From October 22-26, The Wanderer Online is participating in the “Who Needs Feminism?” Call to Action Week, which you can read more about here. Throughout the week, we’ll be posting 2-4 articles per day where writers answer the question “I need feminism because…” If you’re interested in writing something, please send us your piece at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind that you are totally allowed and encouraged to write anonymously, if that works better for you.
I have encountered a remarkable number of people who seem to think that feminism is about hating men. Many seem to assume that feminism is trying to invert the current system by shifting men to the subordinated position in order to make women the ‘dominant’ gender. I would like to emphasize that, in the majority of circumstances, this is not the case. This assumption is so far from what I would consider feminism to be, and I want to correct and inform those who think that they know what feminism is all about.
I can only tell you what feminism means to me. I cannot speak for every woman, or every feminist, and I do not intend to try. Though from my understanding, feminism is first and foremost about equality. I find that many feminists also tend to align themselves with racial and sexual minority rights due to their shared roots in the desire for equality throughout all of society. I also think that the word ‘equality’ has lost its meaning and impact for a lot of people. Some seem to hold the belief that the fight for equality is over; it is something that you read about in history books. Slavery has been abolished, women can vote, therefore equality has been obtained. This is not the case. Many of the goals of the suffragettes and the abolitionists have been achieved and this is indeed worth noting as a step in the right direction. However, the battle for equality is far from over. Although in writing, “all are equal in the eyes of the law”, all do not appear to be equal in the eyes of society.
Blanket statements don’t sit well with me.
“All men are this.”
“All women think like this.”
Gender roles are so deeply engrained in society that we are taught to expect and identify certain characteristics or attributes in one or the other.
“She’s a woman so she must be emotionally manipulative.”
“He’s a man so he must be insensitive.”
I hear these generalizations constantly and I find them not only troubling but grossly inaccurate. I think that one of the primary goals of modern feminism is to do away with this system and emphasize differences not in terms of gender but in terms of the individual. Some men are emotionally manipulative. Some men are moody and some are highly communicative. Some women are insensitive, some hate shopping, some are highly independent. These are not traits that are inherent to one gender or the other; they are simply over-emphasized and used to form generalizations if or when they are present. It is not the primary ‘feminist goal’ to appoint women a status above that of men. I think that feminists are simply seeking to dismantle the patriarchy and abolish the gender binary entirely, supporting a system of equality for every member of society.
I do not blame men as a collective for the patriarchy. The blame is put on all of us for upholding it. We subscribe to certain attitudes about women or men and apply them every chance that we get. Women are guilty of applying them to other women and men are guilty of applying them to other men. I feel that Ashley Judd’s statement sums up this argument perfectly: “Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it.” Patriarchy is something that we all have to take responsibility for and take steps forward by being aware of its presence and being active in resisting it.
In conclusion, my opinion is that society needs feminism. The current patriarchal system does no favors for either men or women. We are grouped and generalized and certain expectations are set up for us before we’ve even said a word. Expectations in terms of gender are present before we are even born. This does a disservice for both women and men. Men are taught from the beginning and continually throughout their lives that men don’t cry, that women are a conquest, that your worth is determined by how much money you make and power that you hold. Women are taught in a similar way to be submissive, to conform to certain standards of beauty, and to put the highest priority on marriage and children, regardless of their personal interests and goals. We need to be aware that these gender stereotypes are socially constructed and that there is nothing ‘natural’ about them. Through this awareness, it becomes possible to take a step away from society’s patriarchal constructs and towards the notion of equality.