In Defence of 21st Century Feminism

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More and more frequently I seem to find people questioning whether we need feminism in the 21st century, a standpoint that baffles and bemuses me every single time. However, debate keeps our minds fresh and stops arguments from becoming stale. Therefore, people who question the importance of contemporary feminism play just as important a role in feminism as Emily Wilding Davidson did, when she stepped in front of the horse over 100 years ago. But the fact that we still need feminism is undeniable, and here’s why.

Firstly, we need to deal with the small yet crucial issue of the understanding of the word feminism. There is an erroneous misconception that feminists think women are the superior sex. The belief that women are better than men is actually known as hembrismo, which is the opposite of machismo. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said, ‘Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.’ Yes, it has the word ‘fem’ in it instead of ‘masc’ and yes, this could be seen as misleading, but can we just agree that the aim of feminism is equality? Frustratingly, I find this point having to be reiterated again and again, repeated countless times in Wessex Scene articles let alone the media as a whole.

21st century feminism has moved beyond the stereotypical tropes of burning our bras (expensive) and being angry all the time (tiring), and yet feminists are still assigned the stigma of wanting a matriarchal society, in which all the men are forced to wait on us like slaves. Constantly having to explain the definition of feminism wastes precious time that could be spent getting on with the real goal – equality of all people.

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Not an accurate representation of a feminist. Image Credit: www.feministmemes.tumblr.com

The Women Against Feminism movement has gained momentum in the last few years, which isn’t surprising due to the widespread myth that feminists are man haters who ignore all hardships not related to women. A recent viral video showed a young woman, Lauren Southern, ‘destroying‘ feminism in under 3 minutes, based on the evidence that men have problems too and ‘feminists’ don’t campaign for them. The fact that men have problems too is undeniably true, but fighting for women to be equal to men does not lessen their cause.

People who claim that feminism is in some way denying men a voice and a sense of agency is missing the point of feminism entirely. As Andrew Lowry reports:

Huffing and puffing about humourless harridans who are trying to deny the lads their banter doesn’t change any of the systemic realities in our society. And turning the progress women have made into an excuse for quasi-politicised self-pity is just pathetic. Feminism is not a zero-sum game, where every breakthrough for women means a loss for men.

The argument that feminism somehow reduces the importance of male issues is ludicrous. A similar argument emerged in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter, a movement that aimed to highlight the inequalities faced by Black people in America. It led to ‘outrage’, as some believed it would be more appropriate to have a campaign entitled ‘All Lives Matter’. Whilst this seems like a beautiful sentiment, it actually damagingly serves to dismiss the systematic oppression of black people and does nothing to further the cause against it. A perfect illustration of why the ‘All Lives Matter’ idea is ridiculous comes from actor Matt McGorry:

However, the Women Against Feminism movement, whilst seeming to miss the point that feminism doesn’t dismiss men’s problems, does actually serve any purpose. Women Against Feminism continually highlights the progress and sense of agency that feminism has afforded women. These women have actively decided that feminism (or equality) isn’t for them, and used the platform they have express this; something that they wouldn’t be able to do had women’s rights campaigners not fought for their right to a voice. As Caitlin Moran says:

The more women argue loudly, against feminism, the more they both prove it exists and that they enjoy its hard-won privilege

Worryingly many people who argue against feminism also claim they don’t need it because they are not ‘victims’, viewing feminism as irrelevant because they themselves do not feel oppressed or marginalised. This is the more concerning side of the anti-feminist movement, as it implies that because oppression is not tangible for you, it doesn’t exist.

This sentiment also reeks of privilege. This particular breed of anti-feminist campaigners cruelly use their voice and agency – afforded to them by years of women’s rights campaigning – to deny the same thing to people living in oppressed conditions all over the world. This is hardly ‘progressive’ as the anti-feminism movement claims to be.

Third wave feminism does mean equality, and it does mean the right to freely choose how you use your voice. The constant degradation of the word feminism continually highlights why we still need feminism in the 21st century – to fight for a voice and equality for everyone.

 

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Discussion4 Comments

  1. avatar

    “can we just agree that the aim of feminism is equality?”

    I wish we could, but “feminism” means exactly what “feminists” represent. If you don’t want them to represent you, you (as a movement) are going to have to start denouncing those who taint your name. Otherwise, you will always be viewed as guilty by association

    “The fact that men have problems too is undeniably true, but fighting for women to be equal to men does not lessen their cause.”

    If that was all they did, sure. Unfortunately, feminists often engage in rhetoric of lessening men’s cause just to make themselves feel “more equal”. It’s particularly interesting that you bring up #AllLivesMatter vs #BlackLivesMatter. Substitute “feminism” for #AllLivesMatter and “actual equality” for #BlackLivesMatter and your argument suddenly defeats itself.

    You subscribe to an idealised version of feminism which is rarely represented in reality. If you want people to accept your version of feminism, become the change that you’d like to see. Make it a reality rather than a hypothetical concept. That way you won’t have to complain about how hard it is to restate your fantasy over and over with others disbelieving it.

