Tuesday, 10 June 2014

We are not here to fight you

Explaining the most common misconceptions, stereotypes and accusations towards feminists.

I was supposed to write an article where I would provide the counterarguments to the most common misconceptions regarding feminists and their cause. In the process of searching the questions and accusations, I encountered few blogs, which were clearly against feminism. They accused feminist of hypocrisy, discrimination against men, propagating mistrust, tension and hatred between sexes. Sadly, feminism is no longer perceived as rejection of patriarchal system and striving for equality. Stereotypically, feminism is perceived and thought of as a man-hating brand of gender superiority.

As a feminist, I encountered many of these accusation, I heard people saying that our claims are absurd, that we are stupid and only ugly girls can be feminists (yup, heard all of that). That women don't have it so bad, that we have a power over men and we should cherish that and stop complaining about the things we don't have. 

So my first reaction was really defensive against those blogs and people behind them. Yes, words “sexism” and “misogyny” came to my mind. Of course, after reading few lines it became apparent that they have never read anything academic that feminists produced, that they are not following top women’s rights campaigns and that basically they have never read anything about imbalances of power, politics, etc. (basically anything that some smart people wrote, other smart people confirmed or refuted. Their arguments were not properly supported by any work that had merit).

But when I got deeper into the content, it became apparent to me that they are not against feminism per se, they are just against some concepts and some claims that feminist make. Well, they are allowed to. Sure, some women who claim to be feminist are saying loads of crap, they are abusive, offensive and base their arguments on flawed presumptions. However, by clinging onto selected cases of ridiculous feminist articles and causes, anti-feminists are missing the bigger picture.

The problem is that most men opposing feminism are scared. They are simply afraid that our fight for equal rights will mean the limitations of theirs. And as some of the feminists claims concern domestic and social sphere, they believe that better situation for women will mean deterioration of theirs. And I think that’s the biggest misconception of all.

The truth is that most of the feminists love men. We love them. You won’t believe it, but men make the most amazing husbands, brothers, fathers and sons. For instance, I have the most wonderful boyfriend in the world and guess what? He is male, I love him and would do anything to help him succeed and to make his life comfortable. But I won’t sacrifice my dreams, either and I won’t put his well-being and happiness in front of mine.

We feminists want to see all men succeed and prosper, be happy and contempt. But not at our expense and not by neglecting our rights. Empowering women, bringing them to power and allowing them to aspire to great things is not a threat to men. Heck, if someone was trying to limit men’s rights (and by inference, my boyfriend’s rights), I would be the first on the barricade campaigning against it! Because this isn’t the way. By advocating for protection of our rights, we are not forcing governments or others to make a choice “x” or “y” – men’s rights or women’s rights. We are seeing this as an equation: x and y = future.

People opposing to the feminists justifications and claims for inequality can find themselves tangled in a wide variety of terms. Gender inequality, power imbalance, social construction of gender – actually, they are meaningless if you don’t know their context. Without a historical, academic and social context, those are just scare words that people use however they please without any concern for the mess they are creating around it. So I won’t go into depth of this concepts, because I’m not an expert in Women Studies or Feminists Science Studies, whatever you call it. And if you don’t study them, you should ignore them too.

It is true that some of our claims leave men out of equation. By doing this, we don’t want to see men’s rights neglected. But sometimes, by equality we mean equal right to have your needs taken care off. And sometimes we have different needs than men and in order to be healthy/happy/strong we need some type of preferential treatment and assurance that particularly those rights are protected.

Women in Malawi
Let me explain what I mean by providing an example. I remember reading about problems in humanitarian context with distribution of food. In the areas where there is severe malnutrition and the response is designed to provide people with food, people are receiving so called “food baskets”, which is a variety of pulses, flours, oils, etc. to provide them with basic nutrients necessary to survive and fight malnutrition. The food is given to the family to distribute among themselves. It wasn’t much, but it was enough. Some of the families got better, they still were poorly nourished, but they were all getting better. However, there were instances where the children and women were still malnourished and only men weren’t affected. After careful investigation, it was obvious that some families do not distribute food according to needs, but according to the status.

