Feminism Should be Celebrated, Not Junked -- One Man's Opinion
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2. Why do some women avoid the word? In countless discussions over many years with women and occasionally men, about why they sidestep the word feminist, I have found that discomfort with the word is almost exclusively due to what men think of it. Women, especially young women, are concerned not with the facts of feminism, but of the miserable image the mass media has attached to the word, making up all sorts of lies about the image of women, even to making up the lie that women burned bras in Atlantic City at a Miss America contest. (They didn't.)
A case in point is the candid admission by Zerlina Maxwell, up and coming feminist political commentator (who bravely tangled with Fox's Sean Hannity on the question of rape) in an interview:
"When I first started writing for Feministing, I wondered, do I tell people I’m dating I write for a site named Feministing? And is that a test for what kind of guy this is? I don’t think that should be the case. It’s not necessarily that we only talk about women’s issues. We talk about everything through a certain lens."
Now, it is true that I am only one man, but feminists were always the smartest, the most caring, the coolest women I knew, decade after decade. But it is true, many of these women did not need male approval to go about their lives. Does Marissa Mayer earn some cred among the male-dominated tech culture at Yahoo for eschewing feminism? Probably. There have always been successful women who have been very male friendly, and maybe that is a prerequisite to success with the Google guys, and now Yahoo.
3. We are losing sight of the fact that 'feminism' means something incredibly valuable. First of all, it must be truly hard for a thinking women to run from the word feminist, as much as some do. As Jessica Coen writes in a response to Tracy Moore's Jezebel piece, "Whenever someone asks me if I am a feminist, instead of outright answering, I turn it around: 'Do you think that women should have the same rights as men?' The person invariably says yes, and I respond, 'Then you are a feminist.' And they sputter or look at me with wide eyes like, gee, they never thought about it like that."
As my friend Ruth Rosen, an historian of the women's movement, writes:
These days it may be hard for some to believe, but before the women’s movement burst on the scene in the late 1960s, newspapers published ads for jobs on different pages, segregated by gender. Employers legally paid women less than men for the same work. Some bars refused to serve women and all banks denied married women credit or loans, a practice which didn’t change until 1974. Some states even excluded women from jury duty.
On August 27, 1970, in response to such injustice, 50,000 women marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue, announcing the birth of a new movement. They demanded three rights: legal abortion, universal childcare, and equal pay. These were preconditions for women’s equality with men at home and in the workplace. Astonishingly, they didn’t include the ending of violence against women among their demands -- though the experience and fear of male violence was widespread -- because women still suffered these crimes in silence.
Those three demands, and the fourth one that couldn’t yet be articulated, have yet to be met.
So yes, feminism is about making a better world -- it's about fairness, opportunity, safety, and so much more. And it's about making sure that we men are not deprived of women who are able to reach their potential and express their ideas, which we so much need for our own fulfillment, insight, balance, and humanizing.