As with my last “essay” (not sure it should be called that but as I can’t think of a better word it’s what we are going with), I am not an expert on anything written below. I have not studied sociology or gender studies or anything on feminism. The below is my opinion and I am always open to discussing anything written below (with one exception that is pointed out at the time).
There is a philosophical theory (Apophatic Theology) that the only way to truly describe god is through describing what he is not, so perhaps I will try applying this idea to feminism. There are a number of things that feminism does not mean, and once people understand what it isn’t, perhaps then they will be willing to admit to themselves and the world that they are in fact a feminist.
Feminism is not the hatred of men. Gender stereotypes are, in reality, against the nature of feminism. Given this, the notion of “men suck” falls squarely into the category of anti-feminist. Indeed, when you really get into it, feminism tries to challenge the ideas that men are emotionless, aggressive and impulsive. What feminism does realise it that men have privilege. It accepts that this privilege can be used for good or for bad depending on the person, but that privilege is undeniable. When people, whoever they are, use privilege to assert power over other people, its part of a democratic society that we are allowed to call those people out on it, and that’s what feminism seeks to do. At its heart feminism is a social justice movement. This means that it absolutely should place the welfare of those that are most harmed above the ego of any who would benefit from the privilege that it seeks to remove. Note however that this clearly isn’t about how men are, or how they should be. It is a fact of the world that men have more power than women. It is this imbalance that feminism seeks to change; not because it wants to hurt men, but because it aims to free people from expectations and stereotypes that are harmful to everybody.
Coming off of the first point, whilst feminism is not the hatred of men, it is also not the belief that women are superior. There are a lot of people out there that see feminism as a celebration of womanhood; it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that womanhood shouldn’t be celebrated, but let’s make it clear that they are not the same thing. In reality, feminism seeks to challenge the very idea of womanhood. Femininity is a construct of society, and in reality, whilst societal norms confer some benefits to being a woman, they are few and far between and it is for this reason that feminism seeks to challenge the idea of womanhood. Yes, it is considered more socially acceptable for women to be open with their emotions (another notion that feminism seeks to tear down), but is this really suitable recompense for disadvantages such as higher risk of sexual and domestic violence or for being economically disadvantaged? For being denied basic human rights in certain parts of the world and the many other negative side effects of being born with two X chromosomes instead of one X and one Y? Clearly the answer here is no, categorically not. Being a feminist isn’t about saying that being female is better than being male, it’s about wanting to be able to say that being a woman, or any other non-binary gender is as good as being a man and having it be true. At the moment, it simply isn’t.
Moving away from men for a second (feminism isn’t all about men?! Shocking I know), it should be clear that feminism isn’t the idea that dresses and the colour pink are bad. Feminism is not anti-feminine. You have to hand it to the patriarchy, managing to convince people that feminism is both a hatred of men, and the hatred of things associated with women was a stroke of genius. By doing so, you eliminate the vast majority of those that would otherwise support the movement. Feminists don’t hate the colour pink or wearing dresses (my best friend is the best proponent of feminism that I know and she wears more dresses than anything else). Far from the idea that those things are bad, feminism is the idea that those things shouldn’t be inherently associated with women at all. It’s about being able to understand that certain things have actually been devalued by being classed as feminine; how unusual is it to see things, and even people, being mocked for being feminine? Being a feminist means acknowledging that there is absolutely no valid reason at all for anything to have any gender associated with it and that more than that, gender doesn’t confer value. More than anything else feminism is about choice. If a woman wants to wear a pink dress and be a stay-at-home mum, that doesn’t mean she isn’t a feminist or make her less of a feminist. Equally, a woman who wears a suit and devotes her life to her career is no more or less a feminist.
