For the past few years, the word Feminism has been progressively more associated with man-hating. For anybody who knows the true meaning of the word, this might not make much sense: feminism, by definition, is an ideology that defends gender equality, equal rights between men and women. Therefore, how can it be sexist?
As a woman, I am all about defending women’s rights, and so would I be if I were a man. This is only logical, since the human sex ratio for our world population is 101 men to 100 women and, as long as one half of the Earth’s population is being discriminated and does not have the same rights as the other, I don’t see how the second half can thrive. If we were in a reverse situation and men were the oppressed gender, I would gladly defend their equality of rights. So, for a person like me, it is worrying to see how tarnished the word Feminism has become. My worry can only translate into one simple, yet very complex question: How and why did this happen?
Drifting through social networks, you can find plenty of discussions regarding this subject, one of which falls directly on women’s use of yoga pants. According to many men, this causes women to lose their legitimacy when they complain about being the target of sexual remarks. I found this to be a good example because it raised a lot of questions. Women complain about being harassed by men on the streets. If they are wearing yoga pants when this happens, do they still have the right to complain or are they “asking for it”? Can men control their urge to look at women and catcall them? Are women still harassed when they are not wearing yoga pants? In this case, do men lose all of their legitimacy? Have they ever had such legitimacy?
Although these questions all relate to the same particular situation (this temporary fashion of the yoga pants) I think they also lead us directly into the core subject: the Battle of the Sexes, women’s rights versus men’s rights. These are some comments I read when I was watching a video about women wearing yoga pants:
1 – “The amazing double morale with women is that they want men to want them, but they also complain about you wanting them. (…) And also their lack of understanding of the human behaviour: men are hard wired to always look for potential mates”.
2 – “You are a woman so your lack of logic does not surprise me, because women are not logical, they are emotional. Women also love attention, they want to be taken as a priority by men. If a man cheats on them, they will be mad at him because they feel like they aren’t his priority any more”.
3 – “Women wouldn’t complain about being catcalled if the man doing it was Brad Pitt”.
4 – “Men built and maintain civilization and will determine the future of it, women are strictly along for the ride”.
5 – “Women are biologically and naturally stupid, they always sleep with guys who disrespect them, who have a big wallet and are physically fit”.
6 – “When women stare at men, it looks as creepy and awful as what women say about men doing the same“.
All these replies to the video shocked and saddened me. These statements hardly deserve to be answered. For instance, statement number 1: men are apparently willing to make little of their rational thinking just to win the discussion. Saying that men cannot control their biological urge to “look for potential mates” and use that as an excuse to harass women on the streets is the same as saying that they are primal beings who act purely on instinct.
Statement number 2: there is a common saying according to which women tend to act more based on their emotions than on their reason. But I do not believe that there is such a big difference between men and women. Men are also sensitive, emotional beings. It is society that has taught them to raise prejudice against their vulnerable, sensitive side, denying it and trying to rationalize it. Having said that, both men and women are rational and emotional beings.
Statement number 3: men would probably not be displeased if Angelina Jolie walked by them on the street and whistled at them. There is, nevertheless, a considerable difference between some innocent remarks and crude, sexual comments.
After having taken a look at all these biased, absurd statements, I decided to reply to the man who wrote statement number 2. I told him that, if he was using the argument that women act purely out of their emotions, I could as simply use the argument that “men only think with their lower head”. However, by doing so, I would be incurring in a stereotype, just like he had done. It is as much a stereotype to say that women cannot control their emotions in front of men as it is to say that men are only driven by their sexual impulses.
In fact, looking at all the comments below the video and at all arguments used in common discussions between men and women, the common factor is this: using stereotypes to attack each other.
While stereotypes can, on one hand, help us react quickly to a certain situation (because we can recognise them from other common situations) they will, on the other hand, ignore the differences between individuals. Stereotypes can be very biased and discriminate large numbers of people. Having heard and participated in many arguments between men and women, I have always seen this happen: both parties use stereotypes to attack each other and prove their point.
So, going back to my first question, I believe one of the answers is:
- Women lose their legitimacy when defending their own rights by using stereotypes to attack men and prove their point. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all women do this. But it is important to remember that having a mediator intervention in opposite gender discussions can raise greater agreement than attacking the other party.
Another reason as to why the word Feminism has been tarnished is:
- Just like women must not incur into any stereotypes against men, men must do the same. To continue insulting each other with these widespread, overstated ideas related either to the female or male gender will only harm both.
And this last statement leads me to the final conclusion:
- Women and men must not view each other as opposite parties. We obviously have to recognise the differences between us, because they exist, but that does not mean that we don’t deserve equal rights.
Having taken these arguments into consideration, there is another question to reflect on: If women are wearing yoga pants when this (being harassed by men) happens, do they still have the right to complain or are they “asking for it”?
In my belief, it is not just misogynistic men who are responsible for denigrating the idea of Feminism. Women who have certain behaviours that objectify them are not helping themselves or any other woman. We cannot make men respect us if we do not respect ourselves first. As a result, I believe it is important to point this out:
- The contempt towards Feminism is caused by both men and women. Viewing each other as opposite sides of one battle, as competitors or opponents, does not help either of us.
The best way to clean the word Feminism and to fight for women’s rights – a fight that should be carried out by both genders – is to stop attacking each other with stereotypes and to act as mediators in these endless discussions. To recognise that the rights of one of us are deeply connected to the rights of all the others is fundamental. We must not think of ourselves as individuals, but as one group that needs to live together in this world, sharing it peacefully and equally with all other living beings.
Feminism = an ideology that defends equal rights for women
Sexism = discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender