Before You Decide You’re “Not a Feminist,” You Should Probably Understand What Feminism Is
Sara Luckey | On 21, Oct 2013
Feminism has an image problem, that much is obvious. Much of that image problem comes from feminists with a platform putting forth thoughts and ideas without criticality examination, and more of it comes from misinformation given on websites and other news outlets. Annica Benning’s piece over at the State Press is a glaringly obvious example of misinformation and misrepresentation being put forth on a widespread level, furthering myths about feminism. Ms. Benning is not a woman out to do harm. She is, however, misinformed on some basic tenets of feminism, and I think that if we break her argument down point-by-point and address it, that this might help put forth a broader and more accurate portrayal of what feminism is. So let’s go!
1. “I also believe that I should not be denied a job because I am a woman. However, unless I’m applying to be a lumberjack in Canada, the chances of me being denied a job based on my gender are incredibly slim.”
Gender discrimination in the workplace is still an ongoing problem. The thing is, gender discrimination doesn’t stop at whether or not you are hired for a job: It continues on in the workplace. Workplace gender discrimination can include getting paid less than a male colleague with similar skills and experience for the same work; being subjected to sexual harassment, which is most commonly directed at women, and not men; and an inability to access to basic medical services through company provided insurance, like contraception, maternity care, pre-natal care or maternity leave.
And it doesn’t stop there! Significant over-representation of men at the management and CEO level is a problem, along with horizontal segregation, which occurs when any occupation is dominated by women or men. Example: The nursing field is occupied mostly by women. These practices hurt men and women, and feminism is about equality for everybody. Women are denied jobs, promotions, raises, hospitable work places based on their gender, and men are often limited to access to some fields that are predominantly occupied by women because of their gender. Feminism wants people of all genders to be able to avoid gender discrimination in the workplace.
2. “The larger problem I have with the feminist movement is they seem to want preferential treatment because of their sex. It’s akin to reverse discrimination. Many male-dominated industries seek out women for the sole purpose of appearing diverse, which does not sit well with me. I do not want to be sought out because I am a woman. I want to be sought out because I am the best candidate.”
I think the problem here starts with assuming that feminists are only women. A lot of men are feminists, too! Some of the most important men in my life are feminists. And wanting to be sought out because you are the best is great and all, and definitely aspire to that. But the fact is that a company looking for diversity is doing that because they are in large part homogenous and need to correct an imbalance, and that imbalance is usually race or gender related. There’s no reason to assume women getting hired for jobs aren’t the best at the job. Also, reverse discrimination is not real.
3. “Attempting to solve a problem by balancing out the playing field sounds good, but at the end of the day, it is still discrimination.”
Balancing the playing field is the exact opposite of discrimination. If discrimination didn’t happen, there would be no need to level the playing field.
4.”Modern day feminism is used as a crutch in many ways. Putting down males won’t bring up women. Rants about equality are just that: rants. And forgoing committed relationships to just ‘hook up’ because it’s somehow ‘empowering’ might be the greatest running joke of all time.”
Rants about how feminism is just the shittiest shit fest ever is also just a rant, so there’s that. But feminism is not about putting men down. It is about equality for women AND men. Nobody should be left out in this equation. As much as feminism wants women to have equal opportunity, freedom and agency as men, we also want men to be able to participate in some activities commonly associated with femininity and not be criticized or shamed for it. That’s another way feminists want to level the playing field, and no, it’s not discriminatory. For many feminists, paternity leave and maternity leave are things we fight for. It’s also common for many feminists to want men to be able to seek out mental health treatment without stigma, or to be able to more open with their emotions and feelings and not be criticized for it. The “hook up is empowering” mode of thought is one aspect of raunch culture coming out of third wave feminism. Not every feminist feels like that. I don’t.
5. “I don’t expect a man to open the door for me or pick up the dinner check. I can open doors just fine on my own, and I can earn my own Amex points. However, I appreciate both of the aforementioned, because it is respectful and courteous.”
Why is it only respectful and courteous for a man to do these things for a woman? Isn’t opening and holding the door for whomever is behind you courteous no matter who is doing it for whom? And is there a particular reason why a man paying for the bill is courteous, but a woman doing it is not? It is an old-fashioned custom built on sexism, and if it works for you, go for it, sisterfriend! But if it doesn’t work for other women, or men that you are dating, there’s nothing wrong with them. Feminism doesn’t mean “you can’t let a man pay for you,” but it does mean “consider the historical and cultural context of the origin of that custom and decide if it is right for you based on that.” I don’t care if you buy your own dinner or if somebody else buys it for you. It would be nice if people did think about where “respectful and courteous’” customs borne out of sexism came from, however.
6. “I appreciate it just as much when a girlfriend picks up a late night frozen yogurt fix or my boss takes me out to a nice lunch. Being thoughtful and having good manners should apply to everyone, regardless of gender.”
Yeah. Feminism agrees with you. Being nice to people is good. Being a bag of dicks is not good.
7. “Another problem is endemic to the modern career woman, who seems to think that to make it to the top you have to push everyone else, including other women, out of your way. I hear it all the time, one girl talking about how another girl is in the same field as her so they are ‘competing for the same jobs.’ Why is it a competition? I know it’s a tough economy, but there are plenty of jobs to go around. If women helped each other out and worked together they could accomplish great things. Instead, they push each other down.”
No no no no NOPE. Because of gender discrimination embedded in hiring proceesses and corporate structures by people OTHER than women, women often are competing for the same job. But women didn’t put themselves in this position. We are playing the hand patriarchy has dealt us, and trying to do the best we can to bring that system down and build up. So if you do see women bad-mouthing each other and pushing each other down to lift themselves up, that has nothing to do with feminism and everything to do with patriarchy. Feminism doesn’t want women to have to work against each other. What you’re citing as a problem is a real problem, but it’s not a problem within or created by feminism. It’s a problem feminism wants to eradicate.
8. “True success comes from not only building yourself up, but helping out those around you. If feminism focused more on building up women, I might give it a chance. Until then, the last thing I want to be called is a feminist.
I don’t know what you’re reading, but feminism does a lot to build women up. There are some really valid and important reasons why somebody might not want to call themselves a feminist, but none of them were on this list, and most of the complaints don’t actually have anything to do with feminism. If you ever change your mind and want to join up and work for the equality of all people, feminism will still be right here, and you’re welcome at any time.
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