Building on this idea, and I cant believe I have to make this point, being gay isn’t a bad thing. Let’s get this cleared up right now. Firstly, being LGBTQ is not, in any way, a negative thing. There is no link whatsoever between sexual orientation and being a feminist. More and more I see anti-feminists telling those that identify as a feminist that they are gay, with gay being meant as an insult. Feminist women being called lesbians because feminists must hate men. Feminist men being called gay because its “girly” to be a feminist. This is the one part of this “essay” that I am not willing to have a discussion over. Using any form of sexual orientation as an insult is not acceptable in any situation. Ever. The end. You absolutely can be gay and be a feminist and it is true that being gay may influence a person’s feminism, it’s called intersectionality, look it up. But the two things are not intrinsically linked. Just one final time for those that are struggling, “gay” is NOT okay to use as an insult and “feminist” is not a dirty word. I urge all of you to call out anybody that you hear using gay as an insult, it is not okay. It is despicable behaviour that should be called out at any opportunity.
“Feminists do nothing except complain”. Yeah okay buddy, go crawl back under whatever rock you just crawled out from. There are two things here, firstly, the idea that someone complaining must be feminist, have you seen any of the world ever? The human race took complaining and turned it into a skill that most everybody everywhere has mastered. I really wish that everybody who complained was a feminist, the battle would be over, the entire world would be feminists and gender equality would be achieved tomorrow. Clearly, that’s not the case. Secondly, the idea that the only thing that feminists do in the world is complain is clearly BS. Feminism gives people hope, it makes people laugh and cry and it inspires people. Without feminism women wouldn’t be able to vote, there would be none of the advances in the work place and it would still be acceptable for a husband to force his wife to have sex with him (something that wasn’t illegal in all 50 US states until 1993 and which will be covered in more detail in a separate essay). Feminism has achieved so many things in the last 100 years, it still has a way to go before its aims are fully realised, but its pretty clear that feminism is not only about complaining.
The final thing I want to point out that feminism is not is that it is not the aim of feminism to turn humanity into an identical whole. It is not unusual for feminists to be accused of trying to make humanity one great big homogeny by removing gender roles and for sure, if you are only willing to view diversity as things being male or female then feminism is going to challenge that. But is that really what diversity is? Two groups? To me, diversity is about having an infinite number of groups, of which each individual belongs to any number of. Instead of having men and women, male and female, masculine and feminine, diversity is about recognising that its stupid to try force fit 7 billion (and growing) people into one of two groups. If you were born a man that wants to masculine then that is absolutely fine, nobody is trying to take that away from you. If the stereotypes of the gender you were assigned at birth fits you like a glove then lucky you, and more power to you. But the truth is that for the vast majority of people, those stereotypes leave something to be desired. Feminism is saying that people shouldn’t feel pressured to feel or act in a particular way because the patriarchy deems, from the day you are born, that you should act in a way that conforms to their ideals. What seems to amaze certain people in society is that, when people act in a way that they are being who they truly are, and not in a way that society tells them they must act, the world goes on spinning and doesn’t implode. More than that, when people don’t feel the pressure to behave how others say they must, when people behave how they want to, the world doesn’t divide itself neatly into only two categories, and that’s okay!
So if that’s 6 things that feminism isn’t, then what do I think feminism is? To me, feminism is so many things, but more than anything else, its about choice. Yes it is the political, social and economical equality of the genders but its about choice. It’s about the freedom to choose to not wear make-up or to wear make-up no matter who you are. It’s about it being okay to aspire to be a full time mum or dad. It’s about everybody, everywhere being free to choose who they want to be, without the fear of being judged because “that’s not ladylike” or “that’s girly”. Yawn. Get over yourself. We aren’t born knowing that little girls play with dolls and little boys play with trucks and blocks. My partner of almost 6 years is an Early Years teacher, she works with babies from 6 months up to two years 5 days a week, and let me assure you that there are plenty of little boys who enjoy playing with the dolls and at that age, its generally the little girls who are better at building with the blocks. They don’t know about gender norms until society influences them and, given that, I am forced to conclude that far from trying to implement a new societal norm on society, what feminism is actually trying to do is to revert society back into the way that society would naturally be without 6 millennia worth of misogyny.
That concludes another essay! As before, I fully accept that some of you may not have read all of this as it is really rather long, if you read any of it, I hope you have taken something away from it! For those of you that are curious, I am a white, 22 year old male who currently lives in London and has never lived outside the UK, I had a number of DMs from people asking for that information after the last post so thought I would get ahead of it this time!