So I thought it might be better to respond to the topic of feminism on a different forum in order not to clog up our mutual friend’s facebook status anymore. Plus I just wanted the chance to write a new blog post. Thanks for that!
In response to your comment: “. . . the feminism I’ve encountered in books, seminars and other sources, where it it often put forward as absolute, rigorous equality and chivalry is mocked, ridiculed and condemned.” I’m simply sorry that this single story of feminism is the only one you’ve been exposed to. This is the danger of a single story: it’s incomplete, poses only one small aspect of a much larger picture, and is usually not true. I truly hope that I will be able to show you some of the rest of the picture in order to help you understand that feminists aren’t hateful, cruel women who want to strip your masculinity, but rather want to value you as a person and reinforce that you may live your life as you choose. I needed time to find the evidence and order my thoughts a little better; thus, blog post.
The word feminism is relatively new in English. It is credited to Charles Fourier, a Utopian Socialist and French philosopher who wrote about it. (1) “Feminism” and “feminist” appear in a letter from Dutch feminist pioneer Mina Kruseman in a letter to Alexandre Dumas about the subject in 1872 (2). It later appeared in Great Britain in 1890 and the United States in 1910 (3). It appeared in the 2nd edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1894, but I was not able to find the original defintion. The current definition according to the Oxford Dictionary is: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” (4)
At the various time periods of feminism, the goals of feminists have varied from rights to vote, to own property, to work for equal pay, to have control over their bodies, and, more today, to promote mutual gender equality. One thing is clear about this movement: it is not about bashing men and erasing masculinity. This belief has arisen out of several problems and a social backlash against feminism for a variety of reasons. Bear with me as I bring in another definition, but I will draw a circle and come back to men and feminism in a moment.
Today’s definition of feminism is more broad than in past, when the goal was basic rights for women and has been expanded in a way that promotes equal treatment and equal respect for all. According to everydayfeminism.com, feminism is defined as the desire:
“. . . to live in a world where every person (and we mean every single person) is treated with respect, directs their own lives, and reaches their full potential. We want this to be true for every woman, man, adult, child, black, Asian, Latino, indigenous, white, gay, lesbian, transgender, straight, poor, rich, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, disabled, able bodied, immigrant, refugee, citizen, and every other group of people on this planet. Why? Because we’re all human beings who feel love and pain just like you.” (5)
People should be able to live how they chose to live without judgement and with the respect owed to them as a person. If a woman wants to have a career and be congress woman, cool! If a woman wants to get married and have however many children she can and just love on them, cool! No one should ever criticize a woman’s choice for her life. If a woman wants to wear a headscarf or head covering for her own personal, religious reasons, hey, power to you! If a woman born into a religion that calls for headcoverings doesn’t want to wear one, go for it! These are just some examples I’m trying to give here. Unfortunately, too many people (feminists, men, women, whatever), don’t follow these ideas, and that is where conflict occurs. Those attitudes can be changed if people choose to respect others’ choices.
Yes, I understand that there have been instances and times when women are feminists were hateful to men and said women were better than men. I understand how men have felt that roles have been changed in such a way that women are insulting because a man did something very small that may have been defined as chivalrous. Frankly, anytime I’ve ever heard anything like this, I’m surprised because I wonder how feminists can think it’s ok to do to men what was done to them. Everytime I see it or hear about it, I call it the same thing: hypocrisy.
Let’s face it, Bram, hypocrisy exists everywhere. There are women who don’t think they’re better than men and don’t treat men poorly, but there are women who do that, too. I would also submit that there are Christians that are very unloving and certainly don’t seem to follow Jesus, but will swear that you are going to Hell if you’re not just like them. These are usually the people that think certain Christians aren’t good enough to be around them and exclude them from Christian life in a variety of ways, and usually don’t associate with people who aren’t Christians at all. Unfortunately, just like in feminism and Islam and other areas of life, these people exist.
A fact I want to point about men and feminism is this: feminism promotes that men should be able to make choices for their lives as they want to live them in the same way that women should be able to make choices for their lives as they want to live. In response to the idea that feminism strips men of their masculinity or is somehow against masculinity, (your various statements; I’m not going to copy/paste all of them here), feminism is more against the aggression and competition that is taught to boys as a way to show that they are men. The reason to be against this is because it is harmful to both women and men. Many men are taught as boys that in order to solve their problems or get what they want, they must be competitive and aggressive in every possible way. This attitude is even carried over to how they pursue or date women and is sometimes taken too far. The majority of mass murders and killing sprees in the United States (75% to be exact) are commited by white men. (6) Many times, the men who commit these crimes have a very violent reason for wanting to commit them, such as wanting to kill all those who hurt them (such as the case in Columbine) and because women wouldn’t sleep with them or because they had been fired from jobs. Just check out the timeline. (7)
By teaching boys to be aggressive and solve their problems with violence or by being competitive, societies create more aggressive men. Not all men will grow up to be aggressive mass murderers or rapists, there seems to be a correalation. I also submit this view. Societial roles and expectations for men and women are actually not good for either gender. By teaching each group that their value lies in something other than being a good person or not correcting negative behavior because “that’s just how it is with boys/girls,” we create more problems for both groups in how they respond to, relate to, and communicate with each other.
When society (including Christian culture) says that a woman’s value is only in if she is married and has children, society is teaching her that anything else bad and the desire for anything else is bad. The desire not to marry or have children is now a sin to those women. Telling women their value is only in one thing and not who they are is damaging to women and girls.
