The Trouble with Feminism

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”  ― Margaret Atwood
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
― Margaret Atwood

Revolution is a dirty word.

People aren’t afraid of change the way they were back in the days of poodle skirts and jukeboxes and submissive Negros and nuclear families and black-and-white TV, but revolution is terrifying because revolution is hard. No one wants to talk about how hard revolution is because we’re fearful that one day we might land at the stomach-churning conclusion that, livid as we are, we should be “doing something”. Rape is happening, and victims are being blamed, why don’t we do something? Women’s education, women’s studies are not being prioritized correctly in a society that requires women to have context about their history, so why don’t we do something? Women’s bodies, women’s issues, women’s rights are being governed and decided upon by an aggressively oppressive patriarchy (the system, as well as the men who make it up) who’s mission is to keep women in “their place” – so why the hell aren’t we doing anything? Because revolution is hard, and this doesn’t affect me. Someone else can start the revolution. I have some Netflix to binge.

Besides, I’m a feminist. I’m on the opposite side of rape. It’s not the girl’s fault, I know that. Men are dumb animals who only experience two emotions intensely (anger and sexual desire), and they need to be trained to not be dumb animals. Women don’t need them, I know that. Real women have curves, only a dog likes bones, and real women have ambitions for careers and can’t enjoy traditional relationship roles and makin’ babies, else they be stripped of their title of “Feminist” – so sayeth the highest council of the Social Justice Feminazi Order. I’m a feminist, and I know the preceding statements to be true, and I have called upon you to check your male privilege, therefore I have done my part and can go home and watch Survivor.

The issue with this mode of thought is that all the people who think this way need to read more books.

This reasoning is nearly as harmful and backwards as traditional sexism.

I’d like to give people in general the benefit of the doubt when I say that we all know that sexual assault is wrong. But since, on average, there are 293,066 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in Americans aged 12 and older, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)[i], I feel as though I should begin my argument with the simple reminder that you shouldn’t rape people. I know, this might come as a shock to a lot of you, especially when we’ve so often been instructed as a society to prevent rape by not getting raped as opposed to preventing rape by not raping people. This ideology, much like seasons 6, 7, and 8 of Dexter, seemed to be simple enough to follow, but somehow gets twisted and fucked up along the way, and suddenly you’re a lumberjack in the woods somewhere wondering where you went wrong in life. Violence against women is a problem, as women are constantly under threat of physical violence driven by a society that victimizes and abuses them instead of empowering them, and it’s unfortunate but it’s really only the tip of the shitty, patriarchal iceberg.

According to Understanding and Fighting Sexism: A Call to Men, Patriarchy as a power structure exists because of our own acceptance of what it means to be “feminine” and what it means to be “masculine” – and our acceptance that masculine driven character traits are more valuable in society than feminine traits, especially when it comes to the gain and retention of power[ii]. “In other words, by accepting masculinity as an ideal for ourselves, men buy into a system which keeps women down” (Blood, Tuttle, and Lakey 139).

And thus I come to the true intention behind my article – we are all calling ourselves feminist, and I do believe we are trying our best to be feminists. But I believe we are all doing it wrong.

So, here’s why that’s funny.

By definition, a feminist is someone, male or female, who actively believes in and works toward equality between genders, and I don’t believe that any of us are doing that. I’m not saying we should all burn our bras, boycott all men, and let our armpit hair grow out. I spend a lot of money on my bras, I like men (I even love some) and I can’t let my armpit hair grow out too far or I’m often tempted to fiddle with it throughout the day, which distracts from the time I should be spending on writing, doing standup comedy and/or ball-busting. Active feminism doesn’t mean giving special treatment to women in order to even the playing field, it doesn’t mean over-laughing at a female comedian just because she’s a woman. It doesn’t mean hating men and refusing help from them and renouncing traditional gender roles simply for the hell of it. It doesn’t mean shaming others for not fitting into your depiction of feminism (I realize that’s literally what I’m doing, but play along) and it certainly doesn’t mean being angry at the world for creating a system of oppression that affects women (and men, even if they don’t know it yet). You can stuff all of those ideologies into a nice gift box with pretty wrapping and a big red bow, but the fact remains that it’s not Christmas, and you’re still an idiot.

Feminism is working hard. In a world with an inordinate amount of power imbalances and societal hurdles, if women want to make it – not that many of us are exactly encouraged to, and why would we, especially if we have our looks to fall back on? – we have to work harder than the man sitting next to us in almost any field outside of pornography. Wait, never mind, that too. In fact, most of the guys kind of just lay there. Um. Not that I would know, or anything. [iii]

