Ever since Emma Watson stood before the United Nations on gender equality, Feminism has become a media darling and one of the buzzwords of the modern era. We’ve seen a drastic increase in the amount of Feminism related headlines in newspapers and around the internet since it returned to prominence in such a strong way earlier this year.
There was a time when we most certainly needed Feminism and this should never be forgotten. from first-wave Feminism to the Suffragettes who fought for their rights in a time when Women were not permitted to vote and seen as less important than men in Western society, there is little doubt that Feminism was a necessary movement which did great things and the Women involved will be forever remembered as heroines for their work in challenging the status-quo and battling for Women’s rights. During the course of this article I’ll talk about Feminism and I’ll talk about Modern Feminism as two separate entities, while this isn’t strictly the case and there is no black and white when it comes to separating these terms, it would be very difficult to explain my feelings on Feminism without making this important distinction.
Modern Feminism has often been ridiculed and seen in a negative light in recent years, as Emma Watson herself explained in her capacity as UN ambassador for Women, Feminism “has too often become synonymous with man-hating.” Lately, however, the consensus has changed significantly and Modern Feminism has been lauded almost universally in the media, while at the same time, new, pro-Feminist buzzwords such as ‘misogyny’, ‘the Patriarchy’ and ‘rape culture’ have become somewhat over-saturated into our vocabulary. How did this change come about and is Modern Feminism a good thing for anyone? Well, let’s start with one question.
DO WE NEED FEMINISM?
The short and rather surprising answer I have to give here is that, yes, we do need Feminism. The real question here is which version of Feminism do we need and what is the difference between the two?
As I alluded to earlier on, there are many shades of grey inbetween the ‘two sides of Feminism’ of which I make reference here and it would be easy to get bogged down in this, but I’ll try to make the distinction as clear as possible and not fall into the trap of supposing that every feminist falls firmly into one or other camp. Modern Feminism is often referred to as ‘Radical Feminism’ which is a term traditionally used to describe, to quote Wikipedia: “a perspective within feminism that focuses on the hypothesis of patriarchy as a system of power that organizes society into a complex of relationships based on the assertion that male supremacy oppresses women. Radical feminism aims to challenge and overthrow patriarchy by opposing standard gender roles and oppression of women and calls for a radical reordering of society”
But if this is merely one perspective within Feminism, how can I equate Radical feminism to Modern Feminism? To put it simply, these are the voices we are hearing from under the banner of Feminism in the media today, sure, there are plenty of (to steal a term from religion for a moment) ‘moderate feminists’ out there who simply want equality for Women worldwide, but while we hear often and loudly from the radicals and, dare I say, extremists within the movement, one has to wonder where the traditional, moderate Feminist voices are to condemn the, often hateful words spoken by the radical mouthpieces? Today it seems that Modern Feminism = Radical Feminism and there is little evidence to suggest otherwise.
SO, WHAT’S WRONG WITH RADICAL FEMINISM?
The idea of a ‘Patriarchy’ within society, trying to hold Women back is a dangerous one, it breeds mistrust which in turn, inevitably breeds hatred. Seeing Feminism as a good thing, regardless of what ideals it is currently supporting is also dangerous because of this, the idea of ‘rape culture’ does far more harm than good, for example. The more often the Rad-Fems speak about rape culture, the more Women will distrust Men and feel wary of them, the more we tell young boys that rape culture is a thing, the more we give the idea itself credence, positivity even. A young boy growing up hearing about rape culture might begin to wonder “if it’s simply a culture, can it be all that bad?” which in turn, could help rape culture to become an actuality rather than a simple buzzword used to spread fear. Of course there is no rape culture in Western society.
Rape is illegal and, if found guilty, a man or Woman (lest we forget that rape works both ways) is liable to be imprisoned for such actions. This fact alone makes it very clear that we absolutely do not live in a rape culture. Similarly, statistics which are often used to back up these claims, such as the famous myth that “One in five in college women will be sexually assaulted” have been regularly debunked as nothing more than myths, and yet, are often wheeled out by the media, Feminist speakers and politicians. There has to come a point where we begin to wonder why such exaggerations and myths are so often stated as fact and used to demonise a section of the populace.
BUT WAIT, YOU SAID WE DO NEED FEMINISM?
Yes, despite all the negativity regarding the various Modern Feminist buzzwords, they do ring true in some societies around the globe today, while Modern Feminism tends to focus it’s ire on the Western world, there are religions and societies today where Women are indeed held down by the Patriarchy of their cultures, where rape culture isn’t simply a buzzword to get more website visitors, it’s a grim reality for the Women and Girls of such cultures and should be challenged until such time as there is significant change in the same way we had in our society from the actions of the true heroes of Feminism. There are Feminists who still fight for the rights of these women, of course, and yet, the main focus of attention for Modern Feminism is here in the west, choosing to focus their attacks on Men sitting on trains with their legs too far apart, or why traffic lights have green Men and not green Women (yes, seriously). First world Women’s problems if ever there were any.
If we are to have a true Feminist movement then it should be focused on the very real and very serious issues facing Women across the world and not simply a media gimmick to gain attention and social media followers for publicity seeking Rad-Fems. The United Nations is indeed a good place to address concerns for our Women across the world, perhaps if Feminism was as public with calls to end the oppression of Women in Countries, religions and cultures where it is still prevalent as they are with calls for changes to relatively unimportant first world issues then they could truly make their Foremothers proud.
