So, today I was studying feminism when one of my friends (a boy) tapped me and shoved his phone at me. I took it knowing that he wants to show me something every time he do this. A look at it makes me want to throw the phone out of the window – he has the phone opened to a Facebook page on Anti-Feminism knowing full well I am doing feminism and I am a feminist (at least I feel I am).
Now, before anything else, let me say that my friend is generally quite a nice guy. He respects women and girls and would never (I hope!) suggests that women should stay close to hearth and home and that ‘politics, like prize-fighting, are the work of men.’ After all, he admires Margaret Thatcher. But he is also very anti feminism as a legal theory. When I ask for the reason, he says that women have quite enough rights and that men are being cornered at every turn, proof in the Facebook post he showed me:
- Woman asked for split bill, independent; man asked for split bill, cheap
- Woman groped, sexual harassment; man groped, indifference
- Woman hit man, bravery; man hit woman, domestic violence
I told him off for that actually, lectured him a bit on feminism. How can you criticize and ridicule a theory you have not studied before? To describe Feminism in 4 four words: fight for gender equality. To achieve gender equality, feminists are trying to break the stereotypical gender roles and society’s perception of what the roles of the genders should be. The situations he showed me that I listed above? All because of something called gender roles. And what are gender roles? They are roles forced onto men and women due to social norms and social attitudes. This is not only unfair to women, but also unfair to men. Therefore, by the feminists trying to break the restrictions of the gender roles, it also advantages the men as it would have avoided the above scenarios.
Which then leads to the question: are feminism only for women? If not, then why called it by such a misleading name? If not, what are feminism for? This requires a little bit of history as the first organized group of feminists, the liberal feminists, were actually fighting for the rights of the women through the law. Hence, at that point of time, it is indeed for women.
But as time passes, formal equality has gradually been achieved for women. The feminists then asked themselves, now what? Although formal equality has been achieved through legislation, social attitudes are huge obstacles to their implementation. Part of the reason for these issues lies in the trouble with gender roles. From time immemorial women have by and large confined to hearth and home. They were regarded as subservient to men, a part of their property, and had little to no rights, ie they were assigned to a role. To suddenly be told that women are equal to men in every respect except for reproduction of life is a shock to the average man. The average man either did not believe women are capable of being equal to men (DUMB), or felt their position as the dominant family head threatened (WIMPS).
Gender roles not only act as restraints upon the women, but also on the men:
- Boys are not supposed to cry, even if you are very sad; girls showing their emotions are a ‘wreck’ and ‘too emotional’
- Boys have to play with cars and guns, too violent; girls have to play with dolls, too girly
- Boys have to work with science even if you prefer the art of sewing; girls have to learn to sew even if you prefer to experiment with chemicals
- Men are sexual creatures, they want to sleep with everyone; women are not, they should remain chaste and pure until marriage
- Gentlemen should pay for the meal even though he might earn less; women should not have to even if she wants to
- Men cannot be the victims of domestic violence even if he is; women can be and are easily believed even when they are not
- Men cannot be sexually assaulted, they are but rarely admitted by society and victims alike; women can be, but social stigma silenced them
From the short list above you can definitely see that gender roles are NOT, I repeat, NOT helping anyone. If anything, it just cause everyone (or at least anyone who doesn’t fit into the gender roles) to suffer much like a square peg in a round hole – unsuitable and uncomfortable. Any actions to break gender roles therefore should be, to my mind, be encouraged and supported. Any decisions to the contrary is mind-boggling and nonsensical.
This reminds me of the made up word ‘menism‘. Apparently, this is in response to feminism and is supposed to fight for men’s rights. What, pray tell, are your aims? In what way has the law been oppressive to men? Men’s pay is still 25% higher than a woman, majority of those in the business arena, the politics arena, the legal system, the public sphere are still men. Men are not pressured to ‘settle down’, have children and slow down their careers to have a complete life.
You say it is about the domestic violence? That women hitting men is a sign that feminism had overreached? Funniest joke I ever heard. If you read until here, you would have notice that above I talked about gender roles. These gender roles presumed the women to be the weaker sex and is therefore less capable.
But what most people didn’t realize is that this capability can be for the good, but also for the bad. There are more than enough literature on the capabilities of women in areas such as politics and law. But female criminals, now that is something often overlooked.
The gender role of women being the weaker sex and less capable not only excludes women from the so-called ‘public sphere’ of business, politics, law and etc, but also causes a perception that women are less capable of violence. This is certainly not the truth.
Women may not slit your throat or kill you in a fistfight, but women may murder you with slow-acting poisons. Women may not react violently and immediately to a provocation, but may find a chance to take revenge later. Women may not physically abuse their partners, but psychological abuse may be easily done.
Therefore, breaking the gender roles is also, from another point of view, a way of acknowledging that women are as capable of committing crimes as men. Only when gender roles are broken will the above situations I listed for examples of gender roles ceased to exist.
Society will no longer expect much more out of the men, nor extra effort on the part of the women. Emotions will be seen as normal and so are sex. When social expectations disappear, feminism would have done their job. And if feminism breaks the gender roles, then female criminals will no longer be overlooked as generally non-threatening.
What then, is left for ‘menism‘? What rights that women have that men don’t have? Being that men had been dominant in the legal, political and social arena for so long, it is inconceivable that women have some rights that men don’t have. It would therefore appear that there is NOTHING left for ‘menism’ to do. Therefore, the conclusion would be that ‘menism‘ is something totally unnecessary and merely adds to the conclusion.
Feminism is actually a misnomer; the name implies that it is only concerned with advantaging women and to hell with men. This is so far from the truth that entire galaxies can fit within the gap. Feminism is all about gender equality, not only from the legal perspective, but also from the political and sociological view. It relieves the men of the burden of having to be a ‘man’ in the traditional meaning, and helps the women to release themselves from the confines of the traditional meaning of ‘woman’. It will help to ease the lives of those who do not fit into the traditional images of ‘man’ and ‘woman’.