Feminism Needs Your Help

    Feminism needs your help. What’s that? You’re not a feminist? Good news! You’re wrong! Here’s why:

  1. You don’t know what feminism means (nothing to be ashamed of),
    or
  2. You are blind to inequality (only a little embarrassing, but easily repaired),
    or
  3. You are willfully misogynist (go ahead and be ashamed).

    Feminism is not man-hating or bra-burning. Bras are expensive. Feminism simply means you’re aware that women face inequality, and you’re not cool with that. Lets assume you are not a fan of racism. You’re not against racism because you’re a revolutionary, you’re against it because you’re not an ass. It’s the same with feminism. You’re not a feminist because you hate men, you’re a feminist because you don’t hate women. Feminism is the radical push to treat 50% of our population as human beings.

 

Feminism: Where did you come from, where did you go?

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    Feminism needs your help. It’s not some bold new cause; women have been screaming that they’re not just objects in a man’s society for as long as we’ve been a society. Just ask Lucretia. She was raped by a prince and then started the revolution that pushed Western civilization toward democracy. She’s the one in that painting there, stabbing herself to death to prevent future rapists from getting away with their crimes without consequences. The Roman Republic was a result of the ensuing revolution. It was like democracy, but with more togas—you may have heard of it. This was 510 BCE. Yup, feminists have been working on the same problems further back than the year zero. Seriously. It’s getting old.

    Hard to imagine a world, 2,500 years later, in which women are still objectified, victimized,  and marginalized in the exact same ways. Unless you have—I don’t know—eyes. Women continue to earn less than men and suffer more workplace harassment. Women are fed a constant toxic blend of societal slut-shaming and prude-bashing. More than one in four women in the US are still victims of rape or attempted rape. ONE in f****ing FOUR. Elliot Rodger brought the male-chauvinist “Men’s Rights” movement into the light with his recent insane killing spree, but the problem doesn’t lie with a minority of monsters. It lies with me. It lies with you.

 

Modern Feminism: #YesAllWomen

    Feminism needs your help. Recently, the issue trended on twitter with a couple catchy hashtags. Here is a quick glossary of terms for some reference:

  • Twitter—A place to go to contribute in or observe as a spectator the death of literacy and respectful discourse. Also, a site on which beautiful things occasionally happen.
  • Hashtag—A word or phrase posted on twitter with a # as a prefix, enabling others to speak on the same subject and connect. Helpful in linking such pivotal issues as art, politics, and how well one can type “OneDirection” with one’s nose.
  • #NotAllMen—A common defense positing the obvious fact that not every man on Earth is a D-bag. Also a satirical hashtag movement created to deride men who use this point to derail discussions about feminism.
  • #YesAllWomen—A hashtag movement which shifted the focus from accusation and condescension to the very real effects of widespread societal misogyny on, yes, literally every woman in the world.

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    If you’ve not read any #YesAllWomen posts, then leave right now and go read a few. They’re moving. The beauty of the trend is that it stopped focusing on who to blame for the problem, and started focusing on accepting that there is a problem (which is the first step to recovery, if my vast experience with TV shows about addicts has taught me anything).

    #NotAllMen, the sarcastic precursor to #YesAllWomen, was a flawed effort. It was, perhaps, a necessary one that brought about some good discussion, but it was inherently faulty—and it’s worthwhile to learn from its shortcomings. The first problem with #NotAllMen is that it’s true. Not all men are guilty of the specific crimes in question. The discussions these posts derail are far more important than the hurt feelings of the privileged—but maligning the male gender as a whole isn’t feminism, it’s misandry, against which a defensive reaction is natural. Do women deserve to be misandrists after years of misogyny? They sure as hell do! Will it fix anything? No. Feminism needs men, and it especially needs those men who are on the line—thinking about it, but not sure if they belong in the same camp. Mocking and alienating these men is the opposite of helpful.
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    The second problem with #NotAllMen is that it focuses on men alone. Don’t get me wrong, men act the part, but society sets the stage. Men do the raping, but our society promotes rape-culture. Men take positions of pride and power, but our society expects that of men and insults any signs of weakness, just as it expects women to be docile and supportive and insults their boldness. This is no excuse for monstrous acts, but we need to attack the root of the problem in addition to dealing with the thorns.
    
