A DISCUSSION ON FEMINISM, PRIVILEGE AND ANGER
Disclaimer: the following comments and reasons given for the societal need for feminism may not be all-inclusive, as I am writing from the perception of a white female who has privilege in some areas, and lacks some in others. Situations may feel entirely different and worsened for individuals dealing with more prejudice about groups they identify with, whether that be with issues of religion, race, sexual orientation, or others.
During my attempts at writing this piece, I found myself compelled and almost ashamed of being the writer. In all honesty, I would consider myself a feminist; I spend a good amount of time researching and reading about men and women everywhere trying to make a difference where they can. After a discussion with one of my current teachers at the college, it dawned upon me that despite my particular interest for the cause, I would never write down “feminism” as one of my interests in a CV, or even bring the topic up when meeting new acquaintances, especially males. I think this can be attributed to both the negative connotation that the word has acquired, but also to the concept of privilege, which even I, a feminist, often forget I lack in certain instances as a woman.
One of the core concepts related to privilege is that a person having said privilege can expect not to become the spokesperson for their particular group. This applies a lot to race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and to gender as a whole. If I were to write down on my CV that I love reading about people of the world empowering each other despite gender, or if I were to bring the issue up to most of my guy friends, I would find myself in a sort of opposition, one which I’ve faced many times, and often avoided. Furthermore, my thoughts, ideas, reactions and opinions would be generalized to the entire feminist population, which is often regarded as “feminazis” or what are more accurately described as radical feminists. People would stamp that label on me and my feminism, because they assume it knows no nuances.
Simply put, the word “feminism” translates to the belief that men and women, and all other gender identities, have the right to be equal. This equality should, according to feminists such as myself, transpire through social integration, work opportunities, gender roles, relationships, and all other scopes of society.
As a general rule, as mentioned earlier, women who identify as feminists often feel a lot of hate or judgement from those around them, and those all over the internet. As a result, when women – and sometimes men – speak up about simple issues regarding equality of the sexes, no matter the voice used – whether it be angry, passive or comprehensive -, the societal backlash can become brutal. Take Anita Sarkeesian for example, a media critic and social figure who received rape and murder threats after exposing the negative portrayal of women in some popular video games, games in which women’s apparel, appearance and behavior is objectified.
Regarding this issue, I am torn. When is it okay to be angry? When will people acknowledge that it is okay for me to be angry? From what I’ve seen, it’s okay to be angry when your audience is someone who can identify with you. For issues like feminism and gender equality, the ideal audience for anger seems to be most women and a sample of men who have embraced the movement. I think this is unacceptable; everyone has a right to be angry, just as long as that anger or disappointment doesn’t turn into the man-hating messages that people always seem to associate with feminism. Men have a right to be angry. After all, everyone, especially men, is expected to constantly prove their respective gender. I feel a little sick to my stomach every time people find it odd that I am not afraid to ask people out, or to pay for the meal on half of the dates. I suppose those roles are traditionally masculine, but then again, what does that say about women or men who do not follow such ideals?
Those people receive rape and murder threats, those people get called a bitch or a pussy – notice that one of the worst insults that push men into performing their gender better is also a slang term for women’s genitalia, as if that term referred to something weak; as if that term didn’t refer to the biological organ that has the strength to supply, nourish and birth children.
I think I speak for a majority of people when I say that I am tired of feeling apologetic for my gender, and for my belief in gender equality. Most of all, I am tired of feeling my freedom of speech oppressed by strangers on the internet, unconsciously from my entourage, and mostly from myself, out of fear for the reaction of others. Justifications for believing in the feminist ideology should not even been required to be taken seriously.
I am a feminist because people like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a TEDxEuston speaker and author, felt the need to provide additional labels to feminism to ensure that jobs, potential friendships and other opportunities wouldn’t be lost for her, calling herself a “happy African feminist who does not hate men who likes lip gloss and wears high heels for herself but not for men.”
I am a feminist because of the objectification of women and the standard that is put on female and male beauty, reflecting once again gender ideals. I own knives and key chain alarms, do kickboxing, am currently in a martial arts class at the college, am 5’9 and I still do not feel safe walking past a group of men late-night in Montreal, for fear of my body being seen as nothing but an object, a piece of meat. I bought my first tube of mascara in the 5th grade. Not because I felt it was a beautiful art form and means of self-expression, but because I felt as though covering up insecurities and who I truly am was the only way for me to feel accepted.
I am a feminist because I’ve loved gaming for a while, and I get people telling me all the time that I probably like Bioshock because guys like girls that like Bioshock, as if the sole purpose of my existence was to please and attract men.
I am a feminist because of double standards. Men are expected to show no emotion, to be stoic, to be dominating, to be successful, while women are supposed to be graceful and petite, two things I have never been able to identify with. Girls are considered conquests while an accumulation of male suitors for a woman generates judgmental looks and is something to be ashamed of.
I am a feminist because in 5th grade, I was told that sexism was a subject that would be uninteresting and unimportant to most people (predominantly the boys in my class) when an art project assignment was handed out to us students with an open topic.
I am a feminist because I, just like 1 out of 3 women globally, have been and may again be sexually assaulted or harassed and found myself feeling guilty and wondering what I had done wrong. I am also angered at the occurrences in which sexual assault against men is downplayed for the simple reason that men are seen as always wanting sex anyways.
I am a feminist because people don’t find it offensive or insecurity-generating to comment on how aesthetically pleasing male genitalia is, depending on whether or not the man in question was subject to a surgery that entails removing a part of their body without them being able to give consent (excluding here the religious reasons for which certain families may consider circumcision, focusing on reasons relating to “traditions” and aesthetics).
