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April 22, 2016

The Feminist Movement has not Changed Women, it has Found Them.

woman strong arm bicep

“One cannot be lost who was never truly found.”

A profound statement? Not really, though one I find a particular connection with when I think about the feminist movement.

Me putting these two words in italics is but a mere recognition that they garner no less than two distinct reactions, and thus, I would rather concede to the controversy of interpretation and keep your attention on the real point I want to make.

The real point is this: The feminist movement—a.k.a. women fighting for equal rights, a.k.a. women refusing to be pushed around—has not changed women, it has found them.

I read a recent article titled “Young Men Giving Up On Marriage (Women Aren’t Women Anymore).” As you can guess by the title, a growing number of men no longer want to marry because they do not like who women have become. I read this article with great interest and annoyance while several questions filled my pea brain.

What, in the eyes of these men, makes a woman a woman?

If men no longer want to marry because women aren’t women, why then, do men want to have sex with them? I’d be curious as to what type of sexual that is.

If women are no longer women, what has changed to remove their gender identity?

Oh, the thoughts you can think when you don’t, in fact, think. That is my reaction when I read a phrase as simple and yet damaging as, “Women Aren’t Women Anymore.” When I first got into women empowerment, I was shocked by how many people, both men and women, told me that it was the single biggest reason for the death of the American family. One such man actually told me that I should be ashamed of myself for killing a way of life—it was quite ironic since I noticed a pack of Marlboro’s in his hands and, as clear medical evidence would suggest, millions of people have actually died at the hands of cigarettes.

That said, I did have an extensive conversation with him. It was around the thinking people have with regard to the feminist movement. Besides the aforementioned death of the American family, he shared with me the confused state that women are being put into now. From his perspective, it was easy when women understood their roles and men understood theirs. What’s more, both people were happy in these roles. My reactions to him were quite simple. One, society and environments determine roles and, as evidenced by where we are today, those roles can change. Two, no one should define the roles of another person, or sets of people, unless those people have a say in said definition. Three, his interpretation of their happiness was just that, an interpretation. I further noted to him that a lot of people are happy or content until their eyes and ears are opened to things they had never seen or heard before.

When I think about the feminist movement, I think about women finding themselves in ways that were not possible when they had roles and gender expectations thrust upon them. The feminist movement has changed the way women see themselves, their potential, their opportunities and, unfortunately, just how selfish and close minded people can be. This change and the negatives reactions to it raised another question in this pea brain of mine:

When change brings or expands freedom for one person or set of people, why does that lead to such a negative reaction from another person or set of people?

The simple answer is that when one person gains freedom, other people may feel as though such freedom comes at a loss to them. A loss of what, you ask?

Loss of status and access: When you had less freedom, I had more freedom. Now that you have access, or even the threat of access, to the same things I have, I will have less of those things.

Loss of self: I only knew myself and was happy with myself when I was the stronger and the more dominant one. Now that I must be equal to others, I do not feel as good about myself.

Loss of control: Now that you have access to the same things I do, and you have been able to find yourself, your strengths, your place in this world, I have lost some control. I do not like that.

If this loss of self, loss of access and loss of control is killing the American way of life, I say good riddance.

If people are so selfish and close minded so as to focus merely on their loss, and not the gain women have made over the last several decades, I have little use for them. When women began getting out of the house, going to college, and travelling the world, their eyes were opened to tremendous things beyond the kitchen sink, and their eyes liked what they saw. This should make people happy. We are on this earth to live happy lives, no? And we should want the same happiness in others.

Of course, there are those who find my views naive and dangerous. Others believe that women are losing even as they are gaining. The below is a direct quite from the article, and the context within the words say a lot about a popular, current, train of thought with regards to the feminist movement.

“It’s the women who lose. Not only are they saddled with the consequences of sex, by dismissing male nature they’re forever seeking a balanced life. The fact is, women need men’s linear career goals—they need men to pick up the slack at the office—in order to live the balanced life they seek.”

In other words, women want a balanced life, but they cannot have it on the current independent or equality trajectory that they seek. Said another way, women cannot have their cake and eat it too. That is one way to look at it.

Another way to look at it is that men could help women find balanced lives. If Megan wanted to have a child and wanted to keep her job at the office, why is Megan the only person forced to figure out how to make this work? Where is her husband, Mark, in the equation? Another way to look at it is that we may be projecting what we believe women want based on what wants would suit us. Either way, we chalk up breakdowns of the family unit to this so-called change in women without challenging our own assumptions of what women really want. It is simply the desire of some to go back to how things were when it was is all so simple.

According to many young men who do not want to marry, Mark isn’t even happy with Megan right now. Nor does he see her as a woman. A woman, to Mark, has a role and the feminist movement has killed this role. To which I go back to my three questions and some final thoughts.

What, in the eyes of these men, makes a woman a woman?

Judging by the article I cited, and many just like it, women are defined by gender expectations of generations past and their associated usefulness to men and the family unit. In this, women are a tool, and the home is their only rightful toolbox. So pleads the ignorant and close minded.

If men no longer want to marry because women aren’t women, why then, do men want to have sex with them? I’d be curious as to what type of sexual that is.

These men want to have their cake (sex) and eat it too (without commitment). Unless, of course, said commitment means less commitment for him in the areas of chores, raising kids, etc.

If women are no longer women, what has changed to remove their gender identity?

Women have found themselves, which has yielded losses for some men who wish such findings never occurred.

It may surprise you to know that the primary contributor to the article I cited was a woman, and there are a lot of women who feel the way she does. What I would like to ask her is, who sets the tone, the environment, the rules of engagement and, most importantly, the gender roles? It is easy to say women have changed and are no longer women when you have a definition of what makes someone a woman, and said definition is based on roles and expectations that were followed when women were barely voters in their own household. If this author were to get in front of a group of 100 active women who are a proud part of the feminist movement, how would she go about seeking to understand their motivations, hopes, dreams and desires?

If the feminist movement has killed the American family, then by virtue of taking more women out of the kitchen, say good riddance. I made a near duplicate statement early on, but will expound herein. The American family, as defined by those who make such statements, cannot occur without women. But, they want women molded into silent partners or baby makers without a care for what those same women want. In this, I do not want their version of the American family—I want an American family where every person is happy, fulfilled and an equal participant. (Of course, I could go on about how the very definition of the American family is changing as same sex couples rightfully get their wish to raise families that may or may not have men or women in them at all. But that is a discussion for another day.)

We know that an NFL team, when hitting the gridiron on Sunday, wants to win the game. If they do not win that game, then by definition, they have lost it. But to say that women lose in the feminist movement is to suggest that we know what they want or what winning and losing means to them.

The truth is, we have opinions about what they should want and such opinions are mostly based on how their wants affect our world. To which I say, you stick to your life and let them stick to theirs. This is especially true if your version of what they should do or want puts women back into a time when they were asked to do nothing except what you wanted them to do. That is a game only you win.

The independence, sexuality, academic success, nature and voice (among hundreds of other things) that women have found was always within them, there was simply not the opportunity for them to explore it, to extract it from their souls.

At the end of the day, we will either be an earth full of people or an earth full of sheep’s and slaves. I know which version I prefer, what about you?

 

 

Author: Chris Armstrong

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Boemski/Flickr 

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