Hey, anti-feminists! I’m a mom, sister, cousin, aunt, friend, professor, nature-lover, singer and actress, and I am proud to say that I am a feminist. I’m proud because I actually know what the word means. Feminism isn’t about “disrespect.” It’s about equality.
To those who have swallowed the Feminazi portrayal of feminists propagated by Rush Limbaugh and other misogynists who are threatened by the notion of women having equal rights in our society, I urge you to look at the reality rather than they hype. If you’ve been convinced that feminism is about hating men, it may be time for you to turn the dial on your TV and radio station. The message you’re getting has been distorted, either by the sender or through your own perception. Contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, there is no war on men. Stand down. There is, however, a call by feminists for women to be treated like humans rather than objects.
I have two young women and a young man whom I raised to be hardworking, loyal, decent people who treat others with respect. However, unlike some in the anti-feminist blogosphere, I don’t want my son to treat women like princesses. I want him to treat women as treasured equals, the way all humans should, ideally, be treated. And, this seems to be where the confusion lies.
Feminism and chivalry are not mutually exclusive. And, good news! Chivalry is not dead. Rather, in my house it is, as intended,
extended to all. You see, I want my son and daughters to hold the door open for the person behind them because it’s a polite thing to do, regardless of whether the person behind them through the door is a male or female. And, when someone holds the door for them, I want them to say “thank you” and mean it. It’s nice to be nice. A young man opening the car door for his date is making a kind gesture. That gesture is rendered meaningless if he subjugates his date via attitudes, expectations and behaviors that belie respect.
I often hear you say, “I want to raise my sons to be gentlemen.” I applaud you for that. The world needs more true gentlemen. I just hope that they don’t turn out to be the kind of “gentlemen” who believe women should NOT have a voice, the right to vote, or equal pay, or own land, or sign contracts or use contraceptives, or have maternity leave without fear of losing their jobs. Historically, a lot of self-described gentlemen have rallied against women’s rights in the name of preserving traditional sex roles, all the while claiming they love and respect women and want to protect them. Oh, and by protect them, what they really meant was–I need to have power over women, and should, because women are “less than.” A true gentleman is both sensitive and respectful, not condescending. I’m all for raising true gentlemen. Carry on…
Unlike you, if a young girl dresses in a way that doesn’t strike me as “decent” (whatever that may mean to each of us) I don’t consider it an expression of radical feminism. Instead of making me bristle with judgment, it makes me wonder—if our girls lived in a society that valued their brains, and humor, and other wonderful qualities and talents rather than hammering them, from birth, with messages saying their worth hinges upon being pretty, how would that affect their self-perceptions? When our young girls receive messages their entire lives pronouncing that their survival depends upon their ability to attract a man, how does that affect their choices? If, as a woman, you make 23 percent less than a man for doing the same job, how might that affect your feelings of self-worth, and how might those feelings affect your life decisions?
You seem upset that your boys may be seen as threats. Because I raised two girls, in addition to a boy, I may have a different perspective than you on the issue of what constitutes a threat. You see, I want my girls to be safe, even if that means not responding to a hello or returning eye contact. But, my son doesn’t believe that eye contact and saying hello makes him a threat. Perhaps that’s because he understands that it’s entirely possible that a boy who smiles and makes eye contact and says hello actually IS a threat to his sisters, and therefore, it’s simply wise for women to be cautious. That’s the reality in our society. He doesn’t take it personally, or feel any shame for being a man. He understands that we live in a world where women aren’t treated as equals and are, too often, victims of sexual assault. Knowing that doesn’t “suppress” his masculinity—it enhances it.
As a white male, my son has privileges that his sisters and people of color don’t. For him to claim that he’s somehow being discriminated against and made to feel bad for being a man would be an insult to all who have struggled and fought for equal rights—rights that may now exist on record (for some) thanks to our feminist friends of the past and present, but do not always exist in practice. There’s still a long way to go before women are afforded equal pay and equal opportunities in our society. Sadly, our society’s treatment and portrayal of women lags behind the laws that have been put in place to exact change.
Feminism is not the problem. Gender hegemony is the problem. Those who have historically dominated others fight hard to maintain that dominance. When the laws shift and threaten their power, they shift their tactics in order to convince the very people they dominate that their condition is not only better for them, but that those who seek equality are the enemy. It appears, in your case, that strategy has been successful.
As for me, I’m grateful for feminism. I’m grateful for those who have fought to give me the right to vote, own land, sign contracts, make decisions about my body, get equal pay for equal work, etc. I’m also grateful for men who aren’t threatened by equality. Men and women feminists know that advocating for political, economic, social and cultural equality is a good thing. THAT is feminism. As for being treated “like a princess,” I’ll pass. I’d rather be “the master of my fate,” and, “the captain of my soul.” (Henley, 1888).