A propos of…um, well a lot of thought, reflection and experience.
I’m 54. I began immersing myself in so-called Second Wave feminism when I was 14. This was unusual among my peers at a girls’ grammar school, but when I turned 19 and went to Sussex University I chose to surround myself with a lot of (to me) highly impressive, intelligent and interesting girls and young women and found a lot of common ground. I was involved with the Women’s Peace Movement and attended demonstrations at Greenham Common on several occasions.
It has deeply saddened me to see feminism brought into disrepute, even though this is so often the way of the world with all ideologies. I believe that it was key in my cultural, emotional and intellectual development. I became what was known as a radical separatist feminist for a while in my early twenties. Yes, I could say that I went through a phase of rather demonising men generally. But it was a phase and I have to emphasise here that women do not become feminists for no reason at all. If it were true as some Men’s Rights Activists have implied, that women enjoy a privileged existence over men per se, I would never have felt the need as a 14 year old troubled and intellectually curious girl, to frequent the ‘Women’s Studies’ section of the nearest bookshop.
My dad was probably somewhat misogynistic on reflection. We probably need to stop demonising misogynists. They are first and foremost hurt people. They have had damaging interactions with (usually) the opposite sex. Just as I had. Yes my dad was inappropriate with me in a way that confused and bewildered me to the core, and he also appeared to treat my mum as chattel and his possession, becoming upset when she objected and had dreams and goals independent of him.
My dad also favoured me hugely over my brother. I could literally do no wrong and my brother, conversely, was at a loss as to how to please him. I state this to point out that my dad was a complex character, and my interactions with him were not necessarily all damaging ones. These issues are complicated and require persistence and patience to understand.
OK this isn’t a clearly written academic essay, more of a reflection and an attempt to unpick some of the apparent contradictions and anomalies between the ‘Second’ and ‘Third Wave’ of feminism, as well as my own evolution from a feminist to (sadly) a slightly misogynistic female myself.
It isn’t the prerogative of males to notice when a female is playing the ‘woman’ card and to dislike it intensely. It isn’t only the guys who are horrified and disgusted by some women’s behaviour that appears to go unpunished and even receives society’s stamp of approval. Yes, observing some women makes me ashamed to be female. I have had this experience more times than I can count. But I believe many men experience the same feelings to some extent with their own sex.
In many public arenas women’s presence is still a relative rarity (let’s take most countries’ governments as an example). So there is more pressure on the minority of female politicians to be all things to all men (and women). Often they only get to where they are by aping the guys’ behaviour and becoming even more successful at it than they are. The ‘token woman’ syndrome is similar to the ‘token black’ and any other minority or historically oppressed group.
In day to day life who is most oppressed, men or women? It’s impossible to generalise and indeed the whole question is fundamentally misguided. This is emphatically not a competition. It just doesn’t work that way.
As a woman I have undoubtedly benefited from many privileges. One is that my emotions mattered. And for me, that’s probably the single most significant one. When I cried I was supported, helped and asked what was wrong. Throughout my life I have continued to be able to show vulnerability without being demeaned or degraded for it, and received support and help when I asked for it. I am able to discuss my feelings about shit until the cows come home. And who is going to tell me that this is not overall a healthy and positive state of affairs?
It could ultimately mean the difference between life and death folks. And I mean that quite literally. 78% of suicides in the world are carried out by males. I have a son of 20 who has on occasion felt depressed and suicidal, as have I. Online I communicate often with younger guys who are in desperate straits. When I don’t know the gender of the person writing, and I read a heartrending account of that person’s personal circumstances on a forum online I will be totally honest with you. If it turns out to be a guy I feel worse for him than if it’s a woman. Whatever the circumstances.
Why? Because I KNOW that women are strong. I KNOW women have resources. I KNOW women are more able to ask for support. And that they are less likely to become isolated. To me, essentially, guys appear MORE vulnerable than women, not the other way around. I’m not in any way trying to be controversial or edgy by saying this, it’s the honest truth and very deeply felt. I just think that that in itself speaks volumes.
I would no longer describe myself as a feminist because the term has accumulated way too much baggage now. Of course most people support equal rights. But we need to put away these kind of ideologies. There are reasons why women became feminists. Equally there are reasons why men are reacting in hurt and resentment by becoming misogynist or getting heavily involved in a counter-ideology, the Men’s Rights Movement, Red Pill, or something similar.
Folks, they have a lot of catching up to do. Their emotions need validating after many years of being dismissed as unimportant or even shameful! Women also have a lot to learn from men in terms of stoicism and self-reliance, possibly objectivity, confidence and maybe a little chutzpah would be useful additions to our arsenal too.
The Men’s Rights Movement, Red Pill and even Third Wave of feminism have their uses. If they did not need to exist they would not. It may be a healthy part of an individual’s development to become involved with these kinds of ideologies or groups. They can be very therapeutic, used in the right way. No one is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ folks. We’re all individuals on a personal journey.
OF COURSE not all men or women can be tarred with the same brush. Anyone who appears to regard the opposite sex as ‘the enemy’ is in quite a lot of trouble in all honesty, and may be crying out for help or support. If they find it within these groups all well and good.
A common quote when I was a wee feminist lassie was ‘The personal is political’. And for me I guess that remains a truism, and understanding and making peace with ourselves will always trump (sorry) the effects of any political movement. Honestly, you will not change anyone by polarising yourself from them and making them ‘wrong’. I thank the gods that my son’s best pal happens to be a female, he shows no signs whatsoever of misogyny and that he is not very political! He thinks we’re all people, let’s leave it at that. Hear hear!