Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Feminist Fallout

Feminism is great - if you're a woman.

Some people would even go so far as to say that it's great only if you're a white, cis-female.

Without a doubt, feminism is a positive social movement. But, like everything else, it is not perfect. Its effects on society have inevitably been mixed - if much of those effects have been positive, it would be insincere not to admit that it may also have had some negative effects as well. Examining those negative effects isn't a strategy for undermining feminism, but rather an honest approach towards improving it. Ignoring them, on the other hand, and silencing discussion about them as anti-feminist rhetoric, is not helpful.

The fundamental problem with feminism, as I see it, is that even if women make up about 50% of the population, it's still too exclusive. And as great as it is to be all saintly and willing to self-sacrifice for the good of others, this is not basic human nature. Surely, feminism aims to improve society - ideally, for both women and men. But what does a man have to gain from a movement that, according to some members (not all - probably not even most - but enough to be heard), has no room for the male perspective, and is not concerned with men's issues? How can any equality movement succeed without input from both sides of the scale?

It's true that feminism can accomplish much on its own - and it has - but in the end, the goal should be a total integration of viewpoints. Sexism will not have been eliminated when men live subordinate to women, on account of centuries of male domination enacted by someone else in a different time - it will just have been flipped around. And maybe that sounds fair if you're lucky to be the one that the zeitgeist favors during the particular period of history in which you happen to be living, but that's not equality - and how does it make you any better than the men who oppressed women when men oppressing women was in vogue?

Consider that, unlike in the 1970s, a significant proportion of the population has lived their entire lives during the period in which feminism has been a serious social movement. Many men have been raised by women into a world where they view feminism as the default, and the only civilized approach toward women's issues. I'm not suggesting that feminism's work is done, but its central focus is railing against a patriarchal society that much of today's young adult male population isn't actually responsible for. The sins of the father should not be visited upon his sons.

I don't mean to impugn feminism's reputation (it does a good enough job of that on its own, which is another one of its problems), but I'm concerned about some of the fallout from its less positive effects on society, especially in the hands of a - perhaps small, but still very powerful - anti-male, sex-negative contingent. I'm sensitive to the pressure women feel out on public streets, and the importance of creating comfortable, non-aggressive, harassment-free spaces - after all, as a transgender individual, I've been the target of both catcalling and gay-bashing. But at the same time, I've felt the impact of a social movement that seeks to make me feel ashamed of the way I relate to females, all on account of a sexual desire that I do not perceive to be either damaging or degrading.

Double Standards

With all this talk of objectification, there aren't enough examples of positive ways that a man can express appreciation for a female's sexual characteristics. "Keep it to yourself" is an approach that doesn't properly give weight to the male perspective, and the enormous biological impetus men have to respond to female sexual cues - which, by the way, helps to ensure the continued survival of the human race. That said, though instinctual, I don't believe unrestrained catcalling is any kind of a solution - the solution should be a compromise, arrived at after respectful discussion between the sexes, and not as a result of an unresolved shouting match.

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