Dissecting The Dirty Word: Feminism

Many people when they hear the word “feminist”, the image of RadFem activists come to mind. For example: 

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The majority of people tend to ignore the intersectionality and complexity of feminism, and undermine it completely. It is deemed stereotypically by most as a collective of “man-hating lesbians”. In reality, this is not the case. I do not claim to be an expert on feminism, but I hope to enlighten people through this article on why the stereotypes and misconceptions hurt everyone; not just women.

The radicality of Feminism is not what you think it is:

Radical feminism, in theory, is great. It does not imply militancy, or violence (which it is stereotypically seen). This use of the word “radical” pertains to finding the “root” of the problem. Radical feminists try to dismantle the oppressive patriarchal forces in society (most notably sexism) to try and create a equal society. However, radical feminists tend to be trans* exclusionary (TERFs) and sex worker exclusionary (SWERFs). This is a horrible and hurtful take on a movement; one which is meant to establish and defend the rights of ALL women, despite race, sexuality or whether they are cisgendered or transgendered.

Groups such as FEMEN, whom society thinks of when they hear “radical feminism”, are a different story. As well as their questionable policy of “sextremism”, FEMEN is run by a tyrannical misogynist: check here, here and here. There is nothing wrong with men being part of the feminist movement in my eyes, but Svyatski is the furthest thing from it. Another problem with this group is their attacks of religious orders, especially Islam, which many Muslim women have spoken out about.

Movements within feminism that hurt the cause seem to be the only movements which gain any recognition. The extreme always makes an impression but in this case, I am thoroughly and wholeheartedly against it. This should not be the face of feminism. We learned with first and second wave feminism that white, middle-class women were not meant to be at the heart and sole cause of feminism, so why should groups still adhere to these ideas?

Man-hating, hairy lesbians make up the majority of Feminism:

WRONG. Everyone is different. So who cares if you have hairy armpits or if you’re a girl who likes to kiss girls? Bodily integrity and freedom of sexuality are human rights and no one has the right to shame someone for what they do with their body. No one should ever use a term of someone’s sexuality as a shaming term. It’s something I have been guilty of in the past and which I have decided to eradicate from my vocabulary. Maybe you won’t listen to me, but maybe you’ll listen to Hilary Duff . As well as body shaming and using homophobic slurs to attack the movement, society has also adopted the extremely critical and hurtful portmanteau, “feminazi”.

This harassment of feminists is outright misogyny, and it comes from both sexes. How are we supposed to obtain equality if there is still rampant discrimination of people? This is also the problem with feminism which is exclusionary, which I mentioned previously. People are highly critical of anything which they find to be “other”. This takes us back to patriarchal values of gender and race; and so cisgendered, heterosexual, white males are the dominant, whereas everything else is other. Here are two examples of this:

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We have been socialized to think that this is the norm and have become almost blinded to this dominance. This misrepresentation has been damaging the the world as a whole, as minorities (PoC, trans* people and women) are undermined and overlooked in the face of this oppressive system. So the point I am trying to make is that feminism is not about misandry and hating men, it’s about the intrinsically Western male values upheld by society today that need to be eradicated for society to move forward and evolve for the better.

The Problem with White Feminists:

Many people believe that Western feminism is unnecessary because “women and men are equal in the Western World”. As a cisgendered, heterosexual white female, I understand and acknowledge my privilege in the world. I have had a better life than the majority of the women, be they WoC or trans*. Even though I have been a victim of sexism in the Western World, I would never place my female experience as higher or more important than others. Sexism coupled with racism, homophobia and/or transphobia is far worse than what I (and what many other women of a similar background to mine) have faced or continue to face.

The problem with white feminism is that a lot of them tend to ignore the troubles that WoC face. I thoroughly support what is mentioned in this blog here. Feminism began as a movement to create a sisterhood which would stand together against patriarchal forces. It began exclusionary and it is still exclusionary. We cannot even begin to understand the hardship faced by WoC, but it is necessary that we acknowledge our privilege, stand by them and support them.

White feminists are especially problematic if they are people in power. A good example of this is Miley Cyrus. She claims to be a feminist, but in actually fact she is commodifying black female sexuality and culture, as well as performing Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, also known as “No Means Yes”.

Feminism is just as much a race issue as it is a gender one; as well as economics, politics and social issues are important in this movement. It’s important for us to work together on a worldwide scale to revert the problems we face today. Two good projects which have aimed to do so are Everyday Sexism, which joins women globally against sexual harassment and abuse, and One Billion Rising.

Rape culture, LAD culture and MRAs:

All of the above go hand in hand, and are extremely detrimental to ever achieving equality. Rape culture involves victim blaming and sexual objectification and LAD culture also encapsulates sexual objectification as well as slut-shaming. Girls are brought up and taught that they can only have sex for the purpose of pro-creation. Having sex with someone who isn’t your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner makes you a slut. Having too much sex makes you a slut, enjoying sex makes you a slut. But on the other hand, in the face of LAD culture, not having enough sex or refusing sex makes you a prude or a tease. Either way, the victim of sexual objectification is blamed.

MRAs indulge in much of the same behaviour, and seem to have this idea of “compulsory heterosexuality” , which Adrienne Rich has talked about previously.  The majority of MRAs are white, cishet males, you can see a definitive link between all the problems I have addressed previously. It all comes down to patriarchal values.

MRAs may not be at a booming level, but LAD culture is at an all time high, with “Bird of the Day” pages cropping up in almost every university and IT in Ireland this year as well as pages such as The Lad Bible, Ultimate LAD and more gaining followers in the millions for their misogynistic and discriminative posts (albeit, the comments by the members are almost worse).

All of these cultures have this idea of “restoring” masculinity to society, and condemn homosexuals (especially the MRAs), no matter how subtle it may be. Males which like to adhere to this culture often feel the need to inflate their male identities by indulging in sexual objectification, slut-shaming and by calling out any stereotypical feminine behaviour by a male as “gay”.

To conclude, I think that the most important thing to do to implement feminism and equality is to eradicate the defaults our society lives by: white, cisgendered, heterosexual. But to do so, we must try to dismantle western patriarchal values and LAD culture from the norm. It is our mothers, our daughters, sisters, cousins and friends who are being damaged in the long run and we cannot keep passing down this recurrent oppression that has been in place for years.

To see more, here are a few of my favourite talks:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – We Should All Be Feminists

Jackson Katz – Violence Against Women is a Men’s Issue

Caroline Heldman – The Sexy Lie

Joss Whedon at Make Equality Reality