I am a feminist because oral sex performed on females is considered by myself and many others as a “privilege” or a “bonus”, while many women feel obligated to perform such acts on men. Furthermore, because female orgasms are rated R while male orgasms can be shown in movies rated PG-13.
I am a feminist because strict gender-role related restrictions are reflected in a lack of representation for a variety of existing groups still struggling to find a voice that will be heard. Indeed, 5% of mainstream films in 2013 starred women of color, and only 4 mainstream films in 2012 starred LGBT characters, not to mention the unexplainable death of most LGBTQ+ characters in entertainment such as TV shows and movies.
I am a feminist because I forget about or am denied scholarly and professional opportunities. Men currently occupy the leading position in every single high-paying industry around the world. In my youth and still today, I’ve been described as “bossy”, “dominating” or “masculine” simply for having ambition, drive or even for very personal reasons such as not wanting children.
Most importantly, I need feminism because I am a 17-year-old white woman. And despite all of my privilege, where I grew up and my lack of experience with severe issues related to intersectionality or even simple life experiences, it only took me just under 15 minutes to come up with all of the personal real-life examples supplied in this article and over 20 more that weren’t included.
No, it’s not over.
I’d argue that issues are still everywhere.
Written by MWR writer and executive, Véronique Leblanc
WHY WE NEED GENDER EQUALITY, BUT NOT FEMINISM
DISCLAIMER: The information and content that may derive from this article does not accurately represent the interest of beliefs of the author. This article was written purely for academic purposes only.
I would just like to start by saying that in the eyes of the law, both men and women are equal, in western society today men are not given a head start the second they are born, there are no government enforced responsibilities or rights that either give men an advantage or women a disadvantage, the inequality we see between men and women is mostly institutionalized sexism, and it is with this exact point I would like to begin my argumentation on why feminism is unnecessary in western society.
With any social movement, it takes decades perhaps even generations to make the most seemingly insignificant incremental changes, and as stated before, at birth, men and women are given the same rights, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when women weren’t allowed to attend school, where they were ridiculed and mocked for not being smart enough to pursue a higher level of education. Back then, the feminist movement was completely justified and rational, because constitutionally women were inferior. Feminists had a clear goal to achieve, which was to change and create laws that protected their rights. As we continue into the 21th century, we’ve seen a significant improvements of women’s rights, to the point where I can argue that equality is in our sight. However, we have started to see a renewed feminist movement, one that does not have a clear mandate the same way feminists had 20, 30 or 40 years ago. A small group of this movement, which is also unfortunately the most vocal, incites hate and degrades men. Feminism is unnecessary because its dominant ideology of self proclaimed equality is close to its maximum potential, and we are at the point in society where feminism is no longer needed to carry us the extra mile and bring us to equality, nor would it even be successful in doing so. Similar to the catch-up effect, the stronger and more economically sound a country is, the slower it’s GDP increases, as there is very minimal space and room to improve itself. On the contrary, the smaller or less developed a nation is, the faster and more volatile their improvements will be. We are lucky enough to live in and abide by progressive ideologies. Inequalities still remains between men and women, but there is nothing feminists or advocates can do to fix institutionalized sexism in the near future. The truth is, there isn’t a magic formula to resolve this problem, but the closest that comes to it is time. As time moves on, we will see a slow but stable decline in social conservative values, which are the pillars in prohibiting some aspects of women’s rights.
Not only are feminist ideals outdated, but they are fundamentally flawed and rooted in logical fallacies. To start, feminists exclude men from their dialogues and yet expect in return full cooperation and their undivided support to the very cause that they claim “benefit men as much as it benefits women”. There is a reason why many would rather label themselves as advocates for women’s rights, and not as feminists. Why? There are indisputable deficiencies in many of the arguments feminists make, for instance the famous “A woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work” (A statement that was poorly constructed accompanied by a study that was skewed to begin with). However, for the sake of argumentation, let’s say this statement is realistic. The first natural inclination men or women have when they read this could be: “isn’t the fact that women earn less because of a patriarchal society enforced by both men and women”. This message and other similar messages emit the idea that women earn less because men earn more. This idea promotes competition and fosters hatred, which leads me to believe that modern feminism has developed into an idea of competition between men and women, and when it is a competition men are winning, it is considered sexist and unjust.
According to a poll conducted by New York Times, 85% of men believe that women and men should obtain equal economic and political rights. My question now is: why aren’t there any men leading the forefront of an ideology that supposedly further the rights of both sexes? Feminists address empowering women as their top priority, when in reality their way of empowering women is to ridicule and criticize men, who if I might remind again they ridicule a population of which 85% of whom agrees with them wholeheartedly. How can a movement be advocating the rights for both sexes if feminists predominantly pins one against the other and believes that it is men who oppress them? With 85% of the population who believes in equal rights, 82% of its people do not consider themselves as feminists. With such astounding statistics, one must ask themselves; is this movement working or not, and are there better ways to push for more efficient change in the domain of gender equality? Are we doomed with this so long as feminism is still upheld?
In brief, Feminism is unnecessary not because men and women have achieved an equal status. Iit is unnecessary because I believe the current operations and set of ideologies feminists use are more detrimental to their cause than good. We need a movement that actually facilitates equal change, a movement that celebrates both men and women instead of celebrating women and shaming men. If we want to see an egalitarian society in our lifetime, we must disband or, at the very least, alter the feminist movement to incorporate males.
Written by MWR writer and executive, Richard Zhao and edited by the MWR team