    I married the smartest, most creatively talented human being I’ve ever met. It was not a male chauvinist who told her that she shouldn’t take an AP math class because “it’s harder for girls.” It was a female guidance counselor. It was not a male chauvinist who read her high school poetry and said, “This is good, did your boyfriend help you?” It was a female teacher. It is not a male chauvinist today who soaks up her supportive encouragement and frequently forgets to give it back. That one’s me. I’m working on it. She deserves better.

    Men ARE guilty. Yes, ALL men, but not JUST men. Men and women together are guilty of allowing these stereotypes to persist. WE are guilty of “Man up,” and “don’t be a girl.” WE are guilty of “boys will be boys,” and “a woman’s place.” WE are guilty of Beauty and the Beast and Twilight and every action movie ever filmed. WE set the stage and rehearse the strong-man and weak-woman roles until we assume that there is no other way to be.

    There is another way to be. It’s called feminism. It needs your help.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Feminism Needs Your Help

  1. What about option number 4? You’re not convinced that inequality exists, at least to such an extent that an entire movement need exist.

    • That’s a fair and legitimate point. “What if inequality doesn’t exist?” The thing is, it does. If you are not capable of seeing the obvious, clear, objective facts that prove that inequality DOES exist, then refer to options 2. If you accept that it exists, that our culture allows our women to grow up in an unsafe environment, and you decide that that isn’t a problem, refer to option 3.

      • Forgive my apparent ignorance (what else can it be since this seems to be so blatantly obvious?), but can you please provide citations for… anything, really? You certainly made claims in your post, but didn’t really provide evidence for any of these statements.

      • Sure thing, friend.

        Here are a few:

        Gender pay gap (Women earn 77% as much): http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/pdf/20130917_ipslides.pdf
        Rape statistics: http://www.oneinfourusa.org/statistics.php
        Here’s a nice scholarly text on the denial of gender inequality.
        Gender inequality in the workplace: http://www.harvardindependent.com/2011/12/gender-inequality-in-the-workplace-education-does-not-equal-success-1201/

        There are countless additional sources because, as I mentioned, it’s not new. You need only look around to see the ways in which women are expected to look sexy and alluring, but are then shunned for dressing provocatively. US women are victims of rape in staggering numbers, and yet even if they DO attempt to seek justice, hundreds of thousands of rape kits go untested. (http://www.endthebacklog.org/)

        Women are EXPECTED to be maternal, docile, supportive, and men are EXPECTED to be dominant, powerful, and confident. This is a dichotomy which is harmful to young men AND to young women. Regardless of the specific numbers or the subjective anecdotes, it IS real, and it IS a problem.

        I don’t ask anyone to pick up a sign and march on the capitol. I ask that all people act as allies by a) acknowledging inequality exists, and b) not being okay with it. That’s feminism.

  2. Very well written. We’d be interesting in posting this on http://www.anti-lad.com (credited of course) . We are trying to challenge sexist lad culture in the UK (Bro’s on your side of the pond i believe). Having an eloquent and thoughtful introduction to feminism like this from a guy would be great! Let us know if you interested..

    Cheers,
    <a href=" http://anti-lad.com/ "Anti-lad team

  3. Thank you for your sources, I appreciate it! For the record, I am aware of the magical search engine “Google” and, if I were so inclined, I could probably spend hours, days, weeks, months, years researching this topic. But the thing is, you’re the one who wrote a call-to-action without providing any source material. I just think, in the future, it would be prudent of you to do so – otherwise it might give the impression that what you write is baseless, vitriolic rhetoric. You could have the answer to the universe, but you can’t expect me to believe you without proof.

    Now, onto the research:

    Regarding, the census information: the stats didn’t seem to take into account field of work nor amount of work done in terms of a per hourly rate. Is it not the case that men are usually drawn to STEM fields, which are the more lucrative fields of work? Do you know of a study that controls for field and hours worked? Like, are women engineers systemically paid less than male engineers? Also, according to the census, it seems that Asians seem to make more than anyone. By employing your reading of these statistics, are we to believe that Asians are holding the rest of us back?

