Oh, here she comes, watch out boy, she’ll chew you up. Oh, here she comes, she’s a maneater. While Hall and Oates were referring to a heartless lover, they seem to come closer to describing modern society’s perception of feminism. Perception is the first battle for political and social movements, a battle that feminists appear to be losing. The loss is almost laughable, because the enemy has remained the same since the first wave in the early twentieth century. Wondering who these enemies are? Well, I have listed them out for your reading pleasure.
First, the metamorphosis. This Franz Kafka-themed argument features the female transitioning into a man – not a giant insect, thankfully. It harkens back to the ancient belief that educating women made them infertile. Since fertility was linked to female value – and in some areas still is – education has been historically positioned as the corruptor of femininity itself. This argument tries to confine women into certain spheres and define them by their occupation. However, the only “acceptable” definition is one of wife and mother.
While wife and mother are respectable titles, they should never be used to confine two genders. For if women are denied a place in the workforce, fathers are denied a place at home. What is more, the mother role is considered lesser, relegated to the “those who can’t do, teach” category. When this mentality prevails, you can’t claim that the genders have equality. Feminism’s goal of gender equality doesn’t demand all women enter the workforce or that all men become stay-at-home dads. Instead, it desires a level of understanding between the genders that doesn’t make lesser careers historically given to women. One that stay-at-home parents, nurses, flight attendants, or secretaries aren’t linked to femininity and, as a result, considered lesser.
Second is the “tis’ just a flesh wound” belief. For most civil rights movements, one main argument is that the grievances themselves are exaggerated or even imagined. Climate change disbelievers are conductors of this denial train. They have perfected the practice of avoiding the issue altogether by hiding behind their ignorance. How can you argue with someone who refuses to even accept the topic? Whether it’s catcalling, the wage gap, or the glass ceiling, the importance of these issues are lost.
Even if these are accepted as real, they are still considered mainly as a product of a disgruntled mind. The anti-feminist paints a picture of a rabid activist who is crafting fake issues to rile up the masses. Instead of investigating the truth behind these problems, the opponents focus on attacking the supporters themselves. Therefore, anti-feminists attack feminists instead of their beliefs.
Third, the undercover lesbian. Now bringing sexual orientation into the equation, this theory argues that feminists must hate men. Obviously, any hate must also naturally come from a lack of sexual interest. Using the logic that lesbians hate men, feminists hate men, then feminists must be lesbians. This strange conspiracy implies that lesbians are trying to corrupt the core of womanhood from within.
Much like the transformation of femininity, this belief segregates feminists from the normal woman. Now, it isn’t the average female that wants equality, it is the hidden lesbian who is trying to attack men in any way possible. While not all are considered lesbian, there is an overwhelming idea that feminists hate men and therefore advocate the advancement of women at the cost of men. The core of this argument is that fighting for the feminine naturally means an aversion to all things masculine. It ignores the possibility that the advancement of one gender wouldn’t require the subjugation of the other. It ignores the reality that when feminists redeem femininity and many of the traits that have been undervalued because they are considered effeminate, they open up a wider spectrum of experiences for both genders.
What anti-feminists seem to forget is, like all human beliefs, feminism can’t be clearly defined and sorted. At its heart, feminism is for the individual and is therefore as diverse as people. In the end, it requires a respect for each gender, race and social class.
Feminism isn’t the enemy. “Smash the Patriarchy” doesn’t mean “Long Live the Matriarchy.” It means an end to a one-gender system for the sake of a more inclusive future. This future is one where men can express themselves without fear and stay at home without ridicule; where women can pursue any career without harassment and a paycheck without a female fee.
No movement is perfect. There are feminists that aim to shock and go to extremes. Rather than condemning the whole group, find the feminism that speaks to you. Instead of choosing the easy route of ignorance and vilification, find the truth behind the movement and decide if you think it is worth the fight.