The Necessity and the Flaws of Feminism: the Ideal Is Striving For Equality for All
by Susanna Chen
illustration by Susanna Chen
Laci Green is a well-known and controversial figure in the YouTube community. A self-acclaimed public sex educator, she openly discusses female sexuality in her hundreds of videos with titles declaring their content loudly in capital letters. In one of her more popular videos, “ WHY I’M A FEMINIST…*gasp*”, her face engulfs the frame, with a pair of trendy, black-square glasses centered on the screen. With quick jump cuts characteristic of YouTube videos, Green rattles off reasons justifying the feminist movement, ranging from the wage gap and objectification of women.
However, a seemingly positive video is contradicted by a divided comments section and a mixed like to dislike ratio. Many of viewers disagree with Green’s arguments, accusing her of hypocrisy as she claims to support gender equality while ignoring the sexism that is faced by men.
This pattern is typical of the feminist movement, which has become an increasingly polarizing force among social media where seemingly half of the internet are fervent supporters and the other half in dead opposition.
Feminism is a tangible force that has permeated history and propelled the western world to the heights from which it stands today. Driven by the belief that universal suffrage was an inalienable right, thousands of women combatted the oppressive inequality through tireless protest. They starved themselves in order to draw attention to their campaign supporting female voting rights. In response, the men who strictly opposed their activism forced the women to suffer through inhumane punishment such as force feeding. And because of these activists, women now hold the same rights as men do in western countries.
“Feminism is necessary because of how the country was founded,” stated sophomore Shayna Maleson, “There are founding fathers for men, but there aren’t founding mothers for women. And the way women have been treated for hundreds of years, we’re still feeling the effects of it and it’s not entirely fixed. You can look anywhere. Look at Donald Trump. Look at representation of women as CEOs of companies at anything. They’re underrepresented…We’re still fixing that.”
This has prompted the movement to divert its focus. Originating as a fight for equal rights, feminism has evolved into a campaign for female empowerment in order to battle the societal pressures that pervade the media, shaping what is considered the ideal woman.
Female empowerment is both influential and necessary. It is needed to make amends to the condition of females as it continues to be plagued by a history of systematic oppression.
However, I am wary of defining myself as a first world feminist.
This is not due to the intentions of the movement, but rather what it has evolved into, propelled – as so many modern movements are – by social media.
Too often, feminism has become an idea that females define themselves as for the sake of associating themselves with a set of ideas without actively working to overcome gender roles. Sexism is easily assumed over skewed statistics circulated by the internet pointing to discrimination, many times without sound factual basis.
One of the most prominent examples of misinformation is the case of the wage gap which claims that women earned $0.78 for every dollar that a man earns. However, the factors that were not taken into account include job types that women tend to take, hours worked, and others.
Some claim that sexism is still demonstrated by the wage gap as the job types typically associated with women are generally paid less. However, the tendency of women to hold lesser paying jobs may not be entirely due to gender expectations. Rather, it could be a testament to the values of a society which places less importance on jobs in education, hospitality, and caretaking.
Feminists have become a group that strives for equality while many of its members fail to fully understand what gender equality truly means. Women who do not identify themselves as feminists are shamed and dismissed as “gender traitors”, while men are vilified as misogynists who are indoctrinated to view women solely as sexual objects. This has set back the original purpose of feminism.
“I think egalitarianism is necessary,” said senior Cameron Sloan, “But I don’t agree with the idea that women are superior to men, because some people think that’s feminism.”
In the process of advocating for female empowerment, feminism is often mistaken as a movement opposing men rather than a movement towards equality. Men are considered as the root of female subjugation. Patriarchy has become a word to describe not the established system that used to rule American society but as a scapegoat for any slight act of sexism against women. Some feminists display themselves as the victims to the oppressive tendencies of males and hide behind accusations supported by skewed statistics and claimed intentions of equality in attempt to conceal their hypocrisy.
Sloan added, “Girls talk about certain male celebrities and they stare at them, but if a male were to do that, it would be seen as entirely different. Whereas, when a girl does it, it’s looked at as innocent.” Sloan’s insight has an element of truth. In general, when men are caught objectifying women, they are considered sexist and perverted, while women who do the same thing to men are not painted the same way.
It is dangerous to blame an issue as diverse and complex as sexism solely on the pitfalls of one gender. And the generalizations of men that arise from the feminist movement are the exact reasons why sexism is perpetuated.
Consequently, feminism is stigmatized, construing its members as oversensitive backers of political correctness. On the internet, the backlash against feminism has culminated in the anti-feminist movement with terms such as “feminazi” used to refer to radical feminists. First world feminism has become misguided, losing its original intentions. Fairness should be built on merit and founded value, not demanded respect with no basis. As a result, true equality cannot be achieved when only one side is considered.
“I think there are a lot of radical ‘feminists’ that give feminism a bad name,” said Maleson.
This unhealthy pattern has misconstrued feminism as a movement to take power from men rather than promote equality. Instead, feminism should work towards equality by defeating the constraints for all genders through heightening understanding and thoughtfulness.
Many are quick to point out the sexism that females face, but fail to acknowledge that sexism is a result of generalization and can apply to all genders. “People seem to recognize sexism against women really well, but they can’t recognize it for men,” stated freshman Morgan Carter.
As a sister of three brothers, I am aware of the social pressures that men also face to fulfill certain standards. Masculinity is expected of them, and traits that might be considered domestic are looked down upon. In a custody battle, men have little chance against women. Nurturing roles, such as caretakers and elementary school teachers are not traditionally associated with men, and are therefore dismissed as degrading to their masculinity.
“If a man does something that is more feminine, he might be considered ‘gay’ when that should never be the case,” said Maleson.
Sexual harassment of men is taken significantly less seriously as they are generally portrayed as the convict and not the victim. This indicates the risk in tying the cause of an issue to a specific group rather than the individuals who commit the crime.
Men who objectify women exist. However, women who objectify men also exist. But, it is when sexism is blamed solely on one gender that it becomes counterproductive to the pursuit of equality. For feminism to work and make a long-lasting impact, it must change in order to be more mindful of all genders.