What that meant, was that a man as a head of a family was allowed to get full with the food, while women and children were eating what was left for that day. And it happened regardless of whether mother was pregnant or breastfeeding and whether child was very young or not.

I can already hear some of you yelling that if we want equality than the woman shouldn’t get the special treatment just because she’s pregnant. Well, my question is: why not? There are situations where women should get preferential treatment than men. And it’s not to instil inequality and shift the balance of power. It’s just a human thing to do, to sometimes think about other’s needs. So in this situation, the person, who should have her needs taken care of is woman as she is with baby and she needs to be healthy in order for her child to be healthy. There is no man-hatred here, it’s pure biology. Pregnant women needs healthy diet for their foetus to develop into a healthy baby. And children needs nutrients for their brain development and general health. Adult men, as fully developed and with stronger organisms, they could go without being full for some time and survive only on the amount of food that was necessary to keep them out of hunger.

If the situation was different, that man was working long hours in a field and women had non-exhaustive tasks, I would agree that man needs more nutrients to work more efficiently. It depend on a context and on the needs.

So you see, sometimes putting the needs of one person in front of the other is necessary for the most vulnerable to get a fighting chance for survival. And it never means that this other person is less important or their rights will be violated. It just means that in this particular situation someone else’s needs have to be put in front for the general situation to improve.

My particular area of interest is violence against women and I would love to see more fierce action to stop this type of violence. As a women, I am very passionate about this subject. The sole idea that a man might find it justifiable to beat his wife or rape another women, just because he perceives it as his male right, just boils my blood. And I don’t see any justification for it, nobody deserves such treatment. I want to see it stopped. But advocating for ending domestic and sexual violence or at least for better justice response, feminists are not trying to divert the attention from another crimes. It’s just something we feel passionate about, we don’t imagine that such situation can happen in a civilized world and we will always oppose it. But we are not standing in a way for seeing other crimes receive justice.

I hear frequently the voices saying “what about violence against men”? What about the situation when it is a women who hate men and attacks them?

My answer would be: please, tell me more. I am not a man. I have no idea what kind of threats awaits them. But if I knew, if men were to speak more loudly about their pains and their abuse, I would be again in front campaigning for it to stop. Both situations are unacceptable and both causes can be defended in parallel.

I know that many women abuse their husbands. That sexual violence is not only delivered by men to women, it’s also the other way around. Can’t you see? It’s exactly the same misconceptions and social norms that prevent the victims of these crimes to seek justice and see it delivered. Why? By highlighting and enforcing the stereotypical masculine and feminine values, we are allowing those crimes to occur and we automatically silence all victims. How we construct and reinforce femininity and masculinity does not keep society whole. It keeps us apart, divided, hurt and broken.

I cannot even start to imagine how many boys and man have been raped by their mothers, aunts, cousins, sisters, girlfriends! They have no one to turn to, because the entire society tells them that they should be proud and happy, because experienced women introduced them to the world of sex. That they need to want sex, all the time, anytime, always. But nobody even stops to think whether they were ready when it happened, whether they wanted it at that time, whether they wanted it with HER. And they are forced to live with the memory of experience which feels so wrong and yet everybody tells them that it should (heck, must!) feel right.

Instead of forcing on people what stereotypically they should perceive as natural and normal, we should stop and listen and allow them to admit that what they experienced wasn’t alright. In this particular situation, we are putting victim’s needs in front of the non-affected and non-abused person. And by wanting some attitudes to change, we are not accusing innocent people of being hurtful to others. We just want to see the victims protected and cared for, and guilty people punished. That’s it. There is nothing more to it.

If you want to know what is the vision of equal world that feminists are fighting for, don’t listen to those who scream the loudest, verbally abusing others, their beliefs and opinions. Look and listen to those, who fiercely, but with respect lecture about their views and are open to dialogue. Whose views might be opposing to yours, but who want to see a better world for everybody.

Listen to Jackson Katz, laugh at Ellen show, look at the campaigns of UN Women, Bollocks to Poverty, UNFPA or Girls not Brides. Just think about it for a second, how our world is constructed and what some of us really try to change about it.

And if you still don’t agree with all of that, then that’s your right. 

Written by Vespertilio

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