Guest Post by WAVAW Volunteer, Natti Schmid
‘Feminism is about equality’, say the Tumblr memes, and the Instagram captions, and all the hippest pop icons. ‘Feminism is about equality’ is also the slogan that is most often used in attempts to discredit feminists. Questions such as…
- if feminists believe in equality then why don’t they call it humanism
- if feminism is about equality than why are they only focused on the betterment of half the population
- if feminism is about equality then why aren’t feminists advocating for men’s rights as well?
…aim to puncture holes in the shiny public veneer of feminism and expose the true agenda feminists have for worldwide female supremacy. Except these questions themselves are flawed because they ignore two key concepts that help to construct feminist action and framework- equity and patriarchy.
Equality, in short form, is the idea that everyone should be treated the same. This sounds delightful, and is a wonderful end goal, but to advocate for equality is to disregard the fact that some people have more privilege than other people. Equity on the other hand is the idea that everyone should be given what it is they need to be successful.
While the end goal of feminism is that everyone be treated equally, feminists pay particular attention to women’s rights (as opposed to everyone’s rights) because feminists aim to practice equity. Feminists believe women, and the oppression they face and their rights, need to be allocated specific resources, spaces, forums, policies, etc, so as to be able to achieve what men are able to access through privilege. Privilege can, should, and has been talked about at length and I encourage anyone with any questions about what it means to Google both male privilege and white privilege. But this still doesn’t answer those questions about men’s rights! How can you say men are privileged when they don’t stand a fair fight in custody battles? How about how they don’t have the same access to subsidized counseling services, leading to higher suicide rates? How about how men experience rape in prisons with little to no public outcry? Well, turns out the same patriarchy that affords men their privilege, is the same restrictive framework that can be held responsible for their neglect in these situations.
Simply put, patriarchy is an ideological system of oppression that divides the population into binary genders: male and female, assigns each gender specific roles and traits, and places the male gender above the female in the social hierarchy. A simplified example of these binary traits looks like this – Masculine = strong, powerful, assertive, dominant, physical, stoic, and Feminine = soft, weak, submissive, fragile, emotional, nurturing. Men are encouraged to embody masculine traits, women are encouraged to embody feminine traits, and if anyone deviates too far outside of the binary, there are social repercussions. This is finicky however. Within the patriarchy cis women are allowed more freedom of expression when it comes to these roles, because it makes sense that a woman would want to climb the social ladder by emulating the traits of the all powerful man (I specify cis in this instance as within patriarchy trans women are expected to present as female as possible in order to be considered legitimate women, therefore they have less freedom to embody the masculine). Women are encouraged to lean in, wear power suits, speak up, and be assertive on the job so as to be taken seriously. Women who do this don’t get off scot free however, and are often referred to as bossy, cold bitches, but hey, the patriarchy can only be so flexible.
Men on the other hand are given no room to participate in the feminine, because to do so would be to willfully descend the social hierarchy by weakening oneself, which is the least manly thing a man could do. So essentially, patriarchy tells us that women are weak but can play at being strong, and men are strong but should never play at being weak, because strong is good and weak is bad. It is this framework that leads to both the oppression of women and the general lack of interest in the men’s issues previously mentioned. Men are less likely to get custody of their children because the patriarchy says women are inherently more nurturing and therefor better caregivers [and because of said patriarchy, men are also much more likely to be responsible for abuse and violence in the home, which is why feminists fight against the injustice of abusive fathers gaining custody]. There are fewer subsidized counseling services for men because emotions are for women and ‘boys don’t cry’. There isn’t public outcry about sexualized violence of men in prison because any man who gets raped in prison is a ‘bitch’, a weak man who deserved what he got. Not to mention the fact that racialized and Indigenous men are vastly overrepresented in the prison system and are therefore already devalued and facing oppression in our society. As soon as a man’s action can be labeled as feminine his rights diminish, because again, inside the patriarchy masculinity conquers femininity. Clearly these binary gender roles are harmful to both men and women, which is why feminists have been acknowledging and constantly working to dismantle these social structures, for years for the betterment of all.
Feminism is about equality, but in order to get to a place in which everyone can be treated equally, we first need to practice equity so that women are given what it is they need in order to be able to access what men are allowed through privilege, and we need to abolish the patriarchy so that the feminine is no longer deemed as lesser than, so that all women are free from oppression and so that all people are free to embody, emote, express and identify with any gendered trait, whether it aligns with the sex or gender they were assigned at birth or not, free from repercussions. Now if only we could cram all of this info into a Tumblr friendly meme.
Here are a couple of really click worthy links that break down both of these concepts.