Conservative Views of Feminism

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I’ve been reading the book, Feminism: Opposing Viewpoints, and what strikes me about the “answers” to feminism is how misinformed they are. At the same time I can see how some of the non-feminists came to the conclusions they do. Misconceptions about feminism are widespread. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are some of the titles of the conservative essays in the book:

  1. Women are not the victims of sexism.
  2. Claims that women face discrimination in the workplace are exaggerated.
  3. Feminists have overstated the problem of violence against women.
  4. Women are not harmed by societal standards of beauty.
  5. Feminism has limited women’s choices.
  6. The sexual revolution has harmed women.
  7. Feminism has caused the breakdown of the family.
  8. The feminist movement is dead.
  9. Feminism has abandoned its original principles.
  10. Feminists should not seek international rights for women.

Don’t get me wrong: there is plenty of room for debate here. But the majority of these statements, put down in black and white, seem to be simplistic knee-jerk reactions. There’s also a lot of blaming going on. If women are unhappy today, it’s because of feminism. Every problem that women face is made worse by feminism. Feminists should mind their own business and leave the average woman alone.

The consensus seems to be that the vast majority of women cannot identify with feminist concerns and don’t think that a feminist movement is necessary. But when a 1999 Gallup/USA Today poll asked women “how important do you think the women’s movement has been in helping women to obtain greater equality with men?,” 57% percent said it was extremely or very important — only 4% said it wasn’t important at all. When asked women how important the women’s movement would be in the next century, a nearly identical number, 56%, said it would be extremely or very important. (See here for more results of the poll.)

The biggest reason for the difference of opinion between conservatives and feminists is that conservatives rarely acknowledge that there were problems to begin with. Perhaps feminists see problems everywhere, but I for one would rather see problems where they don’t exist than not see–and not do anything about–problems that do exist.

At the same time, I think the feminist movement is made stronger because of its critics. Feminists should not fall into the same trap of knee-jerk reactions. We need to carefully consider the consequences of every statement we make and every cause we support. We need to listen to those who oppose feminism in order to determine what is really bothering them. And we need to address those concerns. But we also have the right to take credit where it is due. The feminist movement is responsible for a lot of positive changes in society. Don’t let the anti-feminist conservatives tell you differently.

Benefits of Feminism – For Men

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I just read an article on AskMen.com which was somewhat tongue-in-cheek about how feminism has benefited men. The author cites things like more casual sex (not having to work as hard to get laid) to the reclaiming of formerly “bad” words to describe women (much like African-Americans reclaiming the N-word) to the upholding of strippers, porn stars and hookers as the new models of self-empowerment. What are other ways that feminism has benefited men?

1. We’re here to do the work that men don’t want to do, to work the hours they don’t want to work and to work for less pay than they would accept. Of course, now that the economy is tanking, we may see more men moving back into “female” (less-desirable) jobs because less money is better than none. Where will the women go then? Back to the home? (Post-WWII, anyone?)

2. We have helped men to get in touch with their feelings. These days it’s more acceptable for a man to show emotions (like sadness or depression).  If only it was as okay for women to show their emotions (like anger and frustration).

3. We have given men the freedom to be house-husbands and to be supported by their wives or girlfriends.

4. More men are getting into parenting and some are even finding that they like it. However, most of the child care is still primarily the mother’s responsibility. (See “The Sacred Responsibility of Motherhood.”)

5. As women begin to receive higher pay and more promotions, men’s pay and promotions increase as well. Of course, this keeps the ratio constant (anywhere from 65%-85% of the male worker’s dollar) because the status quo has to be maintained.

6. As more females become bosses, the workplace becomes more stressful for female employees. Female bosses tend to get along better with males than with females, giving men an edge in the workplace. (See “Managing Women Bosses.”)

7. Women are sharing some of the dangers of war and other risky jobs. It’s not only men who are being maimed or dying.

8. As it becomes more acceptable for women make decisions, in the home, the workplace, or the legislature, that burden is lifted off the men in their lives. Then if things don’t go well, it’s not all the men’s fault.

9. Dual income families take a lot of pressure off the men. Now they can afford more toys than they’d be able to buy on just their incomes. And they have help paying for things that used to be all on their shoulders.

10.  As women become freer about what they wear (and reveal), men don’t have to work as hard for fantasy material. (Take the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.)

11. More women are choosing to go it alone when they get pregnant (either for their abortions or to raise the child as single mothers), which must be a big relief to the prospective fathers and husbands.

12. Men are beginning to enjoy sides of themselves that once would have branded them as gay. And those who are gay have benefited from the feminist movement, too: as there has been more acceptance of lesbianism, homosexuality as a whole has been more accepted.

My own list is a bit tongue-in-cheek as well. Because men still manage to come out on top, even after all these years of feminist activism. There’s nothing wrong with bringing benefits to all people regardless of gender, but why do women still lag behind others? I think men are still afraid that women are going to take over the world and then where would that leave them? It’s obvious, though, that the world still turns on male privilege. There’s only one thing that women alone can do, and that is to have children. And even that might be changing. (See here.)

Related article:  “Do Men Need Jobs More Than Women?

