I am not an expert in sociology or human psychology. I am merely an individual who is passionate about advocating for social justice issues like gender equality. I feel like I’m going out on a limb here posting my thoughts regarding a topic that receives endless amounts of scrutiny because the term “feminism” itself has become a taboo subject and is often written off as an open invitation to hate men. In the past when I’ve posted rough thoughts on this topic, I’ve received hateful messages from people systematically dissecting every word and thought I’ve written. My intent in these posts is never to single anyone out or to try and tell you how you should be living your life; I, like you, am not perfect. I’m only hoping to offer a different perspective in our plight on this lonely little planet. Obviously there are going to be extremists in every movement (think the Westboro Baptist Church in regards to other more peaceful religious communities that actually try to do good.)
In the case of feminism, however, I believe the term to mean something else entirely than what it has been misconstrued as; something that is actually beneficial to each and every individual and to humanity as a whole. Yes, it may be idealistic. Yes, absolutes have little place in a world that is so multi-faceted. Change doesn’t happen overnight. But I choose to believe in a brighter future. And I refuse to accept that (despite the fact that we’re complacent in our nature and it’s a lot easier to deny the fact that there may be better alternatives to thinking about things) we’re incapable of change.
Let me try and explain why the concept of feminism is so important to me:
I’m openly gay and don’t conform to the rigid gender roles of society. That’s just who I am and the way it’s been since I was young. As a sensitive dude, it can be very ostracizing when you don’t follow along with society’s dictation of what it means to be a man. It takes conscious effort and guts to stay true to yourself when people are shouting hateful obscenities at you and go out of their way to deliberately hurt you. I’ve felt unsafe, been attacked, raped, shoved around, stalked, and had my life threatened because I choose to live the life I was born to live. A life I never chose for myself. These are obvious examples of abuse.
Oppression, on the other hand, is much more subtle. It’s the collective unspoken perceptions about certain groups of people that ultimately hold someone back from living the functional life in society that they want to live. Yes, you can try to ignore it but it’s so pervasive you can never truly escape it and the negative assumptions that people tend to make based on your labels and not on you as an individual. Because EVERYONE has these notions about you and are quick to call you out on them. It works because it’s hierarchical and benefits more privileged groups of society that get to dictate what the status quo is. The same feminism you think is so anti-men and hateful is really gender equality for ALL genders; it actually helps to protect people like me because it recognizes that not everyone thinks and feels in binaries.
People are advocating so hard for women now because historically they have been oppressed by people with narrow mindsets. Men are targeted, not because it is right or should be encouraged, but because it challenges the stigma that women should be submissive to a man’s every desire. In a similar sense, I’m often seen as weak by my peers because I give up a superior position as a privileged white male being homosexual in our male-dominated society. Why on earth would people in a position of dominance ever want to give up their power controlling the status quo?
We’ve evolved beyond the times where a woman needs a man for their mutual survival. In today’s day and age, we’re autonomous and should be entitled to a safe environment in which we can feel free to pursue whatever it is we want to pursue (granted it does not harm ourselves or others) without oppressive expectations being thrust on us based solely on our gender. Gender is not biological as is by popular belief. Sex is biological. Gender is merely a spectrum (of an illusion) created by medieval gender roles that were necessary once upon a time for our survival as a species. I believe we should see and love someone for who they are as an individual and not solely for their gender. And I think it all starts with something as simple as harbouring love for yourself and for others by speaking the truth that is in your heart; the same truth you thought you had to lock away to become a functional member in our society.
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be, rather than recognizing how we are.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie