One of the main criticisms of modern American feminism is that it’s no longer needed now that women are equals. I disagree, but not for the same reason as most. I disagree because if I had to go back to the time before first-wave feminism, I would rather be a female than a male. Why? Because overall it would be easier.
Everybody sees first-wave feminism as an uncontroversial, black-and-white, all-good movement filled with brave women who made life livable for half the population. I think the movement was full of audacious brats.
Before the first wave of whiners, rights came with corresponding responsibilities. With male power came a heavy burden, one that would send the most empowered modern feminist running to the safety of her kitchen. Men were the leaders of the household, but with that power came the responsibility of protecting it with his life, and with every man’s political franchise came the responsibility to protect the country in which he could vote.
Yes, it really sucked to be a woman back then with the no-right-to-vote thing, but I think it sucked even harder for men with the whole “go to war or go to jail” thing. I’d much rather be forced to stay at home and clean than go overseas and die.
My problem with first-wavers isn’t that they believed women had the right to vote; my problem is that they claimed that their gender had it worse, when the truth is that the men of the time lived in fear of being drafted.
What bothers me more is the portrayal of these feminists today. They are looked at as heroes for all women of the time. In school, I was taught more about the women who “fought” for political rights than the men who actually fought for the freedom of these women to complain. I was taught first-wave feminists represented all women, when in fact many women did not want political franchise because they feared they might be forced to bear some responsibilities with those rights (which, of course, never happened).
The first wave is also regarded as a movement of warriors for gender equality, something they most certainly were not. They lobbied for women’s rights, yes, but not gender equality. They were only interested in deconstructing gender roles that were inconvenient for their own gender. When it came to male gender roles, they either ignored or enforced them. Take the white-feather movement, a campaign that is brought up in exactly zero feminist-study courses. The white-feather movement was made up of first-wave feminists who would go around in search of men not wearing an Army uniform and give them a white feather. This was a symbolic gesture meant to shame men into doing their manly duty by joining the Army.
Today, First World women have the same political rights as men, and thanks to later feminist movements, women do not have to conform to the old gender roles. But what about men? They are still forced to adhere to their gender role as protector. Sure, the stay-at-home dad isn’t as stigmatized as he used to be, but the deadbeat is. It is not acceptable for a man to shirk his household responsibilities, but it’s fine if a woman wants to abandon her family in order to “find herself.” Men who do not protect their wives or prioritize their lives over the lives of women in an emergency are still seen as cowards. Both genders have rights, but only one still bears the responsibilities.
So what’s the solution? We could have a society free of gender roles. The stronger would open doors and the richer would pick up checks. Those more caring would raise the children while the tougher would protect them. The draft would include both men and women because women are just as capable as men, right? Something tells me most women would find this to be a raw deal.
Sure, some anti-gender-role feminists have fought against chivalry in the name of being strong and independent, but these efforts rarely go further than putting an end to the male doorman. Put a feminist in a dangerous situation and she’ll have no problem being the damsel in distress. Why hasn’t there been a movement to change the still culturally acceptable rule of “women and children first?” I mean, doesn’t it imply woman are almost as incapable as kids?
Of course I believe women should have the same rights as men, but I also believe if we want the same amount of power, we should accept the social responsibilities that come with it. Some women have done this—for example, female police officers or soldiers. These women have accomplished more in their actions in proving they can be as capable as men than any feminist has in her words. Thankfully, the draft is not in effect today, but if one day it comes back, maybe people will wake up from their delusions when they watch their sons being sent away to kill or to die while feminists complain about how sexist it is that they have to pay for birth control.