Video Series: Eve Ensler On Finding Happiness in Body and Soul

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Every Friday I will try to have a video for women, usually by women, about issues that affect women. The first one I’ve chosen is Eve Ensler, playwright and activist, speaking about how her play, The Vagina Monologues, came to be and the effect that it has had on her life and work as well as on the lives of women everywhere.

Source: TED.com and thanks to my husband for finding it.
The Book: The Vagina Monologues

Who Am I Writing For?

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A friend asked me yesterday who my target audience is for this blog. I had to stop and think about it. The most obvious answer is “women in general.” But I wonder if that’s quite accurate. Am I writing for women who don’t identify with feminism or for those who do? Am I writing for young women/feminists or old? Upper-class or lower-class? White women or women of color? Democrats or Republicans? Conservatives or liberals? Educated or uneducated? Native or foreign?  Mothers or non-mothers? Women who are single or women who marry? Gen-Xers, milleniums or Baby Boomers?

I don’t like to pigeonhole my readers like that. I would like to think that all women could find something here that they could take away with them. But the truth is, I am writing primarily for people like myself. Because we tend to write about what we know.

We tend to write about what we know

I’ve always thought that made  my writing boring. I read blogs like Feministing and envy their tone and their topics. But then I realize that these are young, with-it women. They have their pulse on what’s going on right now. I’m older and more reflective. I chew on what I want to write about for awhile before I digest it and it becomes part of me. Only then can I share it.

My life is very circumscribed by the fact that I’m white, middle class, moderately educated (bachelor’s degree–that’s considered moderate anymore), and older than fifty. Who wants to listen to an old fogie like me? Maybe young women don’t: I’m not immediate or informed enough. I tend to gravitate toward issues that resonate with me: divorce and marriage, raising children into adulthood, self-fulfillment, careers, financial security, spirituality, retirement and dying. (I obsess about dying.) But instead I’ve been trying to write for younger women, I think. I’ve been trying to tap into their interests and match their enthusiasm.

Continue reading Who Am I Writing For?

Should All Women Be Feminists?

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Feminism is not about being a victim or a villain.  It’s about being a human.

I get it that women who are satisfied with their lives are not going to identify with feminism, because they view it as a philosophy about victimhood. But that’s the negative way of viewing it. It is also about empowerment  and fulfillment. It is a philosophy that guides you around the pitfalls in life. It teaches you to be more proactive about what you want to do and be.  It helps you to identify your needs and your desires, not just spend a lifetime reacting to the needs and desires of others.

The second reason why a woman might reject feminism is because she sees it as promoting selfishness. Other people’s needs should come first, they think. That’s what being a woman is all about. There’s nothing wrong with altruism. In fact, the world would be a better place if more people thought in terms of service and self-sacrifice. But being a feminist does not mean that you always put yourself first. It is about being more effective, about having the self-confidence to step up to the plate and seek the best for the people you care about. It takes strength and support from other women to be a woman like that.

It’s also about being an advocate for those who do not have it as good as you do. Being a feminist means that you don’t turn your face away from the problems other women have. Your life might be just as you want it, but what about the women who are abused, who can’t feed their children, who are being paid a pittance compared to their male co-workers, who have no voice? Feminism educates you about the world “out there” where women are suffering and struggling every day. Feminism is about solidarity.

Thirdly, I think women shy away from feminism because they secretly believe that every woman gets the fate that she deserves. If her husband leaves her, she wasn’t a good enough wife. If her children do bad things, it’s because she wasn’t a good enough mother. When single mothers are ostracized for not being able to hold onto their men and other women are reviled for having abortions, the blame is put on the woman for “letting” herself get pregnant. If a woman is poor, it’s because she’s lazy; if she’s fat or unattractive, it’s because she’s let herself go.

Continue reading Should All Women Be Feminists?

Sexual Hate Crimes

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The FBI shows [see below] that hate crimes based on sexual orientation are the third most prevalent type. That’s why it doesn’t make sense that George Bush vetoed the Matthew Shepard Act when it landed on his desk in 2007. This legislation would have protected people from hate crimes on the basis of perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

For those who don’t know the story, Matthew Shepard, age 21, was tied to a fence post, tortured and beaten and left for dead by two other young men. He was found 18 hours later and was pronounced dead five days later. The defense tried to use a “gay-panic” defense as a way to circumvent any affiliation with hate crimes, but the fact is, the perpetrators couldn’t have been prosecuted for a hate crime anyway, because Wyoming didn’t recognize sexual orientation as one of the “conditions” that precipitates hate crimes. It still doesn’t. (It is not the only state that does not have such legislation; at last count there were 18 more who have ignored the importance of legislating sexual hate crimes.) Huffington Post article about this here.

This is not the only time a person has been beaten or murdered for having an sexual orientation that is considered by some to be deviant. Some well-known victims include Brandon Teena and Angie Zapata. How many more have to die before sexual hate crimes will be prosecutable nation-wide?

An FBI 2008 press release about hate crimes in general reported that “of the 7,621 single-bias incidents [in 2007], 50.8 percent were motivated by a racial bias, 18.4 percent were motivated by a religious bias, 16.6 percent were motivated by a sexual orientation bias, and 13.2 percent were motivated by an ethnicity/national origin bias. One percent involved a bias against a disability.”

The only reason I can think of why President Bush would have vetoed the Matthew Shepard Act is because he thinks violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals is justifiable. And that is just plain sick.