    The second source: I’m confused, from the first couple of paragraphs, it seems that there seems to be a favorability *for* women in universities, rather than against them? Should we assume that men are being held back from seeking higher education because of these statistics? The third paragraph, is it basing this on the census information? If so, then I believe I already addressed that. Unfortunately, “people say…” is not really a very valid justification, is it? But if we are to speak on leave, what if a man wants to take leave for the birth of his child? I don’t suspect there are many companies that offer paid paternity leave, though I haven’t done the research. This source seems to be predicated on wage-gap argument and a rather thin justification of “People say…”

    Regarding the third source, while there may be a backlog, I fail to see how this is necessarily because it’s a chauvinistic system. For example, did you know the VA is severely backlogged in paying out Veteran’s benefits? Do we live in a society that is trying to hold back Veterans, then? While I can’t speak on what women are expected because I haven’t personally experienced any men with this kind of expectation, is there any kind of study that states this expectation is endemic in our society? And regarding what is expected of men, is this not an expectation by women, as well? Again, how is it chauvinistic if women expect this of men, as well?

    • Whoops. I seemed to have missed the rape statistics site you gave me. Sorry! I checked it out and it seems to give a lot of further citations so I’ll have to check that out later as I’m at work right now and want to be able to give it the attention it deserves. Sorry again!

      • Oscar, I appreciate your eloquent and intelligent responses. You are correct, of course, that citation would have made for a far more scholarly article, and would alleviate the appearance of a “baseless” argument (Rivera). I apologize if my format gave the impression that I was attempting to sound scholarly. The origin of my post was far more personal, but looking back it certainly evolved into a much more academic exercise.

        You use the phrase “vitriolic rhetoric” to describe the post (Rivera). You are are again correct, and I appreciate your careful and informed analysis. Rhetoric is the effective use of language, and I note that you are also skilled in this art. Vitrolic describes language which is bitter or caustic. I hope that I appeared at least somewhat humorous, but I AM also bitter about the situation, and it is my hope that this post might, in some small way, help corrode our misogynist paradigm. It will likely feel abrasive and harsh to those who are vehemently against promoting equality, and who devote countless hours to telling others that there is no problem, instead of spending any time at all fixing it. Thank you for noticing.

        Finally, you ask, since women have similar expectations about men, how is this chauvinism? I appreciate that you found my writing distasteful, so I do not blame you for skipping past the end, but you have hit on one of my primary points. It’s not just men. MEN are not the problem. I do not hate men. I am one. The dichotomy which forces expectations on BOTH men and women is the problem. Women take part in that just as much as men do. It is a societal problem, and it is very likely the reason that young MEN, men facing strong pressure to be confident and strong lest they be mocked or emasculated, commit suicide at a rate four times higher than women (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/youth_suicide.html).

        Social expectations and gender norms ARE a problem. They’re your problem and they’re my problem, and they’re a problem feminists are trying to fix. They need help, because they can’t do it on their own. You clearly are not interested in that label. I apologize for assigning it. You’re not a feminist unless you want to be. That was rude of me. They could still use a keen mind like yours to make this world a less shitty place. Feel like helping make life suck less?

  4. Pingback: #YesAllWomen - Retrospective Reactions to Male Entitlement

  5. Will –

    I agree, social expectations and gender norms are a problem. But from what I’ve seen from the feminist movement, which is admittedly a small sample size, feminists are not concerned with these problems on a holistic level. Even as this post demonstrates, the conversation seems to revolve solely around the problems of women, and problems which I’m still not convinced exist (as demonstrated by my previous comments). The feminist movement has done an extraordinary thing – it has taken social issues, that plague male and female alike, and has diverted the conversation to just address the conceived problems of one sex.

    For instance, let us say that your statistic of 1 in 4 women are raped (which I’m only doing for the sake of the argument, not necessarily because I find the statistic valid) is correct: rape is a violent crime. Men are much more likely to be the victim of violent crimes, including murder. This shouldn’t even be a contentious statement. So for me, I see that society has a severe problem with violent crimes in general, but all that’s talked about now is the crimes committed against women – as if men can’t be victims at all.

    I take issue with any kind of self-identification as a whole (see my latest post if you want an explanation), hence my refusal to self-identify as a feminist, but in any case I don’t think I agree with the feminist movement’s approach to addressing social problems. Not only does the feminist movement frame the problem incorrectly, but it aims to address, to my thinking, non-existent issues while also ignoring blatantly evident problems. I’m all for equality, but I have not been convinced by anything I’ve read or seen that feminism – as a movement – is.

  6. This is not getting any shorter despite attempts to edit it, so I’ll beg your indulgence.

    This is a complicated topic. It’s unlikely that any one is “right” about it, or that it can be simplified into black-and-white arguments and courses of action.

    Another statistic I’ve seen pressed into service for this type of argument:
    – Consdier that women are seriously under-represented in prison populations.
    Does this mean that
    – we need more women in prison,
    – or fewer men,
    – or suggest we reconsider the implications of ‘under-represented’ as a foundation for arguments about equality?

    It’s hard to unpack culturally-mediated notions of gender from biological ones. It’s hard to re-imagine culture at all,
    let alone generate a coherent movement to actually change culture,
    let alone confidently predict which changes will improve culture
    in respect to life, liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness, for all.

    There are several definitions of justice: Eye for eye; the Golden Rule; absolute (blind) equality; or the Classical philosophical notion of everything in its right place and role.
    The Classical roles aren’t much help, however, as they naturally place the Philosopher-King at the top, and ignore feminine character-roles almost entirely. Except for that relatively liberal notion that even dog trainers train the breeding mothers alongside the dogs, if they want the best puppies.
    Society fares better when both men and women are able to contribute fully, from their personal gifts fully developed by recognition and training, toward the greater whole.
    I’m ambivalent about counteracting prejudices by assigning roles based on those categories – I don’t see any better way to get over racism than hanging out with people from other races, and I don’t see any way past gender-barrier stereotypes besides meeting competent people at work who violate or redefine those stereotypes. But half-measures often backfire, and most people have cognitive biases that are self-reinforcing.

    One of my difficulties with modern feminism, aside from male-bashing, has been the denigration of traditionally feminine roles. Not that these were ever glamorous.
    We hear a lot about the Madonna and Whore double standard – with lovely young examples from art – and special attention from the sophomoric philosophers who have a great deal of time to contemplate lovely young women (or young women philosophers who are currently attempting to survive such contemplation).
    There’s not much debate over the role of the Matriarch, or Crone – these positions are so under-valued as to be almost boring. The middle-aged mother and unpaid nurse ‘pays her dues’ in a market whose main currency is seeing loved ones well-tended.
    Is the matriarch forced to live up to the ‘madonna’ chastity role? Divorce has not entirely lost its stigma (it will still get you ostracized from many churches and synagogues), but I think it’s safe to say that a divorced woman can now start over more easily than at any other time since the Victorian era. The social pressures and risks involved in starting over, however, are somewhat more accutely felt by middle-aged women of uncertain career prospects than by adolescents of either gender. There’s a lot to be said for taking any of life’s major risks before age 25, when one fears the consequences less acutely. (Brain development – myelin sheathing in the frontal cortex – affects decision-making priorities. I wonder if there’s a biochemical explanation for differences in risk-tolerance between men and women – besides the obvious ones of vulnerability during childbirth and while chaperoning noisy infants.)
    Traditional women’s roles are incredibly wearying if attempted alone. Women’s traditional cultural power often involves groups – sisters, friends and allies. Men’s and in-laws’ roles in these alliances varies by culture; only a few cultures actively train men to their maximum biological capability of equality in these child-rearing and social-bonding roles.

    One place where the contemporary feminist debates strikes at its own: by ‘liberating’ women to take on careers outside the home, without relieving women of familial cares. I do appreciate the liberation – but I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. It’s like someone telling Momma to “go treat yourself” to a night out, but without anyone competent on hand to mind the baby. Two-career homes and single-parent households are stretched thin when it comes to understanding or pinch-hitting for other family members; the whole process seems to increase our cultural isolation. Men raised not to ask for help, and to express every emotion as anger, are seriously handicapped when it comes to negotiating a bureaucratic health-care system alone. (or the justice system, or …)

    I just deleted three screens’ worth of examples of the complicated injustices of gender roles, including the mythologies denying male rape; the anthropology of high-energy physics; and speculation about latchkey kids raising day-care kids with only a specialists’ narrow perspective on human nature. I’ve added more back in.

    The reference to STEM careers is facile, and ignores the cultural problem. I have a bachelor’s degree in physics, but when competing with other over-qualified people for a position I’ve previously held successfully, their masters’ or PhD degrees give them the advantage over my caregiving years.

