It’s women’s day again. And what better time to reflect on all that’s wrong with good ol’ feminism?
Now before you think I am one of those weird sexist non-feminist women, I should probably point out that I do not think that feminism is wrong. Not at all. All I am trying to do is show that feminism as we know it has structural flaws and contradictions that essentially hinder its spreading.
For start, the name itself is not quite right. It’s not really feminism as much as it is common sense. More on it here. Now, I may dislike the term, but I dislike sexist bigots more. And since the word annoys them, I am more than happy to use it.
As far as the paradigm goes, I think that often times, feminism is presented as an uphill battle to help women catch the train, and less as exposing the stupidity of those who think that men are better. And though I realize that women did in fact suffer decades of sexism that have set them back, I still think that feminism should be the latter rather than the former. I am not saying that we shouldn’t help women and that they’ll get there by themselves, I am simply suggesting that as far as PR goes, it would be beneficial in the long run to rephrase the problem.
For example, on the issue of equal pay, I think it would be more beneficial to say that individuals who have the same qualifications should be paid the same, instead of whining and complaining about how women are paid 0.77 on the dollar. The first is something no one can disagree with. The second sounds like the latest angry feminist conspiracy theory. I know that we shouldn’t be apologetic. And I know that we shouldn’t settle. But wouldn’t we avoid a lot of tension if our gender wasn’t our defining characteristic.
And since we’re talking about women at work, can we stop celebrating women in tech like they’re an exception. They might be, but can we stop shouting it on rooftops. It’s embarrassing. They’re not unicorns, and the more we say that they are unicorns, the more they feel that way. My logic is that women in tech should be the norm. The fact that they aren’t is absolutely shameful. But that’s no reason to glorify women who succeed in the field. Because then, it sounds like ” They succeeded despite being women” and that’s not the message you want to spread among little girls. What we want to spread is “Guess what, women can do anything because they are humans with brains”. The other problem is that we end up with weird expressions like: “She’s a competent woman engineer. ”
And I’m like….
“Women should unite”. Is the kind of thing bigots feed off of. The minute they hear it, they go on TV saying that angry feminists are in a war to destroy men. Why give them the pleasure?
Women can be bitchy to each other. But the ones that are, are bitchy to everyone. To be honest, I really don’t think that just because two humans happen to have vaginas, that they should necessarily feel some kind of solidarity. And I don’t think this belief makes me less of a feminist.
Example: A lot of feminists pressure famous women to stand up for women. Someone like Amy Schumer, is under a lot of pressure to be “the girl who denounces sexism”. Anytime she makes an”inappropriate” joke, she faces strong criticism. But you can’t ask women comedians to be feminists first and comedians second. (isn’t it ironic that I used “women comedians” right after I ranted about “women engineers”…)
Yes, women still have a long way to go and they could use some support on their way to equality. But they are among a very large group of minorities that are oppressed by the system, who do not have access to the same opportunities and who face prejudice on a daily basis for what they do and for what they don’t do. And that’s why any solidarity that I feel towards other women is not based on gender but rather on a shared struggle.
Many would say, that the problem isn’t with feminism. The problem is with the media and how it portrays feminism. Well. Let’s talk about that.
If we look at it, we’ll notice that trends keep popping up left and right, and if you scroll in any “liberal” website, you’ll keep oscillating between “You’re pretty” “Here’s how to loose 30 pounds fast” “Love your curves!” “Thigh gap” “Mermaid thighs”…
The first offender I can think of is Hello Giggles. What they do most often is participate in spreading ridiculous trends while denouncing them. But they are not alone, “faux feminist” ugly titles like this are all over the place. And they are so strange: You can’t write an article saying ” This Olympian told everyone she was on her period because it’s no big deal”. And yet write an entire article about it. If it’s not a big deal, you shouldn’t write about it.
Same with articles about body image. I think that a lot of the body positivity is ultimately counter productive because it keeps women enslaved to what other people tell them about their bodies.
I think real empowerment comes from saying: you know what your body, your business! You are not an object for me to look at. You are not a mind for me to be proud of. You are not a strong woman for showing your curves. You are not a weak women for not showing them. There is absolutely no judgement I can make on who you are simply by examining your relationship with your body. Because it’s not my place to say… It’s not my place to put you on a pedestal when you wear a crop top and you’re curvy. And it’s not my place to tell you that you are beautiful in the inside when you don’t.
The thing is: Media is only as strong as we make it. But many would disagree and say that we have to set an example to little girls for them to grow confident. And I do agree. But I think the way it should be done is by pressuring the media to increase diversity without giving them a medal every time they do. Another way is to stop buying magazines where women on the cover are photoshopped beyond recognition and where on page 6, they are asked to post a no-makeup selfie.
Another problem with feminism is how it’s now used as a patriarchal weapon.
Did you notice how today, a “real man” is a feminist man. Did you notice how women themselves would say things like “I am so proud of my husband/boyfirend, he lets me do X&Y..or he helps me with X&Y”. Isn’t it sad that in order to fight gender roles, we find ourselves reinforcing them.
Only, many men who are in this boat aren’t as feminist as they seem. They have terms and conditions. More on it in this pretty good piece from the NYTimes.
Men also find a way to benefit from feminism when it comes to other cultures. The best example is the infamous “white man saving brown women.”
Which to me is absolutely hilarious. Growing up in a Mediterranean Arab society, I personally know some women who seem like the ultimate submissive dominated wives. But these same ladies have their men WHIPPED. I mean, they’re pulling the strings of every single one of their husbands’ moves. Is it sad that they have to give that illusion of submission to get by? yes. But my point is, these girls know how to get what they want. And they don’t need anyone’s help.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to say, the Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. But what I am saying is that white men* A) could use some Geography and History classes. B) need to stop seeing an opportunity to be Saint Savior every single time they hear about brown women problems.
(*Notice that here, white men is short for biased privileged males who are unaware of their privilege, the kind that tells their secretaries to wear heels. You get the picture)
GOING INTO THE FUTURE
What is also interesting is how feminism isn’t really adapting to the shift we see today. As our society becomes more and more gender fluid/indifferent/blind, a lot of feminist ideas seem outdated. Gender binarism is so 2000.
That’s why we have to stop gender from being a defining characteristic and let equality be the only drive.
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