A young man’s view of feminism

04302004_boystooI’m sure we’re all aware of the new anti-feminism movement, a line of thought among usually young women and powerful, successful older women which sporadically captures the mainstream press, the internet and the interest of both men and women. It goes without saying that come each generation they benefit from the trials and tribulations of the last and of course the wish to see a better tomorrow for those younger and yet to come is a key element of the feminist movement.

One of the first and continuing social media forays of such a concept to come to the world’s attention was the Women Against Feminism (http://womenagainstfeminism.tumblr.com/) photo-post trend. It features mainly young women holding signs saying “I don’t need feminism…” followed by a number of reasons- reasons which may seem a thing of the past for most women due to feminism. It’s ironic. One common caption is “I don’t need feminism because I am not a victim”. Well feminism is not about victimhood it’s about empowerment and if you’re a young woman and are being told that you’re empowered enough and that it’s as good as it’s going to get then you’re probably being lied to by somebody living in a state of delusion.

But you know, like any good social worker ideally a social rights campaigner such as a feminist would like to work themselves out of a job or cause, however feminism still has far to come in what it can be successful in addressing and changing.

Margaret Thatcher was seen as a non-feminist but people fail to place her upbringing in the context of which it was. She came into womanhood in a time before feminism or even before the notion of women being equally successful as men was a thought within let alone throughout society. Instead she was a determined and driven woman, who didn’t need feminism to get to where she did because like with most trail-blazers they are before their time, before such issues are acknowledged for people to become organised in addressing them. However were she to have come of age after feminism took shape and became organised I’ve no doubt she would have found solace in the cause.

Australia’s current, and female, Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, recently and famously stated that she is “no feminist” (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/im-no-feminist-julie-bishop-20141029-11dn7m.html)- a stance no doubt taken due to her political differences yet professional similarities to Julia Gillard. Like the much emulated Thatcher, Bishop had a drive and determination which saw her be her own agent if you will, in head-stronging her own success.

So given all of that, do young women still need feminism? Do women in general still need a sister-hood to make it far in life? Well the idea that they don’t is a successful product or outcome of feminism as feminism is about choice. The choice to be a stay at home Mum and the choice to go out into the corporate or political world and all the choices in between that were/are women’s to make are all celebrated by feminism. The choice for young women to turn their backs on feminism is as much a privilege resulting directly from feminism as it is a product of patriarchal intimidation. So the female sex is at a point where they decide to identify with feminism or not to. It’s a personal matter at the end of the day but with so many hurdles to overcome, wanting or identifying with or against feminism doesn’t change the fact that there is still a need for it.

And why is a young male writing about the importance of feminism to a forum of mostly women? I found this blog site, Feminaust, and it is one of the few sites which celebrate women and their ideas among the myriad of other sites which opt to celebrate young women’s bodies and how far they’ll go to please a man- or men. So I decided to submit this piece here for you all, where it would count. As for a male writing about feminism, well the idea in men’s heads that feminism is women’s business I believe is the constant road-block to feminism being truly successful.

What’s two things critics of, maybe not feminism as a movement, but of some feminists [as individuals] say? The men say that they can be too angry and the women say that they are too judgemental. Perhaps this can be true, as I’ve not met every single self-identifying feminist in the world. However in rebuttal of the angry feminist theory I would simply say these two things: first is that men in general prefer women to be quiet and to be agreeable, and secondly, that angry feminists and feminists in general may well be justified in their anger- after all there’s still much to be angry about (such as unequal entry level and CEO level pay between women and men for doing the same job, the catastrophic rates of domestic violence and violence against women in Australia, the way women are presented in mainstream pop culture and pornography and the continual sexualisation of young girls and enforced gender roles of women in the home…the list goes on…). As for those judgemental feminists I would say that the judgement factor has nothing to do with feminism at all. It’s the practice of that person. If one’s a feminist they don’t cease being the other things that make them, and in some cases that means being a judgemental person as well. Taking into account all the non-judgemental feminists one can clearly see that feminism itself as a theory, a philosophy, does not include judging other women.