There are 23 women who currently hold the title of CEO amongst Forbes’ Fortune 500 list.[iv] That’s 23 out of 500, which is an F on pretty much any grading curve, unless you went to Arizona State. You could probably argue that “We should be hiring more women! We should get more women out there, and show little girls that they can be whoever they want.” And then everyone gets ice cream and we sing and dance to“Age of Aquarius” in a circle as the credits roll. Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog. But that’s not life, and it does a disservice to those who work hard regardless of gender. Women are often overlooked for high executive positions because of the fact that they have a built-in baby oven. But those who did break the mold – in education, in business, in entertainment – did so because they were unequivocally, undeniably the best and worked their ass off long enough for everyone to see it (and were unapologetic about that success). No, men don’t really have to do that. And yes, it’s unfair that women do. But real feminism – the greasy, gritty truth that no one likes to say – is that instead of complaining about this injustice, one way to fight it by being the best that we can be. When I get to the top, I don’t want people thinking I got it by hand-outs, or by demanding equal rights because I felt overlooked. I want my body of work to be considered undeniably excellent and universally ballsy – whether I actually have literal balls or not. The 23 women who are leading those companies are feminists by my definition at least, and they (along with other women who worked their ass off in their fields, the Pohlers and Feys, the Giovannis and Angelou’s, the Curies and Rides) are not here for your whining. They’re here for the revolution, goddammit.

Feminism also lies in women having each other’s backs. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard women say “Real women have curves!” and “Only a dog likes bones” and “Real men date REAL women!” What the fuck does that mean? What do you think a real woman is? Are thin, curveless women imaginary? Are you hearing their voices in your head? Are those voices telling you to kill John Lennon? Fall back, sugar. You’re no realer than them (this also applies to all of the women who say, “I don’t have girl friends, I hang out with guys, girls are too much drama”, et al.) There’s a spectrum of ways for women to look and to be, and other than morbid obesity and anorexia nervosa, it’s pretty much all healthy and all “real”. Yes, some media portrayals of women’s bodies are unfair and often unrealistic and there are not accurate representations of all body types in popular media. That being said, bringing each other down is not helping, because all we’re doing is comparing each other to what we believe the perfect woman looks like, based on whether or not men want to sleep with her. According to Blood, Tuttle and Lakey, as well as common sense, society is filled with messages pressuring women to provide men with sexual pleasure, lest we scare them away. The more we pressure women to appeal to our standard of what a woman should be like, the further we step away from revolution.

The last thing I want to say to all of my social justice warriors and feminazis and feminists and meninists and women and men in general is that if you’re a feminist who hates men, you’re doing it wrong. You’re not a feminist, you’re a misandrist, and an idiot, and, like I said before, you should read more. What feminism does – or should do – is renounce the idea that men are dumb animals who need to be restrained from raping and privledging and need to be taught that women are better and smarter and that we don’t need them. Feminism requires us to expect more from men – to expect that they have feelings just like us, to expect that they can and will treat us with respect because they know better, and they do. Men fall into this trap often – it’s a guy thing, you wouldn’t understand. Boys will be boys, you can’t blame them for what they do. So the blame falls on us – rape victims are shamed by being asked “what were you wearing?” and “why didn’t you try to stop them?”   and “were you drunk?” This takes away the expectation for men to be civilized (which they are) and allows them to not have to change the way they interact with women, causing feminists to get angry and say that we don’t need men. But we do. We need you guys to understand us, and we need you to understand yourselves so that we can take equal parts in making the revolution happen.

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”  ― Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

The grit of it is this – believing in equality doesn’t make you a feminist, it makes you a human being. Being a feminist means that you see inequalities and understand that there is an inordinate shift in the balance of power between men and women, and that in your own way, small or big, you are working against it. You can work against it by being a CEO, or by being a painter, or by teaching a gender studies class, or just by taking one. You can be an active feminist by being a mom or dad and teaching your kids about inequality and urging them to be a piece in the puzzle of greater world change. You can be an active feminist simply by picking up a fucking book and understanding your history. You can be an active feminist by not calling women “crazy” or “bossy” or “bitchy” or by saying that Katherine Heigl doesn’t get work because she is “difficult” when Christian Bale gets work and is an actual, no-shit crazy person. You can be an active feminist by using feminity and feminine traits as an empowering compliment, not as something to be ashamed of. But simply sitting there and calling yourself a feminist for being angry at the world and at men? It just isn’t going to cut it anymore. We need a revolution. It’s easy to ride the wave of a popular social justice movement if your only motivation is that you simply don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. Active feminism means expecting more from men, from women, from institutions, from society, and from ourselves. Active feminism provokes a greater world change whether it be at the picket lines or on your computer. The revolution needs to happen, as it’s the only way to eradicate inequality. Yes, revolution and greater world change are hard, but it can’t be left on the shoulders of those believed to be bold and strong enough to do it, because we can’t do it alone. You need to start the revolution right this second, and keep the revolution going in your own way as long as you have air in your lungs and a voice in your throat.

And then, yes, you can sit down and watch Netflix. I would suggest Bojack Horseman. It’s underrated, but a very good show.

Sources:

[i] “How Often Does Sexual Assault Occur? | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.” How Often Does Sexual Assault Occur? | RAINN | Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2015.

[ii] Blood, Peter. Understanding and Fighting Sexism: A Call to Men. Place of Publication Not Identified: Publisher Not Identified, 1970. Print.

[iii] I lied, I do know. Source: I watch a lot of porn.

[iv] “Knowledge Center.” Knowledge Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2015.

Your Daily Dose of Stand up –

This is my favorite comedian John Mulaney telling the infamous “Salt and Pepper Diner” story. I’ll never love another act as much as I love this one.

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