Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Feminists Are Not the Enemy

If you happen to stumble onto some of the male studies (as opposed to men's studies) or men's rights movement (MRM) blogs - especially the later - you might be led to believe that feminists and feminism are the worst things to happen to men since the invention of machine guns and mustard gas. There is some well-founded concerns that have become a nearly irrational hate (among some parts of the collective thing we call a men's movement) towards all forms of feminism and the feminists (of both sexes and all genders) who support them.

When we talk about religion and politics, people tend to quickly agree that all -isms are bad. In fact, when science gets dogmatic, it is now called scientism. So, obviously, when any set of beleifs become concretized into an ism, whether it's socialism, capitalism, feminism - or even masculinism - nothing good tends to come of it.

Many of the goals of feminism are simply crucial to a healthy culture and society. But when it goes too far (Warren Farrell quit his membership in NOW when he discovered one small faction was fighting to create laws that would award parental rights ONLY to mothers in cases of divorce, a patently insane idea), then we have a problem. There are many other examples of it having gone too far.

The MRM guys think it has ALL gone to far - and that all feminists are evil (this is a huge generalization, but it's "generally" true).

On the other hand, I know a lot of of younger feminists (under 50) who care about male rights and men's rights - and who oppose efforts to isolate men from their children, who oppose automatically assuming that any claim of sexual assault must be true, and who wonder when gender equality is going to begin taking men into consideration.

I found this young woman, Chelsea L,. by accident - but she represents the kind of feminist we need more of in the world. She posted this observation at We Are the Wave, a student blog of young feminist/gender studies students. My guess is that she is a minority among her peers - but good for her for posting this entry.

Real Gender Equality

In class, we've talked a lot about gender equality, but we focused on women, which is understandable, considering this is a women's and gender studies class. But what about men? If true gender equality is what we want, doesn't that include giving men the ability to do what they want, regardless of whether or not it conforms to the ideals of masculinity?

It has been my observation that more women are breaking gender barriers than men. Women are enrolling in college in greater and greater numbers, outnumbering men at many institutions, ours included (C of C is over 60 percent female). Law schools are very close to equal enrollment of men and women. But how many male preschool teachers do you know? I didn't have a male teacher until I reached 6th grade, and by the time I had left middle school, I had only had 2 male teachers (both, incidentally, science teachers).

This is not to say that women have broken all gender barriers. There are still obstacles to true gender equality. Women are still paid less than men for the same work. Women are still horribly underrepresented in politics. Women still have to fight to balance a career and family.

But I think gender inequality is a great example of how oppression harms the oppressor along with the oppressed. Take, for example, the recent recession, or, as some pundits like to call it, the "mancession". Because women were paid less for the same work, many businesses found it more economical to lay off men when cutting expenses. As a result, more men lost their jobs. And while women are fighting for maternity leave, paternity leave is a foreign concept for most Americans, at a time when more men than ever say that having a family is a priority.

While I am not arguing that feminism should shift its focus from fighting for a woman's right to work to fighting for a man's right to stay home, I do believe that those are two battles that would be more effectively fought together. If women are no longer the primary caretakers of children, employers would no longer be able to use that as an excuse to pay women less. Would many employers simply find another excuse? Yes. But as their excuses become weaker and weaker, more people will see the pay gap for what it is (institutional sexism) and demand change. And isn't that what we want?

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