberfeminism, Atheist Feminism, Christian Feminism, Cultural Feminism, Black Feminism, Chicana Feminism, Fat -positive Feminism, Essentialist Feminism, and a score of others that are greatly covered here.
If you know anything about human nature, factions of a whole tend to fight with each other over nuances, and sometimes deeper issues. All these voices, and all this in-fighting can come across as whiney and victimizing.
Feminism is the opposite of victimizing women, men, or children. It’s about empowering them to be who they want to be regardless of their sex organs. When a little boy can’t cry, he’s a victim of Toxic Masculinity. Feminism wants to empower that boy and say it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to wear pink. It’s okay to do ballet. It’s okay to love stuffed animals.
Feminism Ignored Intersectionality
Oh boy. It’s true and not an assumption. Many WoC rightly point out how Feminism has been advancing the cisgendered white woman over everyone else since the First Wave. Rather than deal with rebranding the word, they much prefer to use another term completely.
Housewives Can’t be Feminists Assumption
There’s an assumption that if you’re a Feminist then you have to go to college, become a professional and swear off children for life. And that assumption is completely off the mark.
Feminism is about choice. If you want to have a family and a career, go for it. If you want to have kids and stay home, go for it. You have choice and so does your spouse. Closely related to the Victim Assumption, the idea that Feminism takes aways a woman’s choice is completely fabricated.
The ‘Feminists Hate Men’ Assumption
Last and definitely not least, there’s an assumption that Feminists hate men. And this bring us full circle to my first paragraph about the fringe end of a group. Yes, there are and have been Feminists that do hate men. Most of these women have been abused terribly from the Patriarchy, men, and women. They verbally express their disdain for men, and some have gone as far to speak violently about men.
To put down feminists for hating men is like saying all lawyers are liars. It’s a few people, not the whole movement. Stop focusing on such a minute amount and listen to the message. To coin the term “FemiNazi” just because a few rabid outliers were so emotionally damaged from their past that they can’t find empathy for the gender of their abuser is immature and purposely contorts the message of Feminism.
Let me say it again for those in the back, Feminists DO NOT HATE MEN!
Feminism’s basics are about equality for the various genders (political, economic, and social equity), releasing gender roles in both children and adults, and smashing the Patriarchy that has suppressed women and People of Color for centuries. That’s really not a bad thing.