  2. avatar

    “people who question the importance of contemporary feminism play just as important a role in feminism as Emily Wilding Davidson did”

    I don’t know how much influence you think Davidson had on anything, but I think it’s safe to say that you are overstating it. Many countries managed to give women the vote before the UK without any morons accidentally getting themselves killed in a publicity stunt.

    “‘Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.’”

    Oh the dictionary says that. Case settled, cheers. Unfortunately, you can’t hide behind the dictionary definition whilst ignoring the actions of real world feminists. The 1946 Webster’s dictionary defines a Nazi as “A member of the National Socialist German Workers’ party of Germany.” It’s not a complete definition and can’t be used as a defence against accusations of anti-semitism. Anti-feminists haven’t arrived at their position due to a misinterpretation of a dictionary entry, you can stop quoting from it.

    “Feminism is not a zero-sum game, where every breakthrough for women means a loss for men.”

    When the CEO of Women’s Aid—a domestic violence charity—describes the ManKind charity, which offers aid and advice to male victims of DV as “competition”, that is feminism operating as a zero-sum game. When feminists organizations hijacked DV and operate under the premise of the Duluth model—which specifically excludes male victims of DV—that is men being discriminated against due to the actions of feminists. The NATIONAL Domestic Violence Helpline does not accept calls from male victims. I don’t care about ‘humourless harridans’, I can just avoid you. I do care about your ideology getting in the way of the fair treatment of all victims of certain crimes.

    “The argument that feminism somehow reduces the importance of male issues is ludicrous.”

    Hmm. A couple of days ago there was a story on sky news about air-con being set too low for women in offices. On the actual television. Pretty much at the same time there was news of a child being circumcised (utterly f’d up in its own right) against his mother’s wishes. Not a peep about that on the news. Male issues aren’t even on the agenda. No mainstream media outlet cares. Right now there are literally thousands of men being used pretty much as slave labour to make the world cup happen in Qatar. Nobody cares.

    Feminism’s approach to equality is concentrating solely on the issues of one gender in order to achieve parity, how can you not see that the problem’s of women are placed above those of men in Feminism? If you place one group’s problems above those of another group, then you are reducing the importance of the second group’s problems. That just seems obvious.

    “something that they wouldn’t be able to do had women’s rights campaigners not fought for their right to a voice”

    Sorry, this is just nonsense. Women have had a voice for a long time, just look at a list of the best selling authors of the 18th and 19th century. Mary Wollstonecraft’s Rights of Women was published in 1972. The idea that women would be banned from the internet or having opinions had it not been for Women’s Rights campaigners is ludicrous. The Women’s Lib should be thanking the move to oil based industries that changed the very nature of ‘going to work’ and the contraceptive pill for their plight’s advancement.

    “viewing feminism as irrelevant because they themselves do not feel oppressed or marginalised.”

    You’re missing the point. A lot of women feel that feminism is infantilizing. A lot of women feel that 3rd wave feminism robs them of their agency.

    “this particular breed of anti-feminist campaigners cruelly use their voice and agency – afforded to them by years of women’s rights campaigning”

    Just. No. See above.

    “The constant degradation of the word feminism continually highlights why we still need feminism in the 21st century – to fight for a voice and equality for everyone.”

    Oooooo… Lewis’s Law. This really means nothing.
    -The constant degradation of the word Tory continually highlights why we still need conservatism in the 21st century.
    -The constant degradation of the word Communist continually highlights why we still need communism in the 21st century.
    The manner in which somebody uses a word that describes an ideology tell us nothing beyond their opinion of that ideology. You can’t expand beyond that in any meaningful way. And I’m going to do it anyway:
    -The constant degradation of the word Nazi continually highlights why we still need National Socialism in the 21st century.

  3. avatar

    A fantastic response – you’ve highlighted everything I had issues with in this article. Feminism is not how feminist’s say it is.

    They reject most dictionary definitions for being controlled by the patriarchy, but say “HUR DUR FEMINISM IS GOOD LOOK IT UP IN THE DICTIONARY!”

    They hate it when people say “Not all man” but they’ll turn around and say “Not all feminists” when given an example of an irrational rad fem becoming the feminist norm.

    They claim they want gender equality but hate people who don’t want to label themselves as “feminists” due to all the negative connotations and prefer “egalitarianist”. They say it derails what the feminist movement stands for say you are not feminist but egalitarian. But if they looked up the definitions in their beloved dictionary, they would find that “egalitarian” means equality for everyone, and is different to the definition of feminism. Funny that. Surely if you advocate equality for all it shouldn’t matter what label you give yourself?

    On the subject of labels – they hate binary terms and labels. But they go crazy if someone, in particular a woman, does not label themselves as feminist but as egalitarian.

    If feminism wants female empowerment and equality of the sexes, then they should respect the decision of another woman, no another human being, not to want to be a feminist. Because freedom and empowerment. But no, they say “you’re controlled by the patriarchy, you need to educate yourself” – it is infantilising and insulting to suggest the person is not educated enough to make up their own minds about not wanting to be a feminist. And for damn good reasons.

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