My Thoughts on Feminism
Lately, this seems to be quite a touchy subject. From what I’ve observed, Western society is divided at least in three basic groups on this matter: pro-feminism, anti-feminism, and I-don’t-really-care-about-feminism. Of course, it gets more complicated than that. There are so many different interpretations of what feminist theory is in the first place.
In general, feminism strives for gender equality in every sphere and institution of our social world, from domestic to public, from private to government, and so on. There is, however, issues with how some feminists in our society present their ideas and opinions, which a lot of times create misunderstandings.
Let’s take a look at one of the most pressing issues feminists are trying to deal with today: patriarchy. In this case, the relevant definition of patriarchy provided by Google is “a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it”. This is obviously a simplified definition. A lot of feminists would add that patriarchy also dictates women how they should behave, dress themselves, what they can and cannot do with their bodies, etc. Some feminists stop at this point. These sometimes become “hypocritical, men-hating feminists”, which cause a lot of damage to their own cause. I saw so many posts and memes in social media about the feminist hypocrisy and double standards, like these:
It’s definitely true that women like that exist. They often generalize men and end up demonizing them, at the same time creating an image of how a woman should behave (ironically?). This led some women to become anti-feminists and post pictures like these:
And other people to advertise things like this:
This is where I get to my thoughts on feminism.
Firstly, it does a poor job appealing specifically to men, when so many feminist double standards are still occurring. I think that “feminism” as a name should be changed, since it essentially excludes men. Remember how I mentioned patriarchy dictates women how to be? Well, it also dictates to men how they should behave towards women and how they should look, how they should act. It is as damaging to women as it is to men. If feminism could re-brand itself to include men, that I think, would help with their cause. I found out from fellow male mates that it is really difficult for them to openly discuss and debate issues regarding feminism, because they are automatically labeled as the “oppressing gender”, so anything they say against feminism, whether actually legitimate or not, is being shunned and ignored. It’s just ridiculous.
My second issue is with the generalization of Western feminism. This is where anthropology comes in play, because whether you believe or not there were and still are some rifts between feminism and anthropology. I read an article by Marilyn Strathern, called “An Awkward Relationship: The Case of Feminism and Anthropology”, which perfectly describes the antagonisms between feminism and anthropology.
What feminism is trying to do is to unite all women in the world to fight against their oppressed state enforced by patriarchy. Their mistake is to think that a “woman” or “womanhood” is cross-culturally universal. IT’S NOT. This is where anthropology tells us that what it means to be a woman is not going to be the same for everyone in the world. You cannot disregard culture. A lot of Western feminist unfortunately do have and ethnocentric approach and impose their idea of what oppression means to them, on women who do not think the same way.
Here is a powerful poem by Randa Abdel Fattah, which beautifully presents the issue I mentioned above:
And a picture too 🙂
P.S. I am being ravaged by flu, so my writing is probably quite messy. It feels like words are just flowing out of my mind and I can’t catch them to write them down. So annoying, by the way.