I’ve never really looked into feminism until recently. I’m aware of the fundamental principles feminists adhere to – the liberation of women from an oppressive patriarchal society and the somewhat problematic expression “equality for women” (which seems something of an oxymoron to me, since surely equality should apply to everyone) – but, having never come across feminism beyond an awareness of its existence as an ideology, and personally knowing no women who call themselves feminists, it’s been something of an “unknown” to me.
That changed the other day when a friend sent me a link to the above video by girlwriteswhat, which makes a number of intriguing points which I wanted to raise with feminists. Thanks to an activist friend of mine I was able to pose a number of questions to a broad range of people who define themselves as feminists – or sympathetic to feminism – who shed some light on what feminism means to them in the modern day.
Most feminists seem to agree that the fundamental tenet is the pursuit of genuine gender equality; that men and women should have the same rights and privileges and feminism is about rectifying these imbalances. One self-labeled “radical feminist” defined feminists as anyone who fights inequalities between genders, sexualities, and orientations, which struck me as somewhat contradictory in the sense that the definition seems more indicative of humanism or egalitarianism than the gender-specific term “feminism”.
Some radical feminists seem to view women as exclusively oppressed over men, who, having created “patriarchy” to benefit themselves – and themselves alone – consequently impart all the privileges of society exclusively upon themselves while leaving women with nothing. This inevitably leads to a one-sided understanding of “equality” where only the suffering of women needs addressing since “men don’t suffer” but rather are driving agents of oppression.
Of course, there is no reason why a movement concerned with the inequalities faced by a specific gender should feel the need to address the suffering of the other, particularly if they perceive that suffering as being unique to their gender – it’s only natural that any ideology will focus on the issues defined by the parameters it establishes. Problems arise, however, when the group begins to perceive achieving its own goals as synonymous with wider, humanistic objectives. This statement, with its implication that, if only we can end the suffering of women then everything will be alright for the rest of us, seems to highlight this aptly: “When women stop being raped, beaten up, treated as objects – that’s when egalitarianism can begin.” It demonstrates a gender-bias towards women as the only people who’s suffering is valid or meaningful.
The question that should be asked is: how much of the suffering and oppression feminists believe women face is exclusively a female concern? Are they – as some feminists advocate – universal “victims” of a system which singles them out for oppression while the men escape from suffering and confer all the advantages upon themselves? An examination of some of …read more