Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Things People Believe About Feminists (And Why They're Wrong)



When there is a movement, there is always a counter-movement. It happens in microcosm, a response to the mildest of things. If the general agreement in the populace is that a particular song is the best by a particular artist, a secondary group will appear purely for the purpose of disagreeing, of applying contrarian practices.


Since its birth at the turn of the last century, feminism has had plenty of counter movements. It began with essential basics of human rights, such as the right to vote - and people argued against that. Then it moved onto the lives of women, right through second and third wave feminism.


Given that feminism has been around so long, it’s to be expected that there are opponents to it. It just so happens that in the last decade, those opponents have become more and more vocal - arguing back against a world where Beyonce stands in front of a “feminism” banner and women begin to see work towards a more equal society. Here’s the thing that happens; here are the counter-arguments.


It’s exhausting.


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One of the most exhausting things about the way that the anti-feminist brigade act is that they have a set core of beliefs of what a feminist is. To them, feminism is a band of cut-out women on a paper chain, all espousing the same thoughts and beliefs. This is despite the fact that:


  • Feminism has many layers and focal points, from the pay gap through to intersectionality.
  • Literally no two people in the entire world think the same. Of course feminists don’t think identically to one another - no one does!


Nevertheless, the anti-feminist movement persists with its preconceived notions of what a feminist is.


Why Is This Damaging?


It might seem like a small point.


If there’s going to be a counter-argument regardless of all other considerations… then why argue? Why not just accept this as a part of the movement and move on?


The major reason to argue these perceived notions is because if they are left alone, they enter into a kind of “agreed truth”. Even though no one has directly agreed, the insistence without consequence means that a bad definition becomes the definition.


This in turn leads to people who might absolutely agree with the core basis of feminism to not want to label themselves feminist - for fear of what it says about them, based on a definition not created by feminists - but by the people who oppose them. Preconceived notions should always be challenged, so with that established, what do people say about feminism?


“Feminists burn their bras!”




First off, the event that gave rise to this myth - the 1968 Miss America Pageant - featured no bra burning. It’s not really a thing. The occasional group may have burned their bras, but it’s by no means a defining feature or something that’s regularly practiced. So why does it persist? Because it makes women sound irrational, perchance?


The thing is, most women acknowledge that… bras are kind of useful? They prevent back pain, make outfits look better, can give a boost of confidence. Why would we be setting fire to bras?


Also, bras are expensive. There are far easier and more effective ways of protesting patriarchal values than setting fire to lingerie, for goodness sake.


“Feminists hate men!”


No, that’s misandry. Feminism and misandry are very different things and by no means mutually inclusive.


The vast majority of feminists have no problem with men as a whole. We know men, we like them, we date them, we enter marriages with them. The problem isn’t an individual man, it’s about an entire system of patriarchy that stretches so far back into the eons of history it’s impossible to even know where it really began.


There is a huge difference between society and individual people.


Also… a lot of men are feminists. So if this were true, wouldn’t it be kind of difficult for them to exist? That would be one confused inner monologue!


“Feminists don’t shave!”




To which the only reasonable response is:


  1. Plenty of feminists shave by choice.
  2. If they don’t… so what? Why is this a problem?!


The removal of female body hair can be seen as problematic, stemming from a desire to impress men. So if feminists hate men (remember, we’re down the rabbit hole into this mindset now…), then why remove their body hair? Of course! Because they adore men and are just playing at being a feminist while still trying to tempt men!


Of course.


Rolling eyes.


In reality, shaving is nice. It’s practical. It can help with a variety of skin conditions that hair might otherwise exacerbate. Some feminists choose not to shave and more power to them for it - some do, because they prefer it. Not because they’re trying to “tempt men” - because they are capable of their own preferences.


Which brings us neatly onto…


“Feminists are hypocrites if they care about their appearance!”


This is a common one for the MRA movement. The line of thinking is rather difficult to keep up with, but it goes like this:


  1. Women only want to look good to attract men.
  2. If a feminist tries to look good, takes care of her skin, her figure, the occasional nip and tuck, the simple act of wearing makeup…
  3. Then she’s a hypocrite because she’s doing it to attract men.
  4. And feminists hate men.


This is such a circular way of puzzling thinking that it’s almost impossible to negotiate.


Feminism is about choice. And some women choose to want to feel good about themselves. They want to look nice, for them - not to impress guys. Apparently this is difficult to understand when it’s actually such a simple concept.


If women choose to have her hair done, like to play with makeup, see a few wrinkles and decide to learn more from DavidHalpernMD.com about getting rid of them, and follow fashion - then that’s their choice. Some feminists might choose not to do that. Both are fine options and both have absolutely zero to do with impressing men. Being proud of your appearance doesn’t make you a hypocrite - it makes you a person!


“Women want what men have.”




Their rights not decided on by those that aren’t impacted by the decision? Well, when you put it like that…


Of course, this statement isn’t ever meant in that simple term. It’s used as a code for: “women don’t want to be equal, they want to be superior”.


The defining concept of feminism is one of equality, for everyone. The argument is not that one gender should be seen as superior to the other, but that they should be treated exactly the same.


This also begs the question: why is the idea of women wanting what men have so terrifying? Is it perhaps because certain sections of the male populace recognize their inherent privilege - and don’t want to share it?


If you see a message about “girls on top” or “women leading the way” - it’s not meant as a replacement. It’s meant as an alongside, a way of reminding women that these are attainable goals. Women need reminding of this as, even now, we exist in a society that tells us what we can and can’t do. If that message is occasionally pushed to the point of hyperbole, that’s not a threat, it’s just a group reinforcement of anything should be possible no matter what your gender is.


“Feminists have nothing left to argue for. It’s all fixed.”


And finally, the grandaddy of them all - the argument that there is no place in the modern world because all of feminism’s causes have been granted. Women have the right to vote, rights over their own body - it’s argument over, right?


Of course not.


We’re now into a phase that is known as “third wave feminism”. The third wave began in the 1980s, when the basic human rights - and that’s all they were, basic human rights! - became established.


The third wave focuses on themes such as intersectionality and making feminism work for women all across the LGBTQI+ banner. It became about problems such as the pay gap - which still exists - and the fact that maternity leave in the US is still terrible given our status as a first world country.


Like any movement, feminism might have achieved some of its fundamental goals. But that doesn’t mean the battle is won - it just means the targets have changed. There’s still a need for a strong, female voice to counteract the discrimination that still happens on a daily basis - you only need to scroll through the Everyday Sexism Twitter to see the problems aren’t fixed at all. They’re somewhat less institutionalized now, but they’re still there.


So…


If you ever encounter someone who thinks these things, there’s a few tools to argue it back. Even women can believe these things. Just because there is a general perception doesn’t make it the case - and for as long as these misconceptions exist, feminists will be there to try and prove them wrong.



This is a contributed post.