Monday, January 26, 2015

My issues with feminism: Reason #1

I realize that I've done an abysmal job of making this timely, but this is my response to those who consider me a feminist.  This is bound to be offensive or flat out to ridiculous to some people.  I recognize that.  If you fall into those categories, just do me one favor, and analyze your reaction before writing me off completely.

Feminism.  I've been told I'm a feminist countless times in my life.  But the fact is, I'm not.  There are things about feminism that I identify with.  There are things I appreciate about feminism.  This doesn't make me a feminist anymore than believing people should work together to support one another makes me a communist.   Feminism, as a whole, simply does not define or even describe how I actually see the world.  

There are 5 primary reasons I refuse to identify myself as a feminist.  Since this post would be grotesquely lengthy if I were to explain each reason all at once, I've decided to break it up.  So here you go.

Reason #1. The worst name for a gender equality movement ever.

Feminism is atrociously named.  If I claimed to be an Asiantist, Africanist, or perhaps a Latinist,  and that that meant I was all about total racial equality, do you think anybody would actually listen to me, let alone take the time to understand my message?  Do you think those names would inspire those in power who feel threatened by minorities to 'change their ways?'  I'm surprised modern feminists have decided to, rather than address this gross oversight, defend it to no end.  The argument is that feminism provides a lens to discuss women's experiences with misogyny and that, being the underprivileged minority, requires that we focus on how to mitigate those experiences and bring about gender equality by focusing on on women's problems.  They equate the name to the gay rights movement.  

Here's my issue with this.  Calling it feminism and focusing on the woman's problems does nothing to actually address the cause of most of the behaviors creating all the problems.  Rather, calling it feminism feels more like a marginalization (or perhaps a demonization) of its antithetical counterpart - masculinity.  But masculinity is not the root of the rampant violence and disrespect we deal with as women - misogyny is.  Naming a movement against misogyny 'feminism' is like naming a movement against cut-off jeans 'the skirtists'.  Are you against jeans?  Or pants altogether?  What about skorts?

Story-time:   Once upon a time, there was a girl named Alex (names have been changed...blah blah blah).  Alex was an impressive woman.  She was accomplished, athletic, intelligent, beautiful inside and out, etc.  Alex dated a guy named Andy for a long time.  Andy valued and revered Alex.  He saw her potential and capacity, and even declared himself a feminist because he truly saw her as his equal, if not his superior.  He felt ready to follow her wherever her dreams may lie and do whatever she needed of him.  He read feminist blogs, advocated for equal opportunity initiatives, and passionately felt like Alex could do anything she set her mind to.  They got married and started to plan their family.  Unfortunately, the longer they were married, the more Andy found himself losing his temper with Alex.  He felt irrationally frustrated around her and harshly critical.  He never treated anyone else that way, and yet his behavior toward her was inconsistent, disrespectful,  and even at times, flat out abusive.

Alex was blindsided by this change in events.  She was in love with Andy, but felt her sense of self-worth take a massive beating from his contemptuous moods.  She decided it must be a phase and even felt like there was evidence to support that.  Andy wasn't always abusive.  In fact, oft times he was incredibly sweet and supportive.

Unfortunately, Andy never did figure out the root of his contempt, and he never did get past it.  He would toggle back and forth between applauding and supporting her accomplishments and tearing her apart for minor shortcomings.  Months and months later, things escalated to a degree they never had before.  After a rough day at work, Andy picked a fight with Alex, felt himself lose complete control and eventually forced himself on her.  Afterward he felt intensely remorseful, and even tried to kill himself out of that remorse.  To him it made no sense.  He had been advocating for women's right for years.  He had read countless stories about a woman's right to say no to sex.  What drove him to violate his own wife's right to say no?  Why did he feel so angry?

Ok, story-time over.  I'm not going to offer the conclusion because it's going to be a part of my Reason #3.

Anyway, my point is that feminism. as a belief, does not do anything to uproot and destroy misogyny.  The name does not even mention the problem of misogyny.  It just makes the objective and opponent ambiguous and confusing.  The purpose of the story I presented, is to illustrate that feminism cannot just be about women's stories.  The violence and contempt men experience towards women is not something that can be explained by, nor fixed by, women's stories alone, nor by economic or social gender equality.  If it were, then matriarchal societies would not be faced with issues like rape, domestic violence, or emotional abuse - but they are.  Gender equality is a great objective.  I highly advocate for anything that helps men AND women treat each other with greater respect and empathy.

However, if we really are out to combat and eliminate misogyny, we are very much going to need the participation and acceptance of the very group and dynamic that feminisms' name excludes - namely, both our masculine traits and especially our masculine counterparts.  We need men to consider and explain their experiences if we ever hope to understand or help them fight those urges.  We need them to help us and themselves figure out why they lost their temper, what lead to their ill behavior, what is the root of their contempt, and how to prevent that cycle from repeating itself.  From where I sit, feminism needs to have just as many conversations about men's experiences as women's if we ever hope to achieve a safe and respectful equality.

But what's in a name?

Frankly, lots of things.  And as Shakespeare clearly taught us, believing otherwise leads to stupidity, premature teen suicides, and dead kittens.

Furthermore, I mean, ladies, consider what your reaction would be if there were a movement, primarily made up of men, who were trying to convince us that 'masculinism' was a movement focusing on how to help people fight female passive aggression (something that's definitely not good for men, women, or society).  Would you join the movement?  Would you even bother to investigate it further?  No matter how great the objective, feminism (just because it's named feminism) will incite a fair amount of opposition from the very people it needs to make it's allies.

So dear feminists, lose the exclusionary title already.  You're only hurting your own cause, which is a noble one in spirit.  Name it the 'anti-misogynist' movement or heck, how about my personal favorite: Gender Respectism?  Whatever you decide, I hope the next new wave of feminism decides to give up its archaic name and focus on acquiring a title that is clearly about how to help men AND women connect, empathize, and advocate for one another.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! I've really enjoyed having these conversations with you. Thanks for posting!