I’ve read a fair few articles on feminism recently and I’m becoming increasingly annoyed by some of them. The dictionary definition of a feminist is a person who advocates equal rights for women (yes I looked it up) and most people of at least the last two generations, in the western world would be happy and able to claim that descriptor. Why then are so many people, men (and even some women), unable to identify with the word?
“Feminism” is a very emotive word and rather than equalising the sexes it is too female-centric. I am far more comfortable with the phrase “gender equality”, it has far less exclusive inflection.
So, a feminist is a person who advocates equal rights for women, both the word and the definition highlight the female. From this viewpoint, I can understand why so many men are intimidated (ooh, a bit controversial, I think) by using such an overtly feminine word as a self-descriptor, and reject the idea of identifying with it. I bet a lot of men, even men born after it happened, still equate feminism with the ritual bra burning (which didn’t actually happen) and marches in the sixties and seventies. It’s archaic, but it was a very powerful mental image at the time.
I’m not politically minded or much of an activist, but I would really like to see a political movement demanding equality with no qualifiers. Egalitarianism seems to be the best term for what I would like to happen. So many modern feminists don’t like this term and believe that denial of “Feminism” infers that we negate the positive impact of the women who suffered and died to bring about equal rights of women.
The definition of a feminist is “someone who advocates the rights (any and all) of women to be the same as those of men.”
I would like to draw attention to some “rights” women have, which men do not. I’m sticking with westernised culture for the sake of argument and the fact that I know women are severely curtailed and undervalued in other cultures
- Women have the right to choose parenthood. In the case of an unplanned pregnancy a woman has the right to keep the child, have the child adopted or abort the foetus. Men don’t have that right. If a woman chooses to keep the child, the father has no legal recourse to refuse parental responsibility and will be forced to support that child for at least 18 years without any legal input into the choice of parenthood. In addition, if a woman decided to give her baby up for adoption, she doesn’t need to inform the father if he isn’t listed on the birth certificate (assuming she hasn’t told him about the child)
- Women have the right to genital integrity (irrespective of parental religious beliefs). There are still several thousand baby boys circumcised at birth, however, girls are legally protected from this barbaric practise (I’m ignoring the illegal FGM that happens because legal rights have very little to do with it).
- Women have the right to be assumed care givers to their children in the case of divorce or separation. Unless there is a strong indication that a mother is unfit, primary custody is almost always awarded to women and (especially if the divorce or separation is antagonistic) a father will need to legally contest that, possibly at huge expense.
- Women have the right to call forced or coerced sex, rape. It might sound like a man’s fantasy, being “raped” by a woman, but it can be just as damaging, mentally. If a woman says “no!” it is taken as withdrawal of consent, even if it began as mutually consensual. If a woman says no, it becomes rape. If a man says no (even if erect) he has very little recourse for complaint. Heck, even a fear response can cause an erection.
- In the US and some countries in Europe, women are given the right to vote without having to agree to conscription, should the country’s armed forces require it. In the US, women have the right to vote, however, men have to sign an agreement to fight (and maybe die) in times of enforced conscription before they are granted that right.
How many feminists are feeling a little uncomfortable right now? Personally, I’m completely in favour of giving men an equal right in deciding on parenthood (okay a woman would get the casting vote with the foetus giving her their proxy), and completely banning circumcision (I don’t care about your religion; the child has a right to decide when they reach adulthood). I would welcome the equal division of time and parental responsibilities between divorced or separated parents (obviously, I’m discounting potential for abuse and/or neglect).
I want the right to call myself an egalitarian without having to defend it to the feminists. Second and third wave feminism is supposed to support women’s right to choose, I’m choosing to ignore the militant feminist movement, which seems to thrive on misandry and claiming their arguments as fighting for equality when they are actually lobbying for supremacy and MORE rights.
I don’t believe for a moment that we have actually achieved equality between the sexes yet, but that’s what we should be aiming for, equality not supremacy of one over the other.
I will add a last comment on women and equality. There is a time when women should be due extra consideration, in the case of pregnancy. When a woman is carrying or has recently borne a child, additional rights need to be ceded; the right to breastfeed without comment or complaint (including the right to express breast milk when working); the right to refuse anything that may cause harm to their child (while pregnant); and the right to choose to care for their child (at least until nursery/kindergarten age).
Until foetal gestation by the male becomes possible and acceptable, the future of the species relies on women bearing children. These three rights are not a huge concession to make, on the basis of species continuation. In fact, I’m quite willing to share the five rights mentioned above, in exchange for these three that, in some western countries, are conspicuous by their absence.