My newsfeed has been overflowing with anti-feminist posts for the past 48 hours and I’ve seen a lot of great discussion on both sides. Political debate is awesome and people seem super politically charged lately (hmm wonder why?) so I couldn’t help but join in. I don’t want to talk about women. I want to talk about men, particularly about the statements made about men in Gina Davis’ odyssey post titled “I am a female and I am so over feminists”. Gina makes a few claims about men and women and, essentially, is attempting (I hope) to make the point that men and women complement each other with characteristics and a biological makeup unique to each gender. Good point Gina! This is true. Men and women are different in many ways biologically, but I think to raise this point you are missing the point of feminism completely. Feminists are not arguing that men and women are created equally in muscle mass or endurance or even in rate of brain development. Feminists take the stance that men and women are created equally in the sense that they possess basic human rights, such as the right to adequate healthcare, the right to fair employment, the right to property of oneself, the right to protection in a court of law, and the right to human dignity. These are not rights that vary due to our biological makeup but rights that innately belong to every person regardless of gender as an American citizen.
Yes, it is the 21st century Gina and we have so many rights that women before us did not and that’s really awesome. I’m allowed to vote so our work is done, right? No. To claim that because feminists have made progress for women we can all stop caring and stop striving to be better is dangerous. It is the same logic that so many in our nation’s history have used to oppress minority groups (look no further than the oppression of the Black community that still continues today, decades after the Civil rights act). It is our responsibility to keep working towards equality. I, especially as a privileged white female, feel responsible to work for the rights of female minorities.
Let me try to refocus my argument, I said I wouldn’t talk about women, but it’s hard not to when women are so freakin awesome. So let’s focus on the topic of men, more specifically how uncomfortable I felt with the way Gina treated this topic in her post. She begins her post with the statement “I am a strong woman, but I also believe in a strong man.” I read that and was like “WOAH me too Gina!” But then I kept reading and found the topic of men lost somewhere in the shuffle of Gina’s spouts about how apparently sexism doesn’t exist in America (Go home scientists, statistical analysts and economists, apparently no one believes the evidence you find because the internet is a thing now and we can believe anything it tells us even if it has no parentheticals or bibliography!). Gina describes the supposed outrage feminists experience when a man tries to pay on a date. I’m a feminist and guess what I’ve never felt “outraged” by a date or even a male friend paying for my meal (maybe partly because I love free food, who doesn’t!) Yes, I have demanded to split a check or pay for my own meal, but I didn’t scream in his face that it’s the 21st century and he’s a bloody pig while doing this. That’s because I recognize a date’s gesture to pay for my meal as a gesture of kindness not as a gesture of his manliness.
I’ve never stared dreamily at a guy as he paid the bill thinking “wow so manly!” I let my boyfriend pick up the bill because I know it’s a way he shows he cares about me not because it’s a way for him to validate his man card. I have also paid for a date before. GASP! Not to prove my feminism either, but as a kind gesture. I paid as a present for a special occasion and I didn’t sneakily think to myself “wow I’m doing such a good job emasculating my date right now”. Hell no! I thought, “Wow thank god my date’s sense of manhood doesn’t depend on paying for my meal.” Every “strong man” I know is strong because of his heart, because of the way he treats me, and because of the way he treats others, because of his intellect, and because he does not feel his manhood is validated by paying a check.
Many of the other capabilities Gina describes, like paying a check, and qualities, like being vulnerable, are HUMAN capabilities and qualities not gender determinants. I am blessed to have many strong men in my life including my dad, my brother, my boyfriend, and my friends. I have never felt like less of a woman or like less of a person because of their strength and I’m sure they would affirm that they’ve never felt like less of a man or less of a person because of my strength. I am a strong woman Gina, and I’m sure you are too, but to claim you do not need feminism because you “believe in a strong man” reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of either what it means to be a strong man or what it means to be feminist. Maybe you don’t feel like you need feminism, but there are plenty of women that are systemically oppressed in this nation who could use your voice.
I have had the privilege of having both strong women and strong men in my life that want to see me succeed, but I still NEED feminism because I want every woman and every man and every girl and every boy to feel like their country wants them to succeed. Even if we ignore all of the incorrect facts presented in Gina’s odyssey article like the claim “women have more rights in the United States than anywhere else,” there is still error in Gina’s argument because she fails to see beyond the beautiful way men and women complement each other biologically and often in personality, to the beautiful way men and women share humanistic qualities and HUMAN RIGHTS. Maybe you don’t want to be labeled a feminist because taking on a label means taking on many of the stereotypes that go with it, such as an unwillingness to be vulnerable or to rely on a male companion for support like Gina describes. Maybe you don’t want this label “feminist”, but I take on this label and all its stereotypes because I know the root of the feminist movement can help so many women and men. Taking on the label of feminist is not an excuse for me to complain or victimize myself, but rather being a feminist means recognizing my privilege and dedicating myself to bringing that comfort to other women in my immediate circle, community, country, and world.