KAMPALA – As someone who has considered himself a feminist for many years, these recent developments in popular culture that have given voice again to feminism, making it a *hot topic* were very exciting to me. I say were, because I have been getting increasingly frustrated with the discourse which modern feminism is placed in.
The internet campaign of #WomenAgainstFeminism, the “men’s rights activists” and extremists arguing in favour of patriarchy (check out these guys) are a few examples of challenges modern feminism has to deal with. Besides the fact that the majority of people participating in the “discussions” (which, again, mostly take place on the internet) are completely ignorant or largely misinformed about feminism, there are several other reasons why modern feminism is struggling, -issues that modern anti-racism movement have to deal with as well. These will be covered in part IV.
Coming back to the challenge modern feminism faces in popular media in Western countries, there are a few words I would like to contribute to dispel the self-proclaimed free thinkers who totally found “fallacies in feminist logic”. I will not, for a change, start off with the disclaimer that feminists do not hate men, or put women’s issues above men’s.
Ignorant: If you are not aware of the fact that feminism does not revolve around hating men, then do not be surprised if you are laughed away from this discussion.
Ignorant and naive: If you believe that we live in a true equal society where sexism is abolished, you are naive. If it does not exist for you, you will be most likely priviliged, – you find yourself power position you should never generalise from. The illusion of meritocracy only exists for those who can afford to compete based on merit. Those excluded from it, or severly handicapped by it (e.g. women as well as ethnic minorities) experience this so-called equality completely different than you do.
Ignorant and judgmental: If you like to bask in your own ignorance, make references to a few cases were people of equal stupidity claiming to be feminists engaged in exactly the same judgmental and extremist black-white thinking as you do, if consider all feminists to be “feminazi’s”, if you believe women’s issues are not important or victimise yourself to such a degree that you have succesfully deluded yourself into thinking that women oppress men, you are a lost cause.
Ignorant, judgmental, and conservative (of the worst kind): If you believe that patriarchy is a natural and therefore inevitable way of structuring society, you have fallen victim to a profound case of reified and institutionalised thinking. If you are one of those people who say “I don’t think women belong in the kitchen, but (…)’, you can count yourself amongst the people who say that “they’re not racist, but (…)’. Really, don’t be that kind of person.
You’re like the conservative Republicans in the 60s who refused to acknowledge the importance of the Civil Rights Movement. You are the modern-day political opposition to Martin Luther King Jr. Unequivocally, you are on the wrong side of history. You are on the losing side. Unlike a majority oppressing a minority, women make up approximately 50% of the world’s population. You may try to slow down this trend, but it started long before you were born, and it will continue after you are dead.
Now, most, if not all, more-or-less valid concerns not rooted in ignorance or stupidity that are used to challenge feminism have already been covered by feminist thinkers. Extensively. Obviously, feminism is concerned with discrimination against women and not so much with discrimination against men. Considering its history, this should not be surprising since (white) men never had to organise mass protests to get the right to vote. Or wear pants, for that matter.
On a broader sprectrum, however, feminism has produced social thinkers, philosophers, researchers, and academia who wrote a great deal on gender relations, and the profound influence it has on the construction of our identities. It has written about a system of norms and values, about a culture that prescribes specific behaviours depending on your gender. And yes, it has identified ways in which men are priviliged in their movements in this system compared to women. It has described the ways in which these priviliges interact with racism, discrimination, socio-economic inequalities, and religious affilitations. More importantly, feminism as a philosophical and academic movement has written a multitude of books and articles on how the two genders relate to one another, and how restrictive gender norms are not advantageous to anyone.
The reintroduction of feminism in popular culture has disregarded or ignored decades of research and writings, resulting in hopelessly ignorant people participating on both sides of a hopelessly unproductive (internet-wide) discussion. Instead, stances on this issue are predominantly determined by individual ideology based on personal experience and bias:
We then get lovely claims like this one:
Men are worse off than women, just look at maternity leave, incarceration rates, custody cases, army demographics, and the industries in which manual labour is predominantly done by men.
If gender roles promote the idea that women are somehow more responsible for their children than their fathers are, then do not be surprised if women get time off work, or get the children in custody cases. A overwhelmingly male police force arrests men more often than women, and male judges sentence this majority of male suspects to serve time. The idea that women are not fit for manual labour causes disproportionate numbers of men working in particular industries. A reverse phenomenon for ‘caretaking’ activities like nursing, midwivery, or teaching.
Gender roles tend to be rather mutually exclusive and very polarising. They are also reinforced by both genders, as are most cultural norms and values. Abandoning strict normative social regulation on what people can or cannot engage in, inherently goes for both genders. The fact that these men’s right activists, anti-feminists or misogynist pro-patriarchy hardliners are unaware of this does not mean they have a point to make. Basking in ignorance, being judgmental or naive is not a point to be made.