Recently, I read another feminist book. Written by Julie Zeilinger (a teenager), and released in 2012, it was meant to show teenagers that feminism is not a dirty word. In short, the book is there to tell us what feminism is actually about, dispel the harmful stereotypes about it and give the youth of today a feminism that’s relevant to them personally.
First comes a chapter on feminist history. It doesn’t appear to be inaccurate as far as I know (I’m not a history expert), but it is colored with the feminist colors that a regular history book isn’t. “A Little F’d Up” makes it look like most men were happily exploiting women, and most women were seething with feminist spirit of rebellion for hundreds of years (but didn’t have the power to overthrow their oppressors, I guess). Only after the industrial revolution did they finally see the right moment to rebel openly, and demand more rights.
Like I said, I’m not a history expert. But I know some things. When reading a regular history book, you get the impression that most people were not very rich, and were mostly concerned with making ends meet, rather than with oppressing family members. There were always people on top though, who often robbed the majority of their rights. And there were always ideologues with varying levels of power and morality. Also, everything I have read so far seems to point towards the hypothesis that the industrial revolution itself contributed to breakdown of family structure. Feminism simply picked up the displeasure it created, and finished the job.
THE BENEFITS OF FEMINISM
The author also reminds us how crappy our female lives would be before all the feminist victories, and how oppression can come back if we aren’t on guard. I would agree that a lot of us would not be able to live in those times, but I don’t give feminists too much credit for the development. Most of what we have is enabled by abundant fossil fuels (which are getting not-so-abundant and more expensive to extract) and modern inventions, most of which were created by men. Even the pill, which modern feminists (and frankly, me) find so important could not have been conjured up by simply having the majority of people agree that it’s needed and should be legal. Speaking of majority agreement, it appears the male oppressors didn’t put up a huge fight that you would expect from someone who’s been oppressing and using women for hundreds of years. The serfs of Eastern Europe had to slaughter their owners and be slaughtered back several times, before they were emancipated. Perhaps a quote from Esther Vilar’s “The Manipulated Man” is worth repeating:
“..the enemies they fought were really friends and the real enemy remained undetected…. …And they were not aware of it. Their struggle was aided amost exclusively by men, but since they live under the delusion that they were persecuted by men, they mistook the flexibility of men for a sign of female strength and screamed that much louder. And nobody got offended. From The New York Times to The Christian Science Monitor, from Playboy to Newsweek, from Kissinger to McGovern, everybody was for Women’s Liberation. No marches of men were organized against them, nobody prevented their demonstrations. And none of them were taken to task for their unending defamation of men,…”
But I won’t lie, and will give feminists some credit for making my life more enjoyable. Thank you guys, for the legal pill and access to university. I really mean it.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Then the author presents the goals of 3rd wave feminism. Ending the violence against women is one of them. Of course, no one would seriously say they have a problem with such a goal. However, the context is important. Julie says “For men to be able to hurt women, misogyny has to be alive and well”. I think most people can come up with a lot of reasons for hurting women, that don’t include misogyny. It could be wanting something from her and not having anything against using force to get it. It could be anger at that specific individual. It could be possessiveness and insecurity about a mate’s fidelity. None of these things are good or excusable, but they don’t actually imply hate or dislike against women in general.
If you don’t see it, remember that most violence is actually male-on-male. Perhaps it means internalized misandry is alive and well?
Obviously, I don’t have anything against a goal such as greatly reducing violence against women (and men). However, adding an ideological tone to it ruins everything. There are real psychologists out there, studying violence and pointing out risk factors as they really are, not based on ideology that always points out men as the problem (and power and patriarchial control as the motivation). They can probably help us reduce violence everywhere, if silly ideologues weren’t in the way. I have the same feeling about anti-bullying campaigns by the way. They are all outrage and no improvement. If you want real reduction in bullying, look up the Olweus program. That might be something (oh, and bullies do not actually have low self-esteem).
