To me, feminism isn't about women's rights. It's about equality.
This isn't a definition of feminism that all feminists can get behind. Some women believe that the only way to fight the patriarchy is to take care of women exclusively. And, over the years, some of these women have written to me to tell me what they think of my idea of feminism. Frankly though, they are few and far between and, more importantly, far less vitriolic than the men's rights advocates who manage to take exception to my very equality-minded feminism.
These men think that anyone who goes by the title of "feminist" must be a misandrist, and they insist that women already have equal rights. They believe this despite the fact that:
- women still suffer pervasive negative judgments on femininity like the ubiquitous "don't be such a girl," which is used to put down both men and women, as well as terms like "slut" and "whore" being used to describe only sexually liberated women while similar behavior in men is championed.
- women still do most of the parenting, an activity that is not valued in the US. And this means that all women--whether or not they are or will ever be moms--tend to be viewed as employees who are not committed to their careers.
- women still earn less than men for the same work, a situation which is, in large part, caused by parenting not being valued in this country.
- women still hold many less positions of power in the corporate world and in the political arena. After all, just 17 of the current US Senators are female, of the 100+ Supreme Court justices in our history there have only ever been 4 female ones, and there has never been a Ms. President of the United States.
I'm not belittling the problems which men face in today's world. Far from it, I am working to free men from all sorts of ridiculous societal pressures, by calling out discrimination against them whenever I see it and by making art about it.
If these men actually cared about men's rights, they'd lobby for women's rights. The plight of each sex is inextricably linked to the other's. To be blind to this is to be as bad as the angry separatist misandrists that these men's rights advocates so despise. Fighting each other is a sure way to keep us all good and oppressed.
Jaws-ette (Great white shark)
acrylic on panel
10 x 10 inches
(For information about the making of this painting, visit this article.)
Recently, I read Baratunde Thurston's How To Be Black, and, though the entire book was funny and fascinating, irreverent and illuminating, I was particularly struck by one idea in it, an idea for which Thurston gives W. Kamau Bell credit when he quotes the comedian:
Black people get so caught up in the black struggle that we forget to be caught up in other people's struggles. And we forget to realize that we should be just as concerned about their struggles as our struggle. And it's really sort of frustrating me.
Any black person who's not with the people in Arizona, on the side of the immigrants, you're an asshole. Not that it's the same thing, but these are all struggles of oppressed people. Any black person who's like, "Gay marriage???" Let me just sit you down and talk to you for half an hour. I get that you think gay is creepy. But other than that, there's no way you should be [opposed].
I've recently come to the conclusion: I think that all people who are fighting for oppressed people should only be allowed to work for the group that's one over from them. Black people should only be allowed to work for the Mexican immigrants' struggle in America. Mexican immigrants should only be allowed to work for gay marriage. Gay marriage should only be allowed to work for black people. I feel like if we stepped one group over, I think we would get things done a lot quicker.
You can't end racism and make sexism worse. You can't end racism and make homophobia worse. You have to put it all forward...So a big part of my how-to-be-black is actually trying to be inclusive of all the struggles.
To the men's rights advocates who aren't also feminists and to the feminists who aren't committed to equality, the rest of us are trying to make the world a better place, and, so far, you're not helping. Instead of bickering between each other and lashing out at potential allies, you should focus your efforts on eliminating racism or homophobia, and only come back to the fight against sexism once you can be civilized.
Gwenn Seemel is a French-American artist who blogs bilingually.
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