How modern feminism is toxic to its purpose
Today, we are at the peak of the women’s equality movement.
More women are in political office than ever before and women’s rights are a constant conversation.
It’s no secret women are on the rise and these successes are due to strong women defying the odds, both big and small.
While many identify as feminists, meaning they fight for equality of the sexes, some indulge in remarks, ways of being and ideologies, which counter their self-proclaimed “feminist” status. Many of these people don’t realize it, but a lot of what they put into the world is hypocritical to what they believe is a part of their core beliefs as feminists.
As a society, we like to think that the days of statements like, “women belong in the kitchen” are over. And while the majority of us buried those statements long ago, there are still plenty of people who haven’t, even in the most modern of western countries like the U.S.
The phrase “wife me up” is the most obvious. Yet, somehow not obvious enough.
This phrase is commonly used when a woman makes an Instagram-worthy meal. It’s meant to infer that since she can cook, she must be marriage material.
But saying this completely gives in to gender roles, misogyny and sexism.
Another area where self-proclaimed feminists should support each other –– but support often falls short –– is among victims of sexual harassment and assault.
When it comes to sexual harassment victims, self-proclaimed feminists will often say, “she can come forward when she is ready.”
That is completely valid and appropriate, and victims should come forward whenever they feel comfortable. But telling your story often doesn’t serve the same purpose 20 years down the road. As feminists, we should stand together and encourage victims to come forward sooner rather than later. If we foster a supportive community, we could change the course of assault cases to come.
We also wouldn’t expect men to keep their stories in the dark. We would expect them to come forward right away in the same circumstance.
What kind of example does it set to fight for “equality” but hold men and women to different standards?
This concept also shows its face when we give women special treatment –– think about how often we expect men to let women go first, even pay for dates and drinks.
This is called benevolent sexism –– behaviors that seem positive but actually perpetuate stereotypes against women.
This happens daily, as we see society pushing for women to appear strong and powerful but simultaneously coddling and protecting them. This does not create any new branches for improvement, but blurs the line between positive and stereotyped perceptions of women.
This is not to say that chivalry is dead. It is to say that chivalry should go both ways.
We also want job fields to be more diverse, especially when it comes to STEM fields.
Thus, many schools have created special STEM programs — just for girls. This indirectly implies that women need special treatment to be included, to feel needed, to feel smart.
And if girls make it out of those programs into others that aren’t specifically for women, they often end up in settings with overpowering, misogynistic men who will inevitably be waiting for them to mess up. This transition from exclusive, female environments can leave women not knowing how to handle workplace sexism.
These all-girl STEM programs set girls up for failure.
While some might say “Don’t train the women, fix the men,” I believe everyone needs to make an effort in this fight.
By definition, feminism is the fight for equality.
In what we see and practice every day, feminism lifts women up because society has pushed them down for far too long.
It exists as a celebration, liberation and constant reminder of the past.
And while I’m here for feminism and equality, I don’t believe we need an extra step. We don’t need the “Females are the Future” T-shirts, the National Women’s Days or the general commotion surrounding the movement.
I believe we should hold ourselves to higher standards, focusing on humans and not genders. And the shift from male dominance to equality won’t come from marketing, it will come from action.
Feminism would be stronger without all of the unnecessary branding, because it shows women don’t need praise, we need change.
The opinion desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.