    Serious caregiving responsibilities often involve medical appointments and emergencies that occur during office hours. For myself, I’ve found a functional limit of working up to about 30 hours per week outside the home, during active-care periods (weekly physical therapy or chemo appointments, etc). My current solution is to take on more mushy homestead-caregiving-inter-support roles that help meet my needs for a place to live, food, and affection; while trying to cultivate self-employment that lets me set my own schedule.
    My father worked a stressful and underpaid job for about 5 years where he was on-call 24-7, so that he could attend his mother’s or wife’s medical appointments during the week. (The boss would call all hours of the day and night, and found the whole arrangement convenient as long as Dad kept the cell phone on him and responded to clients within an hour.)

    Do you know of many highly-paid positions, such as CEO, partner, tenured professor, or senior engineer, that are achieved without a sort of corporate hazing period working 50 to 80 hours per week?
    This is simply not compatible with good parenting, active elder care, or other responsible family positions.

    Why do we do this to ourselves?

    There have been some studies that suggest inequalities decrease happiness for people at all ends of the spectrum. Although the correlation is smaller for those at the ‘top,’ it’s still a negative effect (greater inequality in income slightly depresses the happiness of the top 10%, as well as massively decreasing the happiness of the lower 50%).

    Part of the solution may be to give ourselves, and each other, a little more forgiveness and gentle humor. Picking sides and condemning the ‘opposition’ simply adds to the stresses that each of us will feel during this period of uncertain expectations and changing opportunities.

    Our US American culture is particularly prone to pushing individual ambition over community well-being – and yes, both men and women commend that trait; and see it as more natural and fitting in males. Yet it’s not a trait that leads reliably to happiness, or to moral goodness. I’m strongly torn about whether I need more personal ambition (in order to ‘make my mark’ in the world despite disadvantages of gender and cultural oblivations), or whether such ambition is ultimately self-defeating to happiness and even to the good works I might hope to accomplish.

    I’ve seen a lot more apparent peace and partnership in cultures like New Zealand, where husbands and wives allowed each other a blend of traditional and personally-defined roles without such bitter resentment.

    Women between their teens and 30’s are able to bear children. Children raised with a parent’s frequent attention, ideally married parents and an stable extended family, do better by most measures, including living longer.

    This biological fact has a huge influence on women’s career patterns, the potential for uninterrupted career-ladder ascent.

    Don’t tell me that the pay gap is explained by women’s voluntarily dropping out of the work force – or by the fact that careers more often chosen by men just happen to be better paid than careers more often chosen by women.
    The system is rigged so that women are more often forced to make that choice between family and career, and penalized for it when it comes to earning power.
    Men like Will, who dedicate a few years as the primary stay-at-home parent for a toddler in order to support their wife’s career and their child’s best interests, are rare – but fortunately increasing. It still doesn’t do their careers any direct favors, as far as I know. Although Will may have turned the trick by using the experience to increase his confidence writing female characters.

    What might the world of ‘work’ look like if it were built to reward community spirit, or humility, rather than status-seeking ambition? If years dedicated child-rearing and elder-care were seen to enhance a resume more than a master’s degree?

    It’s hard to even imagine a world where the highest-paid STEM careers were paid in some way that corresponded with active family commitments and social aptitudes. For example if the highest-status positions were restricted to those with a ‘demonstrate ability to understand and evaluate the social implications of our work’ – which correlated to active cross-generational caregiving experience and/or community volunteer hours serving diverse populations through local schools, libraries, or prisons.

    I think one thing that would help would be more cottage-industry and work-from-home careers – along with realistic appreciation of parental efforts and the reality that toddlers are a distraction. I have some hopes that social media and Internet-based businesses will offer more women a flexible earning potential that can be fit around family obligations. Yet computers (despite being a post-feminist field) are one of the most male-dominated STEM career areas. It seems quixotic to hope that the eager young programmers of future opportunities will somehow tailor such opportunities to active mothers’ needs.

    If you have a chance to work outside the American system, I highly encourage it. Quite a perspective.

    If someone gives you a point of view, and yours is different, how do you react?
    You can declare that their point of view is wrong. You can recruit evidence and seek a qualified judge or reason to decide between you and your adversary.
    Or you can explore the differences between both points of view, try to develop a new world-model that incorporates all the valid perceptions of both, and call it ‘perspective.’

    The ability to perceive in more than two dimensions can only be obtained by the use of more than one eye.

    I suspect cultural reconfiguration is at least a four-dimensional exercise.

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