Happy international Women’s day! Wow ladies, a whole day. It’s like the oppression never even happened and isn’t still happening! No but seriously, on this day I’d like to take time to answer a few questions that I’ve heard recently about Feminism and to respond to some frequent critiques of feminism that I hear and would like to address. Oh, and to answer the most commonm question I hear every International women’s day; International men’s day is on the 19th of November. It’s also international white middle class man day EVERY DAY OF THE FUCKING YEAR. Stop being a smartarse.
Do feminists hate men?
Okay, so firstly let’s talk about what feminism is exactly. A lot of people assume that it’s a hard and fast philosophy that all feminists agree on and never debate amongst themselves. It’s much more like marxism or any other political theory- just that, a *theory* that everybody has a grand old time debating about. Feminists agree and disagree on plenty of things. Just because one woman who called herself feminist told you this one time that all sex is rape does NOT mean all feminists agree with that. There are feminists like me who are staunchly pro choice and there are others who argue that abortion damages women- I don’t agree, in fact I’ll disagree to the bitter end, but the basic fact is this-
Feminism is the idea that gender doesn’t define a person, who they are or what they’re good at. It’s about empowering women to take control of their bodies and lives, and to not feel inferior to anyone.
But do feminists hate men? Well, I certainly don’t. I have two brothers and a dad that I love very much, not to mention my two uncles, my grandfather, my five cousins and countless male friends. I like men so much sometimes I even FANCY some of them. Not the ones I’m related to. That would be weird. But yeah, I don’t hate men. And I know men don’t hate me. Not really. Germaine Greer and some second wave feminists might disagree and say that all men secretly subconsciously hate women because society has programmed them that way but I take a more chilled out look. Guys get totally fucked over by society’s notions of gender.
So do you support men’s rights too?
OBVS LIKE. I so do. I believe in gender equality. Feminism is all about the gender equality. I’m not saying you’ll never see a feminist argue against that because like I said, anything goes, but generally we’re good with men having rights. If men didn’t have rights, we wouldn’t have them either because hey, we want to be equal. Thing is, a lot of critique of feminism from a men’s rights perspective misunderstands what feminism wants to do.
My dad and brothers as working class men find it incredibly difficult to express emotion through any conduit other than anger. My Dad has admitted to me ‘Ah no, I can’t cry. I cry on the inside.’ There’s a reason the suicide rate among young men is so high, and it’s not feminism- it’s the standards we still judge men by; expecting them to be tough, and stoic, and virile. Be the breadwinner and if you’re not able to support a wife and family on your own, you fail as a man. This is all the stuff that feminism is opposed to- it’s opposed to the idea that men have to fit into any sort of prescribed gender role. It argues that just as women can be tough and ballsy, men can be caring and nurturing and neither option is better or worse than the other. A major argument I hear in critique of feminism is that fathers have very few rights in relation to custody of their children. And let me put my hands up right now and say this- I think fathers should have equal right to custody of their kids. It’s the old assumption that men aren’t carers and women are, and I don’t like it. I don’t for one second deny that men get totally gypped by custody law. Feminism wants to make custody law fairer too- We don’t want to go back 150 years when men were given sole automatic custody of their children and nor do we want the burden of childcare to inevitably be a woman’s job. Equality for all! Feminism is a synonym for ‘gender equality.’ The only reason I don’t go around calling myself a ‘Gender Equalist’ is because it’s too clumsy a term and there’s also nothing wrong with the word ‘Feminism.’ It doesn’t alienate dudes at all. Dudes be my brothers. Dudes suffer from this screwed up idea of gender too. I think a major problem with the whole ‘mens rights’ thing is that while well meaning, they tend to misinterprete feminism as being just blind misandry- they seem to envision rights as a finitie resource and asking for more of them for women means men losing a bit, but that’s not it. Mens and Women’s rights are all important. Nobody’s fighting here. We’re all friends.
In conclusion- Everybody is my bro, I don’t hate men.
So can men be feminists?
Totes. Feminist men, as I have discussed elsewhere at length, men who respect me as a person and as an equal are rad. I was being humourous obviously, but there really is no subsitute for genuine respect and support.
