Excuse me. Yes, I am talking to you. The “meninists,” the “egalitarians,” the trolls on Facebook, the modern, educated women who don’t need some self-pitying, angry activists telling them what rights they do and don’t have: please listen up. Because this is important, and you’re standing on the wrong side of history.
Many people frequently debate over the very word “feminism.” It’s a polarizing issue. Marginalized groups acquiring rights from the ruling class always has been. But now, feminism, to many who don’t understand the complexity and breadth of the issue, seems to be more about beating the dead horse. “Women can vote, right? And the fact that women earn $0.77 to men’s $1.00 is mostly a false statistic? I mean, hell, everyone can vote. Slavery was eradicated decades ago. Who needs any kind of so-called “equal rights” movement? It’s all just some whiny pissbabies trying to stir things up. We don’t need that.”
Heads up: you do. Basic human rights encompasses more than the right to vote. Surprisingly enough, men need feminism too–this movement champions equal rights in both directions. Yes, there are some privileges women have that men don’t; primarily, not being victims of toxic masculinity, which dictates that boys cannot show deep emotion, show an interest in “girly” things, or even be perceived as gay, for fear of being labeled weak. This is a feminist issue because it involves the assumption that “girly” traits are weak, and “manly” traits, such as strength, emotionlessness, and aggressive heterosexuality are strong. This perpetuates a culture in which women are seen as less capable, less strong, less valuable and less valid than their male counterparts, which harms both men and women in different ways. This manifests itself differently, from the wage gap (which, yes, still exists) to high rates of suicide in the LGBT community, to the perpetuation of rape culture, all of which are dangerous to boys and girls, men and women alike.
“But,” you continue on insisting, “aren’t these mostly cultural issues? What legal action can be taken to change the mind of a country so ingrained in this heteropatriarchal mindset?” Yes, I will give you that. Most of these are cultural problems, and legal action to remedy these problems, with the current president and a Congress of old white men, seems to be far on the horizon. But never fear! Feminism is here with the answer!
First of all, feminists seek to change both legal and cultural harmful status quos that are present in this country. A great part of the feminist agenda is protesting rape culture, which, despite the presence of laws and protections for rape victims, persists in every other aspect of the victim’s life, sometimes spilling over and affecting the legal outcome. Victim blaming, along with rape apologizing and the age-old “boys will be boys” excuse, continue to be serious problems most people don’t confront on a day-to-day basis. By raising awareness and educating people on the way rape culture manifests itself, feminists seek to eradicate the cultural bias so the legal path will be easier, and make the legal path easier so to eradicate cultural bias.
Secondly, a key piece to feminism that people tend to forget is intersectionality. “What is intersectionality?” you may ask. “I’ve never heard of it.” Unfortunately, a lot of white feminists haven’t either. Intersectionality is the idea that sexism is inherently racialized and racism is inherently sexualized. Feminism, in championing rights for all women, needs to recognize that the experience of a white woman, in whichever class, is not universal. The experiences of black women, while being different from each other, are radically different than those of Muslim women, brown women, trans women, and, in fact, any other marginalized group. True feminism seeks to help all oppressed groups achieve equal rights. White feminism refers to those who protest the fact that (white) women earn $0.77 to the man’s $1.00, but forget that black women earn $0.65, Hispanic women earn $0.58, and native women even less than that. Intersectionality is something that is inherent in the ideals of feminism: simply because white women have the right, from ability to wear their religious symbols to not facing discrimination in the workforce to being less likely to be arrested, it doesn’t mean women of color do.
Written by Ann Weisgerber