From the get go it is important for me to explain how I define myself as a feminist.
I am supporter of the rights and equality for women. I believe that a woman should be treated and respected with the same equality in work, play and life in general. That their gender should not affect their work and pay conditions, reproductive rights, educational opportunities, spiritual and political representation, access to healthcare or render them easy targets for violence. I believe that my role is to speak, talk and live that equality too.
I thought it important to put that out there before I make some observations on feminism. As always those things I feel passionate about I will speak out in favour of but also give critique where I see fit.
Angsty Middle Class White Women
My first initial reaction to feminism as a youngster was of angsty bra burning white middle class females who wanted it all. As warped as I admit this ideology was it was one which stayed in my head for a long while. Long before I discovered the writings of bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Angela Davis and Alice Walker on feminism from a black point of view, or the likes of Chicana writers such as Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua my segue into feminist thought and activism came from writers such as Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan.
Of course there are always exceptions to the rule of class, Caitlin Moran for example, has been feted and lauded from bringing a fresh perspective to feminism outside of the middle class. Yet still the dominant meme I have found is that the case and causes for female equality, moreso in Western hemispheres as I can only speak from that context, is from a stereotypical angsty middle class white woman.
In many ways this is an Achilles heel I think for a bigger and wider cause to be pushed forward. If this is how it is perceived on many levels how can it be truly accepted as a viable model across communities and class groups who don’t fall into this category? Even suffrage as a movement was seen under this context. Nothing is wrong with this per se if it is a fact, but even as more writers across the feminist community get more leverage and media opens out wider I think it will allow the cause of feminism to be given more depth and width than it seems to have. Of course this anecdotal but any cursory reading of blogs and media around the perception of feminism show that I am not too far off the mark.
The Lunatic Fringe
Misandry. The hatred or total dislike of men and boys.
There is a perception whether through media or experience that feminism is dominated by radical fruit loops who hate males and who wish to undermine and emasculate men at every opportunity. Writers and activists such as Andrea Dworkin seem to be the benchmark for many that is what feminism about. Whether you call it radical feminism or lesbian feminism or Marxist feminism, whatever label you prefer, there are those who will only see these feminist activists who strongly challenge patriarchy (I will come back to this word) through words and activities.
It is so unfair to label anyone who would challenge equality as lunatics but unfortunately so many would put feminism in this category. Somehow those on he frontline of activism or media who are radical probably have a greater duty to create some balance around this. Be it women or men.
So there are some terms that really throw me when I am reading or discussing feminism.
I throw my hands up and state now I have read theory but I am no academic in this area. My passion is to be in the space and say “hey woman need to be treated equally. end of”
This said I know a lot of people are slightly thrown by the vernacular used in this space.
Patriarchy. CIS. Male gaze. Androcentrism. Gender binary. Privilege checklists
These terms I came across whilst browsing some blogs and commentary within the past two weeks. OK patriarchy I get but I often wonder how many people get lost in what is essentially a basic need to empathise and align themselves with the key principles of feminism by over complicated language.
As with any discipline I understand often there is a need for deeper research to help not only identify the problems but solutions to dealing with misogyny. I often fear however that so much gets lost because the language is not simple enough for simple dialogue. this does not mean that people should dumb down their message for the masses but as an educator I live and die by the mantra that content, structure and delivery of my message should be simple enough for a 12 year old to understand.
Men as Advocates
Finally. I proudly wear the badge of feminism. Whilst many man would balk at the idea and a number of females actively avoid being seen or defined as feminist I have no problem. I am proud. I am even thinking of getting a tshirt to make the point.
I am on steep learning curve and would readily admit that some of my passion on this subject is definitely influenced by the fact I have a wife and two daughters. I firmly believe that the cause of feminism is greatly accelerated the more of us men buy into the concept and support and be advocates.
Men are also victims of the lack of equality to women. In many societies if you do not confirm to certain modules of masculinity you are considered weak, a pussy, effeminate or to use the heinous term a faggott. For users of these terms they think it equates to being a woman or not enough of a man. That is bullshit. In many respects turning those concepts on its head requires men to be as vocal and at the forefront of campaigning with women for equality and blowing apart the social constructs that permeate this across class groups, race, religious and other social groupings.
The Trouble with Feminism is not the concept itself but in many ways how it is perceived, how it is promoted and how fragmented it can appear. Much has been progressed but we still have a long way to go. I am glad to be part of that journey and learning a heck of a lot about myself along the way.
Would love your thoughts.