Are all feminist lesbians?
No. I am a noted man-lover, as are many others. Of course there are lots of lesbians who are feminists too, not to mention lots of gay men and trans men and women. One of the big challenges to feminism at the moment is supporting and accepting trans women (i.e. people who were born as psyically male but transitioned to living as a woman). Again, early second wave feminism (Which was the 1960s radical movement that is most people’s go to image for feminism- think angry bra burners and shouty women) Was quite unpleasant about trans women and men, but it’s moved on since then. Feminism has also now had to become intersectional- which means basically that it doesn’t fight against the massive monolith of PATRIARCHY anymore (when you hear me joking about ‘crushing patriarchy’ it’s usually slightly toungue in cheek) because although there is a patriarchal order to the world, women are oppressed for a lot of different reasons- My experiences are very different to a black woman, or a muslim women, or a woman not from europe. It’s also very different from the experiences of working class women or women who live in poverty- In these cases it’s often racism and class constraints oppressing women and their experience of sexism is marked by these things also.
So it’s not enough to just rail against ‘teh menz’ anymore. We have to understand that it’s all a bit more complex, and that systems of oppression are wildly different depending on location, race, class, gender assignment and sexuality.
So are not all feminists shouty and angry?
Well, some are. I know a lot of women who are currently very angry about lack of legislation for abortion in any circumstance in Ireland. That makes me quite angry too. A lot of women are angry at being told not to dress too provocatively or drink too much in order to avoid being raped, as if the responsibility is on us not to be raped rather than on the rapist not to rape. I’m angry that people like David Quinn can pontificate about sexuality and abortion to teenage girls and that in my lifetime women were incarcerated in industrial laundries. I’m angry that women are deprived of choice in this country, and that young mothers and single mothers are often still stigmatized and sneered at. It makes me all very sad, and very angry. In fact, a lot of this general background anger is the reason I got back into writing after a long break. But I’m also by nature an optimist, and I was raised with manners and politeness on me, so generally I try not to get shouty. I’m not good at being angry- some people are fabulous at it and they do well, but it’s not my style. I prefer to be a comedian and to make my point via humour. I think making sexism and misogyny look silly with a single zinger is worth twenty angry blog posts. That’s just my style.
So yeah, I think all feminists have anger in them, particularly in Ireland right now. Not all shouty though (Although there’s nothing wrong with being shouty- there is plenty to shout about), some of us do better with humour as an outlet for the rage.
Dont’ you already *have* equal rights?
Nominally, maybe. But some burdens fall unequally on the shoulders of women. Things like childcare, which as we’ve discussed, is unfair to mothers and fathers. Women are also still asked things like ‘what were you wearing’ when they report that they’ve been raped. In some cases, a woman’s sexual history has been used to throw out rape trials. Women still get objectified in comics and games in a way men never are. Most of the ‘objectification’ men go through in games- the super muscled hot heroes- that people site to me as an example of ‘men are treated bad too!’ are really wish fulfillment roles for guys to play as. I refuse to accept that you’ll see a page three spread of a guy with his cock out any time soon. All I’m saying is that you don’t just roll up feminism when you’ve got legislation. You have to keep pushing at thousands of years of society having certain ideas about women and their capabilities. That’s all.
So what makes me a feminist?
Basically if you’ve ever been made feel ashamed of having or wanting sex, or of dressing a particular way, or if you’ve ever just felt really uncomfortable with the way you or your friends/relatives are treated because they’re women, or felt that women are held to a higher standard and half to work twice as hard to be considered half as good, or been accused of ‘getting hysterical’ when you’re just trying to debate a point, yeah. That’s all the bullshit feminism deals with and tries to critique. You’re a feminist. It doesn’t mean you hate men or agree with every dumb thin Caitlin Moran says on twitter, it doesn’t mean you punch the air and go ‘FUCK YEAH!’ when Julie Burchill says prostitutes should be shot as collabarators with the partiarchal regieme, and it doesn’t mean you have to be anything other than what you want to be. It justs means you want to do your own thing, and for everyone else to get off your tits about it.
Niamh ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ Keoghan