When society (including Christian culture) says that a man’s value is only in if he has a good job and can make a lot of money to provide for his family, anything else is also bad. There is more to men than just paychecks and the ability to open jars and lift heavy objects. Treating men as though they are not thoughtful, emotional, caring human beings who may be more focused on family and betterment of community is wrong and denies them a part of their humanity. THIS is another damaging effect of societial gender roles that feminism would like to correct for the betterment of both genders. Traditional gender norms and expectations have truly created many problems in society that feminism would like to correct because it would better for both genders.
I am absolutely certain that you have felt strong emotions that have overwhelmed you to tears in some way. I’m also certain that just like any other guy in the world, someone told you or implied to you that crying made you weak and unmanly. That attitude towards emotions has been taught to guys for years and should be discontinued because guys do have emotions and shouldn’t be taught that they are not men for feeling them. Many are further insulted by being compared to girls or parts of a woman’s anatomy for feeling that way. This adds further insult to women and teaches boys more disrespectful attitudes towards women. These same expectations have also told men that they can’t be raped or abused. That is not true. Men are also victims of physical and sexual aggression (8). An estimated 40% of domestic violence victims are men. It is either underreported or just ignored because so many believe that women cannot be that aggressive and that only men are that aggressive. This is attitude is not only further proof that society believes men are aggressive and women are not, thus men cannot be victims of violence, but this also sheds light on another sad fact of human nature: both men and women can be equally very cruel. Feminism acknowledges that this is wrong. Men and women should be able to live in safe environments. No one should suffer from pain or abuse.
You also addressed chivalry in one of your comments and that feminism has killed chivalry because it went against masculinity in some way. I have seen what you’re refering to, unfortunately, but I have also noticed something else. Many guys cop out of being just kind and respectful to women and say, “Hey, I don’t need to do anything for you. There’s equality now. You do it. You call me and pursue me and pay for me.” Then they don’t do anything in the relationship. I chalk this up to two things: immaturity and laziness. Many of these guys also don’t really work and don’t really want to grow and be adults, either. This tends to be their excuse. If feminism did reject chivalry, I can understand. I’m sure that there are women who felt that men were domineering over them with feminism. The reason for this might be simple. A lot of men would be chivalrous to women with the aim of getting them into bed, like somehow buying a woman dinner meant should would go home with him. There are men that believe such things and that might be their only goal in being chivalrous, which is sad and makes all men look bad. I’m absolutely certain that you’re not like that, among many other good guys. I would say that for chivalry, isn’t it sometimes nice not to have to do everything? Isn’t it nice sometimes to be pursued? Yes, it is. But much of society has said that women who pursue are desperate and needy and you don’t want that. So men tend to ignore the signals when a woman is pursuing. It might best to just be respectful of each other and learn to read some body language or take a good compliment. But as far as chivalry goes, there are women who do appreciate it and are feminists. I’m one of them. 🙂 Just saying. 😉
Lastly, I would also to discuss counter-feminism and how that affects women and men. The idea that women no longer need feminism is strange to me. There are still women in the world who are not allowed to attend school. Rape culture is still prevelant in so many parts of the world, including the United States and Europe. Many women are still shamed for wanting to have a career instead of getting married and having kids. Many women are shame for wanting to get married and have kids instead of having a career. Men are abused as well. When I hear it from women in the United States (usually college-educated women, strangely enough), this is what pops into my mind.
I think something like: “Really? It’s responsible for a plethora of choices in your life. Really?”
I really believe that the whole idea that feminism is bad and, dare I say, sinful is probably caused by all the negative images and actions of a group of feminists who treat men badly and say they are the cause of all problems in the world. That’s wrong. It is. There’s not getting around it. That’s just wrong. And it’s not feminism. It’s hypocrisy. I also think the other reason feminism is considered a bad thing in the modern world is for a simple fact that often goes unmentioned: society does not really like it when women stand up for themselves and have a voice. These voices go against the norm. Just like the voices of others who have experienced prejudice and oppression, the majority doesn’t want to listen to them. When women stand up for themselves, society tells us that they are out of control, making a scene, over-emotional, exagerating, or on their periods. When men do it, people tend to say they are whipped, or they just listen. The norms need to change in order to help both genders.
I was going to include some of those “I need feminism because pictures,” so I did that and took a few of my own.
So there you have it, Bram. That is feminism. I truly hope I have been able to shed some light on a much bigger picture. I also hope that at the end of this (very long) blog post, you understand more of why I believe we still need feminism, for both women and men.
I would also like to add that I used figures from the US because I wasn’t sure where to look for figures in Europe, though I would be interested in seeing any if you know where to look. You may check all sources below in the works cited section.
I have no idea what this post may do, but I also hope that at the end of this, you and I will still be on good terms.
- Goldstein 1982, p.92.Goldstein, L (1982). “Early Feminist Themes in French Utopian Socialism: The St.-Simonians and Fourier”, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol.43, No. 1.
- Mina Kruseman in a letter to Alexandre Dumas – in: Maria Grever, Strijd tegen de stilte. Johanna Naber (1859–1941) en de vrouwenstem in geschiedenis (Hilversum 1994) ISBN 90-6550-395-1, page 31.
- Offen, Karen. “Les origines des mots ‘feminisme’ et ‘feministe'”. Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine. July–September 1987 34: 492-496.
- Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed 21 September 2014. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/feminism
- Everdayfeminism.com. Accessed 21 September 2014. http://everydayfeminism.com/about-ef/our-vision/
- Follman, Mark; Aronsen, Gavin; and Pan, Deanna. May 24, 2014. “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America.” Accessed 21 September 2014.http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map?page=2
- “Get the Facts and Figures.” http://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/
- Campbell, Denis (5 September 2010). “More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals” . The Guardian. Accessed 21 September 2014.
- Poeler, A. viralwomen.com. Accessed 21 September 2014. http://viralwomen.com/post/amy_poehler_on_women_renounce_feminism