All this talk about feminism gaining popularity, empowering women all across the globe, the advocacy of equality…it sounds great, right? Well, unsurprisingly enough, there are always the select few who don’t jump on board. The notion of antifeminism is becoming more prevalent than I would have ever thought possible. It is paradoxical for a woman to be antifeminist. It is voting Republican when you are for women’s rights, it is a person of color in the Ku Klux Klan, and it is a woman saying she does not value herself enough to fight for equality. As a feminist, I feel obligated to debunk some of the more popular ideas circulating about antifeminism.
“I respect men, and they respect me.”
Wait, what? If all we had to do was express respect for men in order for them to respect us in return, the argument for feminism would be null and void. I wish our world was such, and perhaps someday it will be, but as it currently stands, this is far from the truth. Feminists are not man-haters. Au contraire, men can be great! Society just needs a little help understanding how times are changing and that many gender role expectations and stereotypes are quickly becoming outdated. Women are starting to stand up for themselves and many men are quickly learning what is and isn’t acceptable anymore. I am sure most women can tell story after story about the times we’ve been disrespected by men. Examples from my own repertoire include being sexually objectified in both the cyber and real worlds (initiated in no part by me), experiencing extreme disrespect and harassment from male customers while on the job (because I am a woman and couldn’t possibly do the job as well as a man could), and being called a “disgusting pig” because I am not a size zero supermodel, as some men might prefer. Oh, but wait, I had nothing but utmost respect for these men before any of these events occurred, so I should therefore be immune to their disrespect, right? Let’s get real here: women are very frequently disrespected by men without being provoked, and before they even say a word. It is not a question of mutual respect, it is instilling the value of equality in our society so that one sex or gender identity is not looked upon as anything less than the other simply for being different.
“Real feminism is not abortions, free birth control, and the ability to walk around like a shameless slut while damning the male population.”
Sigh. There are so many things wrong with this! Well, she got the first part right: feminism is about equal opportunity and respect for women. If we want equal opportunity and respect, though, shouldn’t we respect that it is each individual woman’s choice to seek birth control, have an abortion, or dress like a “shameless slut?” We don’t condemn the male population, we simply want a level playing field. You can be pro-life and still be a feminist. I am personally against abortion and would never consider one for myself, but I respect any woman’s choice to have one—that is far beyond my business. Likewise, while I personally don’t dress provocatively on a regular basis, I respect women’s choice to wear whatever they please. I want to be able to enjoy showing a little cleavage every now and again without feeling like I will be shunned by society or treated as a lesser person. Equal opportunity and respect for women means opportunity and respect for ALL women, not just those who fall in line with your own personal beliefs.
“I don’t need feminism because I like when men say compliments about my body.”
That’s great! More power to you. But what about those of us who don’t like feeling as though we are a walking display for men every time we leave our home? Men are going to think whatever they are going to think about your body and appearance, regardless of what you do—everybody judges. What they don’t need to do, though, is verbalize those thoughts to women who never asked for their opinion. It should also be noted that while some men give modest compliments, such as “I like your blouse” or “great shoes,” others are not so conservative. Check out this link to get an idea of how nasty catcalls can be on a typical day around town. If you like men complimenting your body, pursue them or ask for feedback. Those of us who aren’t interested in their opinions should not be forced to hear their unprovoked thoughts.
“I don’t need feminism because I believe in working for what I earn, not given entitlement.”
So I have to partially agree with this statement. I am also a firm believer that to have what you want, you’ve got to work for it, as nothing comes for free in this life. Now the belief of working for what you earn logically makes sense, but the pay gap proves otherwise. Women are still being paid less than men for doing the exact same work—additional information on the pay gap can be found here, for those who might think it is no longer a problem. That being said, working for your money is not very fun when you are getting paid less than the next person simply because you are a woman.
“I don’t need feminism because ‘female empowerment’ implies that I’m currently inherently weak.”
The reason a lot of women don’t believe in the term “female empowerment” is because they are already empowered on their own. This existing empowerment, however, is a result of all the hard-working and dedicated feminists before us. Look at the martyrdom of Qui Jin, Emily Wilding Davison, and Meena Keshwar Kamal. Each of these women (and many others who have suffered/are suffering from oppression) paved the way for women of later generations to feel empowered without having to fight the same battles that they fought. The gal in this picture perhaps doesn’t fully understand what feminists before her had to go through that allowed her to be raised in an environment where she can feel strong and empowered…without having to suffer or die for that right.
It truly saddens me that a movement with nothing but the best of intentions has provoked some of these thoughts. I am proud to be a feminist and have never thought of myself as entitled, weak, or man-hating, as some of these pictures suggest. I think that the beauty behind feminism is slowly losing its luster with younger generations because they have grown up in a more socially-comfortable environment for women. We should never forget what the world was like before feminism, though, and need to acknowledge that in many parts of the globe, women are still very much treated unequally. Feminism is not about being superior or extreme—it is about equality for all and respect for those who have helped to make this a reality.