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to do away with feminism because there is still every reason thinkable to keep it. But please don’t interpret this as a male telling females what to do, I’m just telling you from a male’s perspective that this world is not yet a truly fair and equal one, it’s getting there, but it’s not quite.

Being a feminist-apologist does nobody any favours except reinforce the sleepless mentality that feminism is bad and unhelpful to women (when all it is unhelpful to the patriarchal foundations of what’s wrong in this world). Feminist-apologists may think they’re taking on new vogue strength and we all know from music & art that the new generation always feels compelled to counter the old, but in fact they are disarming themselves and turning their backs on their sisters and even their brothers who support them.

Jack Wilkie-Jans

http://jackandrewwilkie-jans.blogspot.com/

Jack is an artist and political affairs commentator from Far North Queensland.

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About MsElouise

MsElouise is a community programs worker and feminist from Melbourne Australia. She likes to travel, write, rant and make people feel uncomfortable about their assumptions. She hopes to one day be remembered for changing the world just a little bit. Right now she does this by proving that teenage girls are a higher order of beings.

7 thoughts on “A young man’s view of feminism

  1. I agree with this in parts, I feel what’s lacking is a intersectional analysis (see Kimberlé Crenshaw). For example the two women, Julie Bishop and Margret Thatcher are both white women with class privilege, which does buffer them from “needing” feminism. They have access to wealth, status and position, which for example is accessed via their white privilege, among other privileges.

    Many women with privilege may claim they don’t “need” feminism, because they can access resources via other avenues of privilege, or via male connections. Others, as you said (I think) may claim not to “need” feminism because it the current climate, it’s not pleasant to go against the patriarchal norms. That Margaret Thatcher would have found solace “in the cause” is debatable, Feminism didn’t start after her, it’s been around for a while: Mary Wollstencraft wrote something about it a while ago…

    Asking if “young women still need feminism?” after giving two successful white (conservative) ladies as an example, is exceptionalism. I feel this piece would benefit from deconstructing exceptionalism and how it harms feminism and women. That you used two white women, as examples before asking such a sweeping question – do young women need feminism? – which is meant to encompass all young women in Australia is one reason #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen (see Mikki Kendall). That two white ladies “made it” in life doesn’t mean all white women will make it, nor does it mean all women will make it. Women are different, our experiences are different, and it is because of intersecting oppressions that this is so.

    In the words of Flavia Dzodan “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

    • Thanks Sar, my only reply would be not to apply modern concepts to past ages. Mary Woolstonecraft wasn’t a feminist because as this writer rightly says, feminism didn’t appear until later. She did question gender roles and obligations but that does not mean she was a feminist. If she wouldn’t recognise the label we don’t have a right to put it on her, even if she would probably adopt it should she have been a modern woman.
      You make good points about intersectionality but don’t be too harsh too soon. This is one young person’s attempt at expressing their thoughts and opinions. It’s not everyones responsibility to know everything about everything always. As writers and commentators we can be utterly paralysed by worrying about this. Perhaps you would like to write an article on deconstructing exceptionalism yourself? It would certainly be very welcome here.
      Thanks

      • Thanks MsElouise,
        Excuse my very late reply. Thanks for the history lesson (I’m not being flippant here, but it’s hard to do “tone” in online replies). I am not too familiar with feminist history. I have heard Woolstonecraft being referred to as Feminist in the past and just rolled with it. I’m definitely prompted to read more.

        It was not my intention to be harsh, thank you for your critique and I totally agree with you. I’m sorry for coming across as so brutal – especially my apologies to Jack Wilkie-Jans. It’s hard to judge my impact online without tone among other things. I struggle to replicate online what I can critique much easier (aka less brutal) face-to-face. It’s always with a second read I think “oh crap, I can see why I was so harsh [slaps forehead here]”. Particularly with the Dzodan quote there. Still my intent hardly excuses my impact, for the latter I can just offer up my apologies.