BLAMING THE VICTIM
Another goal of 3rd wave feminists is to let women know that being a victim of violence is never their fault, but rather the fault of a misogynistic culture. Now that sounds like a great way to encourage a strong victim mentality based on one of the most intimate parts of yourself – your gender.
There is also the question of fault. It’s very obvious to me, that a victim of violence could be more or less to blame for it. It’s a scale of blame:
No blame: On your way to work, you are attacked and kidnapped out of nowhere.
2-3% to blame: You fall asleep in a house full of strangers and someone sets your hair on fire, injuring you.
50% to blame: You fight with your SO and exchange very harsh insults, after which you push and slap each other.
60% to blame: You taunt a stranger’s mother for a long time, and lose a few teeth.
Almost entirely to blame: You abuse a person for years and prevent them from escaping, and one day they kill you.
My guess is that the author was talking about situations where someone is blamed for their rape because they dressed too revealingly. As with everything else, a feminist text takes a truth and adds something else to it, so you end up agreeing not only with the core truth, but also with all the fallacies added. Unfairly blaming the victim is often a tool of those who want to minimize responsibility for abuse, but a victim is not always blameless and “misogyny” is too simple for an answer. I prefer a more nuanced, realistic view of things.
FEMINISM IS GOOD FOR MEN, TOO
Julie Zeilinger says that the “Us vs. Them” mentality is bad, and alienating for potential allies. Feminism is also actually good for men, because they’re taught by society not to have any feelings, and need to be told it’s not feminine to love, show empathy or kindness. Being a guy today sucks. Guys have to live up to destructive stereotypes, have to deal with unrealistic body images, and “man up” shaming. Here’s a quote:
“It’s plain hypocritical to preach equality of the sexes when in reality you’re only looking out for one sex. If you’re going to fight for equality, you can’t promote one sex as flawless and the other as the purveyor of all things evil. You can’t expect or want women to ever have more power than men. If you do these things, then you are, in fact, sexist. It might be going too far to say that excluding men from the feminist movement if the same as promoting sexism, but I certainly think the current way we’re approaching equality and attempting to achieve it is a wee bit skewed”.
To me, this quote is almost heartwarming. This is something I’d expect an MHRA to say. I’ll give credit where it’s due, Julie is better than some feminists. However, her answer to men’s problems is more feminism. Did this quote make you forget her view that men oppressed women for thousands of years? Or that this oppression threatens to come back at any moment, if women aren’t on guard? Doesn’t it feel like sleeping with the enemy?.. And this is why I’m not convinced that “pro-men” feminists are genuine. Even if they believe they want to help men, they still believe in oppression of women, their main focus is on women, and showing ways in which it’s not true will not be accepted. In short, if you have major male-specific problems, prepare to be always in the background, or to be fitted into a box, instead of truly being listened to.
THE HONEST FEMINISTS
For some reason, this (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/09/not-a-feminist-move-on-men-women ) woman was criticized for excluding male feminists for caring about male issues. By people at the redpill reddit. Emer O’Toole doesn’t think a belief in equality is enough to be a true feminist. She says:
“But it’s also kind of lying. You need to believe some other important things in order to be a feminist, things that might be illustrated as follows:”
“Most of the feminists I know care about how gender inequality affects men. Of course they do – they’re egalitarians. And some also work on male equality issues. But feminism is a movement that seeks to achieve equal rights for women. This focus is necessary, because we live in a world of historically and culturally inscribed female disadvantage.”
I don’t understand why she was harshly criticized for this. She seems honest and much more consistent than someone who believes all the same things, but says feminism is “just about equality”, and “for both sexes”. I suspect an inclusive feminist would become this honest, when men start talking about their problems too much, or about problems the feminist doesn’t comprehend.
P.S. I liked one thing about the book – the author admitted the hookup culture is more fun for guys, rather than girls. And that men are not just women with penises, but humans who are different from women.