IS MODERN FEMINISM A HATE MOVEMENT?
As I briefly mentioned earlier in this article, Feminism, to many people, has become synonymous with man-hating, but as we’ve also seen, there are two sides to feminism with some rather large grey areas inbetween. As Modern or radical Feminism appears to be the most prevalent in today’s society, it’s only right that we take a closer look at its recent history in order to decide whether it can be classified as a hate movement or simply as a misguided attempt at equality.
Through the years the Human race has had to endure many hate movements, some more infamous than others of course, but all shared the common goal of oppressing or eradicating one demographic in order to preserve or improve their own standing in the world. In order to gain support from their followers, these movements often focus the attention on the perceived privilege of their target, or on the ‘fact’ that they are in fact being oppressed by the very people they seek to oppress. In a recent article on Facebook, someone commented along the lines of “In a few years I expect to see white males being lined up wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘Oppressor’ while being routinely checked for dangerous reading materials”. Of course this isn’t a genuine fear for the future, but it does a good job of explaining what appears to be happening with Men seemingly being tagged as the oppressors who must be overthrown and defeated in order for Women to finally achieve equality.
In recent weeks we have seen Modern Feminism claim some impressive ‘victories’ in the fight against the Patriarchy. We have seen how the focus of Twitter phenomenon #GamerGate was quickly shifted from its original aim of bringing to light an issue with ethics in the (video game) media to being branded as a misogynistic hate movement, further to this, we’ve seen a Feminist organisation given special moderator powers on Twitter and a sudden (and completely unexpected *cough*) spate of bannings for pro-Gamergaters.
Whether or not the threats to Anita Sarkeesian were genuine, the fact that the focus was changed so quickly and so effectively simply by mentioning the Misogyny buzzword was incredible to see. Suddenly no-one in the media was speaking about ethics, bribery or collusion and the entire focus was on #GamerGate as a woman-hating group of gamers who want nothing more than to expel females from the video gaming community because hey, everyone knows that we video game nerds don’t like women, right?
We’ve also seen more recently, the public humiliation of Dr Matt Taylor in the#ShirtGate (or #ShirtStorm) debacle was further evidence of the power of Modern Feminism in our society, the sheer outrage expressed towards this man’s attire (designed by a Female friend as a gift to him, by the way) forced him to give a tearful apology on television for daring to wear it in public.
Impressive from a self-styled ‘disempowered demographic’ I’m sure you’ll agree, particularly when it’s deemed completely fine for Jessica Valenti to wear a t-shirt proclaiming that she “bathes in Male tears”. Similarly, a poll of “Words to Ban in 2015″ in popular Time Magazine was met with a tide of negative press for including the word Feminism in what was clearly a frivolous poll, the publication was forced to offer a grovelling apology for daring to include this word. Again, impressive indeed to be able to censor free-speech in such a way whilst simultaneously being lauded as the heroes of the hour for doing so.
From these examples we can see how the Modern Feminist movement has been able to effectively dictate to people how they are allowed to dress and what they are allowed to say, these are not positive steps in what we consider to be a free society, in fact, one could argue that they are in fact the first steps towards a far more serious type of oppression. If the aim of the anti-GamerGate movement, as stated by Anita Sarkeesian, is to censor video games, then it’s hardly a huge leap to presume that movies, television and books might be next on the agenda, is it?
It’s also worth noting that, as well as managing to force grovelling apologies from various people and publications in the public eye, Modern Feminism, similarly to many of the aforementioned hate movements, does not take kindly to dissenting voices, going as far as to attempt to cajole and heckle those who refuse to associate themselves with the movement into doing so. celebrities such as Salma Hayek and jenny McCarthy have come under scrutiny for daring to reject Feminism in its current form while David Cameron was pestered no less than 5 times to don the now infamous “This is what a Feminist looks like” t-shirt in public. This type of harassment and condemnation of those unwilling to show support for their cause is something we often see from extremist groups.
Does this prove that Modern feminism is a hate movement? No. Not in itself, some of these things could be reasonably construed as attempts to straighten out perceived oppression, rather than deliberate attacks. But look more closely at the more vocal elements of Modern Feminism and a pattern begins to emerge, a pattern of saying one thing whilst demonstrating the exact opposite, and of only one side of this coin receiving widespread media coverage. We hear on a daily basis about how Modern Feminism is not only about empowering Women, but is also about promoting equality for all, and yet, a quick look at some recent articles, such as the “Feminist Revenge fantasy” video article from Feminist mouthpiece Jezebel show that what is being promoted isn’t exactly equality and might well be considered hateful.
The simple fact that Feminism, in it’s modern form, doesn’t speak out over clear injustices in our society which relate to Men, such as inequality with parental rights, extending as far as outright denial that Misandry or sexism against Men even exists, shows us that, at the very least, the movement is heavily biased and cannot claim equality as its focus. I’d argue that the movement could reasonably be classed as a hate movement, but individuals within the movement, even those within the Rad-Fem bracket, can not be pigeon-holed so easily.
As a footnote, I found it interesting while writing this article that, in our Patriarchal and oppressive society, the word Misandry is flagged for spelling error by WordPress because it’s not recognised as a word!