I’m “that person” – the one known for pointing out sexism, noticing gendered language, or speaking up about inequalities. I get eye rolls. Someone even patted me on the head once after I said, “Not ‘male nurse.’ Just ‘nurse.’” Whenever I speak up, people inevitably ask, “Why are you making this about gender?”
There will be no sheepish apology from me for being “that person.” Whether we like it or not, the world is divided by sex, and those sexes are not treated equally or given equal access to the power structure.
My pointing that out is not the injustice. Calling something sexist is not worse than the actual sexism.
I know – I seem angry. How stereotypical of me. That anger comes from having to defend feminism. Feminism should need no defense from me. It’s advocacy for a basic level of decency and equality we have yet to achieve. It’s an attempt to meet minimum standards. No one is asking for anyone’s dick on a platter.
You’re not babies, so I don’t need to sugarcoat this discussion. We all need feminism. Here’s why.
Feminism is not about female superiority or male hate, despite what you might have been told. Here’s the definition of feminism. (Don’t say I’ve never done anything for you.)
Feminism does not hold that men and women are the same. Everyone knows that there are sex differences between men’s and women’s brains, however small, and – even more importantly – individual by individual differences. Feminism does not pretend otherwise. Feminism holds that those perceived differences should not obstruct the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
Feminism is good for you, men. It’s good for everybody. It’s an attempt to take apart a system, oppressive and millennia-old, that tells all of us how to be and what we can be based on what’s between our legs. Be free, people.
In particular, you, heterosexual White men, are losing your power foothold as this system comes undone and access becomes equalized. We have a long way to go, but things are indeed changing. This transition might seem scary to you. We’re thankfully moving away from the time when you are considered the default person and everyone else is a special interest or doesn’t-deserve-any-interest group.
Take it away, Willy Wonka.
But we don’t have the energy to hold your hands, non-feminist heterosexual White men. You just need to DEAL. There is no sympathy here beyond what we all struggle with as human beings.
“Why can’t we all just get along?” you’re maybe saying. Of course we all want to get along. However, male privilege was fine with many men until it starting giving way under their feet. The cries about feminists being sexist and harmful are not only untrue but disingenuous, as these cries were absent when the power structure worked largely in men’s favor.
So cut it out with that bullshit. If you mean it, get behind real equality instead of pretending the issue is that we’re being unfriendly.
“But what about our problems and concerns?” some men have been known to say. No one’s dismissing or minimizing your problems or feelings. What feminists will eviscerate are the claims that those problems are the result of women or feminism. (Psst! Hey! Wanna know a secret? Eve never actually took the apple and handed it to Adam.)
The military draft, for example, is a turd of a patriarchal system, but it ain’t that way because of people with vaginas or the special privileges we hold. If you think so, your head is so far up your butt that you’re breathing recycled bullshit. You should see a doctor.
(Speaking of doctors, here’s a riddle: A father and son are driving on the freeway when they’re involved in a severe accident. The father is killed instantly and the boy is rushed to the hospital in critical condition. It’s a bad case, and the staff waits anxiously for the chief resident – a gifted neurosurgeon – to arrive. Finally the surgeon makes it to the OR but, upon seeing the boy, stops cold and says, “That’s my son.” Who is the doctor? Answer: It’s his mother. That this is even a riddle that still stumps people makes my head hurt.)
Your individual problems are valid but not on the scale of problems caused by centuries of systemic oppression to entire groups of people. So, again, I say: cut it out with that bullshit.
And please stop whining about men not getting enough attention. Dwight?
Let me stress that this message is not intended for those of you who get it. Husband, friends, family – there are so many good, good men who fight for equality, understand injustice, and are progressive enough to make me feel thankful every day to be living in the 21st century.
We’re not asking for men to prostrate themselves before women, lash at their backs in penance for anything, or put us on a pedestal. We’re asking for their advocacy.
Walk with us or get out of the way.
Feminism has had a hand in making it possible for you to vote, control your own reproductive choice, and go to college, among many other things. Don’t take this for granted or posture against it so that you can be the “cool girl.” I promise you – no matter how many times you kiss the ring of the patriarchy, they won’t invite you in.
If you’re not convinced by what feminism has achieved and continues to accomplish, take a gander here.
Maybe you don’t think we need feminism anymore. OK.
Perhaps Ellen can convince you that even the seemingly small things matter.
And, remember: just because someone’s a woman doesn’t mean she’s on the side of equality. Some women are patriarchy-internalizing assholes. Don’t let any one woman stand in for all women. Use your best judgment.
Fellow Feminists and Womanists:
We’re not monolithic. We don’t all agree on the same nuances. That’s OK, actually. Screw it. I don’t care if you wear makeup or like cute shoes. These individual choices do mean something, but they’re for your own examination and comfort level. There are bigger, global, systemic tofu sticks to fry.
Feminism has historically not included women of color, immigrants, or LGBT persons. This blind spot to racial and class inequalities within the movement gave rise to womanism. These label distinctions are valid. However, and I may get in trouble for this, but I don’t care what you call yourself. I like to think both labels represent the same goal: make equality an everyday reality, including but not limited to, recognizing the racial and class issues that permeate, intertwine, and dissect gender considerations.
The way to do this is to listen. Recognize your privilege, White feminists. And learn. We can do better.
My grandmother was an immigrant who had six children, worked for a living, and kept her own bank account separate from her husband. The feminist movements of the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s largely missed her because what drove the White housewives of those eras – goals like fighting to be part of the workforce – did not speak to my grandmother. As part of the lower class, she had to work, whether she wanted to or not. I know feminism touched her life in positive ways, but I’m not sure she knew that, nor did she know how much more she could do and be. I would love for her to have known.
I guess the only remaining question is: are you in?