August 7, 2014

Is Feminism an F-word?

women feminism protest vintage 19th amendment equal rights

Two recent gender tags had huge (if fleeting) coverage- #YesAllWomen and #WomenAgainstFeminism-–generally attracting opposing perspectives by women on the current state of gender affairs.

I was fascinated to read the posts on both sides and to see how strongly people advocated their personal position for the entire world!

#YesAllWomen was the response to one man’s gun rampage, targeting women because he had been rejected by one. I am not sure where or why the #WomenAgainstFeminism campaign began, but it ‘s Facebook page began in January 2014.

I have always struggled with identifying myself as a “feminist,” because I saw the label as leaving room still for non-acceptance, for conflict, for blame. And yet, when I read some of the posts to #WomenAgainstFeminism site, I was gobsmacked by how far off the original mission the term is now viewed.

I am not going to write an article about feminism…mostly because I don’t know any more about it than the average Jane. There are also some very well-written and intelligent articles already out there discussing the issue.

I am interested in the fear and anger this whole issue has stirred up though. From both sides; women angry at men, women angry at women, men angry at women and probably, somewhere, men angry at men.

Sadly, many of the posts seem to truly be a matter of misunderstanding the definitions of basic English words. And I don’t just mean the word “Feminism.”

Some of my favorite fallacious posts include:

1. “Men and women are born different, so why fight to be equal.”

As if ‘same’ is the same as ‘equal.’ ‘Same’ does not equal ‘equal.’ Oh, the linguistic contortions!

2. “I have never been discriminated against.”

Wow, never? Never-ever? My sister works as the off-sider on her husband’s crane. This is hard physical work. She often gets told by men on the construction sites that she is lucky she gets to have such a good workout at work. Men do work. Women do workouts.

No discrimination here, right? I mean, she is on the job site…in a ‘man’s’ job, so can’t be any discrimination here.

3. “I don’t need feminism because I’m proof that I can have a successful career and be a loving, supportive wife and mother. I love to be in the kitchen.”

Because feminism said you can’t be a wife and mother? Because feminism means all women hate kitchens? I wonder how the women who fought so hard for all women to have all choices feel about being forgotten so soon.

I guess it is the privilege of the younger generations to not know a life without choices, without rights for women, without access to work. When getting married meant you got fired. When you had to be in the kitchen regardless of if you loved it or hated it.

4. “I don’t need feminism because it’s obsolete.”

I am so glad there is no wage gap. I love that women can safely walk down any street, at any time, wearing any outfit (or naked) and feel completely safe. I am glad that being called a ‘girl’ is a compliment, not an insult. I love that women hold about half of the political and religious seats around the world, fully representing that women are half the population. I am so glad that the fight for equal rights for women is obsolete.

5. “I don’t need feminism because I love my boyfriend/husband and he loves me too.”

Yeah, don’t you hate it when loving someone means you still need equality? I mean love should negate the need for equality for everyone, am I right?

And then I’ve also heard…

“Being complimented is the most degrading thing a man can do to a woman, it’s basically rape with words.”

Wow, really? Really-really?

Human beings are amazing. From a simple, survival-based, short-lived life to the complex and busy “lifestyle” most of us live today, it is pretty incredible. And many women and men fought very hard in the more recent future to make huge changes to women’s rights in a relatively short time.

In the past 100 years, more has changed for women than in the several thousand before that. (This is also true for human kind and human rights in general)

And yet we make up so much sadness for ourselves.

Hating each other over labels and beliefs and colors. Deciding what other people should think, do, say. Declaring that the choices that work for me should apply to everyone, even though that other person is completely different from me in age, culture, gender, education.

Then thinking that even though the same rules apply to the other person, despite their differences, but because of those very same differences, they are not equal to me!

I understand why the term “feminism” was chosen for the movement and I think it is really sad that the tendency to overgeneralize and throw the good out with the bad has left women no longer believing that feminism is for the feminine.



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Editor: Renée Picard

Image: kcochran06 at Flickr 

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