Clearing up some misconceptions about feminism
Article: Sonia Stanger – Contributor
In an article in last week’s Carillon entitled “Can we talk about feminism?” a few issues were raised that I would like to take up. Heck yeah, let’s talk about feminism!
Feminism is, essentially, the movement to end systemic social and political gender inequalities, sure. But it’s a common misconception that for women to be raised up, it must be at the expense of other genders. Feminism is not about some fervent bid for female supremacy. It’s about eliminating the barriers that keep women down, and in so doing freeing everyone from harmful gender roles. In a truly equal society, no gender would succeed at the expense of others.
Also, double standards aren’t a product of feminism. When a woman gets out of a ticket by using her “feminine wiles,” that isn’t a moment of empowerment. That’s a result of the sexist system that limits a woman’s power so that sexuality is all she has at her disposal: the same system that forces men into strict adherence of a single and reductive masculinity. It’s certainly true that the patriarchal system is dangerous for men – and it’s also true that feminists have been talking about this for years.
A feminism that ignores or, worse, hates men is an outdated one. I’m not sure it even still exists, except as a kind of feminist bogeywoman, a call-back to a specific type of radical second-wave feminism. Since the 1960s, this brand has been widely critiqued, and for good reason. Feminism has evolved to include women of colour and queer women. It must now, I feel, address trans* issues. It must accommodate sex and body positivity. It must address gender in all of its messiness.
I think it’s important to consider oppression on the level of systems. And I think it’s important to highlight that on the systemic level, inequalities do exist for women. The right to work and vote aren’t the end of the story. Women are grievously underrepresented politically (we are at 18% Canada-wide) and do face income inequality and do face horrific levels of sexual violence. But it is also true that just because our system is patriarchal, is sexist, it does not by default make every man a sexist pig. It means that we are all already navigating a system with a hierarchy in place, even if it is not felt by every individual. The lived experience of one woman does not necessarily undo that of another: oppression can exist and not be universally felt.
I have felt the need for feminism in the way I have been taught to feel fear on a street alone at night.
I have felt the need for feminism aching in the silence around the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women across this country.
I have felt it in the simple way that as soon as I get loud, I am automatically dismissed as an angry feminist bitch.
I have felt that I need feminism, and wished that I didn’t. Not everyone does, and that is not a bad thing. But the work isn’t finished until no one does. I reserve my right to need feminism, and to speak up for it.