So, yesterday one of my followers sent me a message asking me to explain feminism to him. Oh boy, did that question make me nervous. Not because I can’t tell you a definition of my own movement, but because there are so many branches of feminism and some of them are full of truly horrible people and hence there is a good chance that anyone asking you to explain feminism on tumblr does so to take a screenshot of your answer and attack you on their blog, but I tried anyway because he seemed nice and genuinely interested.
This is what I wrote:
Just in case you don’t know the dictionary definition:
feminism -noun [U] /ˈfem.ɪ.nɪ.zəm/
the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way
the set of activities intended to achieve this state
So far so good, right? I honestly doubt that many people would disagree with this idea in theory (with the exception of crazy misogynists). But now you probably think ‘If the whole thing is just about women having the same rights as men, isn’t this like searching for something you’ve already found, aren’t we equal already?’ We kind of are, assuming that you live in a Western country, but then we’re really not.
3rd and 4th wave feminism, which is the majority of what you see on this site isn’t so much about changing laws so women can vote/work/etc, as it is about changing people’s attitudes about traditional (or patriarchal if you want to call them that) gender roles, respect, and in some cases (although those are extremely hard to find on tumblr, which is embarrassing to no end) about helping women in regions of the world where they do not have basic human rights to this day.
Some key concepts/ideas/myths/bullshit of feminism as you’ll encounter it on tumblr:
Feminism usually defines patriarchy as an unfair social system that is oppressive to women.
It encompasses most of the ideas below, such as gender roles, rape culture, slut-shaming, and so on. The only problem I have with this is that it implies that all injustices between genders are exclusively the men’s fault. I think women contribute equally to everything that is going wrong there, and hence ‘patriarchy’, which is Greek for ‘the rule of the father’ is a terrible name for this concept.
Masculinity and femininity are social constructs no one should be forced to adhere to. Men should be able to be stay at home dads and nurses and hairdressers and cry and be scared of spiders without being called a ‘failure’ or ‘whipped’ or ‘gay’, and girls should be able to be engineers and terrible cooks and construction workers and not give a shit about their looks without anyone calling them a ‘bitch’ or a ‘dyke’ or ‘manly’. Also, if a girl wants to wear make up and shave and be a housewive with children and bake a dozen cupcakes a day, that is fine and doesn’t make her any less of a feminist or more of a slave of patriarchy than anyone else (although some radfems* might disagree with me on that, ‘internalised misogyny’ and such *sighs*).
Basically… just don’t force your stereotypes on how anyone should act on them and let them decide who they want to be and we’re good.
Probably my biggest problem with modern feminism, because I totally fell for it. I’m sure that if you’re American, you’ve heard Obama say that it’s a huge problem that full time working women still make 23% less money than their male counterparts. That is true.
Sounds like oppression and sexism on a large scale and gives you a bit of a WTF-moment right there, doesn’t it? When I first heard that I was in 9th grade economy class and I was disgusted and angry and didn’t bother to check the facts on this for a long time. Like up until a few months ago.
Thing is, it is not a fair comparison. We’re not comparing women and men working the same hours in the exact same job here. Everything over 35 hours/week counts as full-time and men in the States work on average 5 hours/week more than women. Both count as full time, both are part of this statistic. Also, there are still huge disparities between the jobs men and women tend to choose, because men are usually more willing to work under uncomfortable circumstances, doing dangerous and physically straining jobs and travel a lot while lots of women go into safe and in some cases terribly underpaid but more social professions. I’m not sure if this particular difference is more damaging to men or women, since guys get all the dangerous high stress factor shit and are pressured into being the provider their entire lives and women end up being underpaid and discouraged from becoming anything technical or political, but oh well.
Also men are more likely to equate their self-worth with their professional success while women tend to define themselves by their social standing (again, a gender roles thing), so they tend to be more competitive and ask for promotions much more frequently.
In any case, the wage gap as most people imagine it is a myth.
Thinking of women as lesser beings if they’re not the virginal type. As in saying ‘She wears short skirts and showed her boobs on the internet and she had sex with 10 guys since I met her, what a skank, what a whore, who would ever want to date that!’ and high-fiveing you best friend because he banged a different girl every night for the last 7 days ‘Perfect week, bro!’
Promiscuity is fine as long as you don’t hurt anyone physically or emotionally (as in STIs, cheating, mind games, etc) and calling women sluts is childish and stupid and if you think a woman is ‘dirty’ after you touched her, you probably should have washed your hands.
Oh, this is also part of the rape culture thing.
Side note: The word ‘slut’ is being redefined by my generation to lose its derogatory implications and become a symbol of someone who is a lover of sexual pleasures and is liberal enough to indulge those desires on her own terms. Girls who call themselves sluts usually embrace the term as something positive.
The difference between appreciating someone’s beauty and attractiveness and objectifying them is the difference between ‘boobs and butts’ and ‘tits and asses’. It’s respect for the person behind the image.
Objectification is writing about the murder of a model like this:
not mentioning her name but putting her on the cover in a bikini and making dumb sexual innuendoes about something that is far from fun and sexy.
It’s also risking a model’s physical health to take a picture of her standing half naked on a mountain when it’s -20°F and the rest of the crew is fully clothed and wearing warm jackets until she passes out and loses her eyesight and hearing. Happened to Kate Upton for this:
(I stole these two examples from the lovely feminist bluesigma**, who probably doesn’t agree with me on everything. So if you’re going to hate me, do not hate her for something I’ve said.)
Side note: Radfems* like to make objectification a part of rape culture ‘stare rape’, which I think is utter bullshit and trivialises the reality of psychologically damaging sexual assault.
Not a term invented by feminists, originally it referred to the way rape is condoned and seen as normal in American prisons. ‘You don’t want to be anyone’s girlfriend, do you?’ Hysterically funny (not really) cop jokes. Pretty sure you’ve heard some of those if you’ve ever seen a crime show.
But hey, the linguistic river never stops flowing and we change definitions of things all the time, so here’s the feminist rape culture idea:
Let’s say you’re a girl and you have been raped at a party, then you report the guy and the cops start asking questions. Of course they have to do that, it has to be proven like any other crime after all. The thing is, they do not ask you what happened, they ask you what you were wearing and what you were drinking and if you flirted with him. If your answer to those questions is something revealing, anything alcoholic and yes, your case is as good as lost, because apparently you were ‘asking for it’.
'He held you down and forced himself on you? Totally fine if you ever sent him a picture of your boobs, you’re a slut and probably enjoyed it anyway… really, what is the problem, it’s just snuggle struggle.' Ha, the hilarious rape jokes again.
And in some cultures, the virginity of a girl is so important that you risk being killed if someone finds out you were raped, so reporting it is completely out of the question. Then there is also the totally ok idea that women are murderers for having abortions after they were raped to get rid of the little souvenir that grows inside of them reminding them of what might have been the most traumatic thing they have ever experienced. And rapists can usually sue for shared custody of the child they created.
Oh, and rape victims get grilled like criminals during their trials, while the convicted rapists tend to go to jail for a shorter amount of time than internet activists or people who didn’t pay their taxes.
And don’t even get me started on the ‘she likes it rough’ argument in court when you have physical proof.
Side note: Crazy radfems* like to say that women can’t rape because it’s only rape if there is penetration and forget that there are literally all sorts of things you can shove into people. Also, the penetration thing is bullshit, forcing anyone to have sex with you without their consent is rape. The idea that men can’t get raped is a little less common even among radfems*, but equally stupid and sexist.
This is a pretty US-centric problem since few countries in Europe seriously considered making abortions illegal for decades***. Important nonetheless. I’m a philosophy student, so my opinions on abortions and the moral status of an embryo have more to do with ethics and metaphysics than with feminism, but I suppose very few people would agree with me on that. Tumblr activists tend to see the pro-life position as white republican men trying to oppress women by forcing them to have babies and valuing the life of a fetus more than its mother’s. Not true, pro-life and pro-choice opinions are pretty evenly distributed among genders, although there might be some truth to the assumption that most pro-lifers are religious/Republicans.
Not officially a part of feminism, but unfortunately there are branches of my movement in which ‘smash the patriarchy’ turned into ‘kill all men’. You know, ‘let’s stop misogyny by hating an entire gender and now that science has evolved this much, we can have babies without them anyway. Also, men obviously can’t be feminists, since they’re the oppressors… all of them, at all times.’
Very much vengeful irrational sexist thinking, very unproductive, very bad for our reputation, very ‘I want to shake them and make them sit in the naughty corner until they have come back to their senses’. And sadly, very teenage tumblr activism.
Side note: Some feminists think that misandry is not a thing and doesn’t affect men. It is and it does. More than you know.
The friend-zoned fedora wearing cishet white neckbeard nice-guy virgin:
'CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE, MATE! NO UTERUS, NO OPINION!'
I jest, I joke, I kid. It’s a popular strawman for every MRA (men’s rights activist) or more generally any man who disagrees with or questions tumblr feminism. Because attacking them for their supposed virginity and choice of clothing just makes us so much better than slut-shaming men *facepalm*
Also, the friendzone…. only a problem if the friend-zoned person actually thinks they are entitled to date you because they were nice to you. Most people who were rejected by someone they like don’t think that way. They might be hurt, sad and disappointed and not want to be around you and be your friend for awhile because of that reason, not because they think that if they can’t fuck you, you’re a bitch.
And nice guys do not finish last, girls are not exclusively into assholes. Nice guys always get the girl in the end, provided they have more going for them than just being ‘nice’.
*I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I am far from agreeing with some of those things. People who are very very much into all of them are called radical feminists, or radfems… or, in some cases, hypocritical sexist bitches (my 2 cents right there).
**I strongly recommend you all follow her and read her Feminism Master Post.
***Ireland had a complete ban on abortions until very recently and that is terrible and wrong. When I wrote this post, I didn’t know about that, but you can read a little bit more about it here.
Lastly, DO NOT JUST TAKE MY WORD FOR ANY OF THIS. Research it yourself. There are tons of studies and statistics out there and I, as well as any other feminist, anti-feminist, egalitarian, MRA, and everyone else who will post something on feminism on this site, am not a completely objective source. Don’t let me be your only one.
This was a very sensible, well thought out bit on modern feminism and it made me smile.