What Is Feminism And Why Are Equal Rights For Women So Controversial?
The term feminism today generates as much or more anger and controversy as any other political topic. It immediately conjures images of the incomparable Jane Fonda advocating for peace way back during the Vietnam war and Gloria Steinham’s defiant activism and untouchable beauty, or topless female protestors marching in New York, Washington D.C., Paris, and London, feminist slogans painted across their naked skin. Recently I fell, innocently, into a YouTube hole which began recommending increasingly anti-feminist content. A lot of it was from Britain, but large amounts were from the U.S. and Canada as well, one even featuring a bejeweled older female professor lecturing to a crowd at Oxford how she is against equal rights for women, which begs the question—does that include her teaching position at a prestigious university and this very opportunity to speak out? Or, no? No, it doesn’t? Just the naked hippies then?
Feminism is simply the advocacy for equal rights regardless of sex. It’s a very simple concept, but there are many interpretations to what that means in practice and application by everyday people who can be every range of honest to self-serving. There is a clear intellectual and moral deficit when it comes to acknowledging what Feminism really is and how many anti-feminists are actually Feminists simply because they are contributing to public discourse, holding political office, running a businesses, or teaching at universities, or EVEN GETTING A DEGREE AT ONE, which was something women found difficult or impossible to do not so long ago—The very first woman to ever be allowed into Harvard Medical school only died eight years ago in 2011, and anti-feminists disingenuously disregard the role that Feminism has played in securing the very basic equalities women currently enjoy such as voting, the right to divorce, property ownership, pursue a career, or receive government help during occasions of abuse—and no you snide little pot-stirrer, there were no official feminists in early women’s movements. I’m not debating the term but the function, which is far more relevant and intellectually honest.
Further obfuscation of the issue involves false equivalencies such as comparing the biological differences between male and female as evidence for inequality among genders, but nobody is trying to argue that men have uteruses or that women should grow big muscles, nor that a woman should ask a man to marry instead of the other way around. Enjoying tradition is not anti-feminism, nor does it require an anti-feminist position. If you like being a wife you can still be pro-equal rights. A stay at home mom is no less valuable than one who goes to work, and even as a feminist I would be overcome with joy if a man proposed to me (which one did but that’s another story you can read about here). Sure there may be the odd, excitable advocate who uses these things to enflame debates, but equal rights does not involve taking things from one group to give to the next, and the level of vitriol which infects some activists on both sides hints at very real fears and personal experiences which have shaped each person’s point of view. Angry, vengeful feminists have likely been seriously harmed by men in their past, including rape and abuse, or maybe they are unfairly disadvantaged when desirous of opportunities for advancement and achievement because of their gender and not because of their ability or talent, and ignoring that pain and personal experience is particularly anti-human and cruel, a tactic engineered to win by destroying your opponent rather than crafting an admirable position. Likewise, men and women who are anti-feminist do not know how to live in a changing world, and vagary of social rules the violation of which may get them in trouble, and the instability of shifting social roles and institutions threatens the very existence of people who thrive on consistency, not in terms of life and death but identity, community, and purpose, which is arguably more alarming sometimes than actual threats to life. If asked about specific issues for women, most anti-feminists today are likely to answer in the affirmative unless the label of Feminism is applied, because political forces have successfully engendered animosity toward the label in ignorance of the issues it represents. In my opinion the label is irrelevant. Just as the term “global warming” became a target of asinine and obtuse operatives using periods of intense cold as fodder for their hostile, willful ignorance to real dangers posed to people, life, and property which is now and in the future resulting in billions of dollars of destruction and inconvenience so too is the word Feminism obsessed rather than the good-faith, actionable, and real life problems affecting the lives of our wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters which the movement seeks to address.
Women should be allowed to do with their lives as they wish—pursue a family, career, politics, anything, without discrimination. That is the basic, simple idea of what being a feminist is, but it’s also a basic tenet of living a good life, treating others as you would like to be treated, live and let live, extending compassion and respect to others so they might afford you the same. It is a situation that males would pointedly understand if they found themselves in a similar trial. But this also hints at the reason why some people are so anti-feminist, because they have been given the erroneous proposition that more rights for others means less for them. This is a distinctly animal instinct that humans have to compete for resources, a biological sentiment meant to alarm organisms to potential challenges to their survival. This fascinating aspect of biology can be demonstrated in a little known fact that more male babies are born during and after war than during any other condition of human society. My assumption is that our species, and perhaps others which are similarly inclined to engage in interspecies conflict, which results in the expiration of many male members, has built-in corrections to help ensure the genetic diversity of a population. There are many amazing and subtle nuances to life and humanity such as this, in addition that more males are born in general compared to females, but male children are more prone to disease and mortality than female babies. It appears to me that homosexuals such as myself and those of different gender identities are a mechanism of nature which occurs in social species to provide non-reproducing adults to increase the ratio of caretakers to offspring, to increase the odds of offspring survival—just looking at any LGBTQI person’s experience growing up can demonstrate this tendency for them for greater creative problem solving, child-like behavior, and a heightened concern for and more enmeshment into family (unless of course they are ostracized and persecuted). The argument that gender equality confuses biology is a false equivalent, a straw man argument which serves merely to fuel the careers of pundits and politicians, and isn’t relevant to the real issues comprising feminism. The things that men lose from feminism are control of women, wives, and daughters. They lose the ability to abuse without consequence. Some men do not know how to be men without these tools, so they fight feminists tooth and nail for the only world they know. What men stand to gain from feminism is an increase in economic opportunity and resources. Societies which work together always, always experience an increase in overall success because more units of that society are contributing to achievements, acquisition, and ideas. Men also gain greater intimacy with their partners from feminism—a man who lords over his wife never gets to feel the bliss of encountering her soul and her spirit, which can only come from being in a state of equal vulnerability, with much to lose on the line. There is a richness in ceding power and control that many on this earth will never have the chance to experience, and the feminist movement is giving this opportunity to men and women in increasing numbers, tearing down the structures which emotionally isolate males from other men, and men from their romantic partners, bringing an increase in personal satisfaction that previous generations never knew for their obstinate support for the institutions which caused it. If you are a man and you feel that you are only worth something or safe in a relationship if you are the provider and the authority you undervalue your own self worth. You are likely, or have the capability, to be similarly loved and appreciated for who you are and not what you do, and that is a far more secure position to occupy than one which is so shallowly based on power. Most every young man married today could not imagine the love of his life as a subordinate. He probably enjoys immensely her effervesce, her opinion, her assistance in surviving life and the talents she brings to the relationship. Yet that is not what the last many generations experienced, and this is the source of the loneliness, the isolation, the rigid insecurity that generations like my parents and grandparents suffered, which I am not at all interested in repeating.
Feminism is only a buzzword because people respond to fears around loss and competition. Fears which are usually unfounded, or at least not impossible to discuss with compassion, reason, and intelligence. Absolutely nobody loses in feminism, even those who think they do, who will only be shown a more altruistic foundation for living their life which is not reliant on self preservation but instead for society as a whole, as the last few decades of unprecedented prosperity has seemed to demonstrate.