        Thanks for the invite to write about exceptionalism, I’ll brood on it.

        best,
        Sar.

      • Thanks for responding Sar and well done on your response to another commenter. I couldn’t be bothered and you did a great job.

        I reiterate my invitation to write. We welcome all thoughtful pieces, whether well crafted or inelegant attempts at ideas.

        Do read up more on Woolstonecraft. I corrected you because like your comment about exceptionalism, as “now people” we have a tendency to define “past people” based on our now experiences. (Only seeing the world through a narrow lens). For example, did you know that “heterosexuality” was first defined in the Victorian era (despite lots of penis in vagina sex having happened before that) and was originally only used to define male and female coupled sex that was not intended to make a baby. As in, it was considered a deviant act. In modern days the people who back then would have been demonising heterosexuals as deviants (religious leaders) hold heterosexuality up as the only true way. Similarly, we cannot say things like Alexander the Great was gay because despite plenty of evidence that he liked rooty too ties with other men, the concept of gay or homosexuality didn’t yet exist at that time.
        Anyway, blah blah blah. Sexual and gender history and activist history is all really interesting and you should look that stuff up!

        Cheers

  2. If feminism is not about being a victim then:

    – stop reporting rape to the police
    – don’t take free birth control from the government
    – perform an abortion on yourselves without asking a doctor to do it for you

    Empowerment is when you do things for yourself rather than begging for help from other people.

    • A person can be a feminist and be a victim at the same time. Your examples do not make a person an “un victim”. A victim is “a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action”. A person isn’t harmed injured or killed because of their act of reporting rape, taking and/or receiving medical care or being feminist.

      Taking “free” birth control (from where?) does not make someone a victim (victim of what? Getting free stuff? Taking medicine? Definition fail). Getting a medically performed abortion does not make someone a victim (victim of what? Medical treatment? Definition fail.). Not reporting rape does not make someone a victim. (victim of rape yes, but they are not a victim of “reporting”).

      Being a victim is not a choice. Although in popular culture being a “victim” is portrayed as a choice or an attitude, it is in fact not. If a person is raped, they are a victim of rape irrespective of their attitude and coping mechanisms after the fact.

      The idea that being a victim is a “choice” or “attitude” is a definition that undermines victims, is used to victim blame and thus can derail from the issues at hand, aka focusing on the victim instead of the offender.

      More can be read in “Blaming the victim” by William Ryan.

      If “Empowerment is when you do things for yourself rather than begging for help from other people” then:

      (a) Define “things”. In your case you focus on things women need/use/access, but does this mean you’ll do your own prostate exam for prostate cancer, operate on it yourself in your own house with tools you shaped yourself from materials you mined by hand? In fact if you don’t derive every thing you need entirely on your own, such as clothes, food, stuff then does that make you not empowered? And how far does this go? Trees make oxygen…

      (b) Is empowerment really defined by begging, because if I report rape, take free birth control and get a medically performed abortion, guess I’m empowered so long as I’m not begging?

      I can do all of those things self-sufficiently within a community that empowers women, and why, because of feminism. Because “…feminism is not about victimhood it’s about empowerment…”

      Q.E.D.

  3. I can’t seem to respond in-thread to the post “MsElouise on April 8, 2015 at 6:19 pm”

    Just being quick: Okay you twisted my arm! I’ll write something. It’ll take me a while as I got a bit on (hence my long reply time at first). Maybe end May, early June.

    And… nope not well read on gender history. I especially enjoyed references to “now people” versus “past people”. I have not thought in this way before (obviously. Are there any articles/books/stuff off the top of your head you can recommend? Otherwise I’ll do as we all do: Google 🙂

    best,
    Sar.

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