Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Rise And Fall Of Modern Day Feminism

The Rise And Fall Of Modern Day Feminism
I was raised with two sisters, one younger and one older than me. My whole life I have been fascinated with them as human beings, for they are arguably the most headstrong and ambitious people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Nothing ever seemed like it could stand in their way, and without complaining about circumstance or doubting their own abilities, I have watched as they separately set out goals and pursued them until they have both achieved success in almost all areas of life—or at least more than I have, anyway. And while I am sure they would have a lot to say about the content in this article themselves, from my outside perspective, I never once heard any accusations of life treating them in any unfair manner or witnessed them wallowing in the pool of self-pity. These two girls are among my top female icons.

I tell you this, because they were perhaps the catalyst for my current attitude towards women as a whole. Growing up (and even as I type this), I always considered females to be the stronger of the genders. Boys appeared to have less control, too quick to act in a macho way, pretending to be something they’re not, finding solutions in insults and fists. Girls, on the other hand, were the more nurturing, compassionate version of the human being, much more willing to listen and faster to admit weakness, which is in reality a sign of strength. I honestly was convinced for a long time that there was a secret within society, one where girls controlled the world and knew it, achieving said ownership by allowing the boys to think the boys were in control, whilst quietly instructing us what to do (and by looking at a lot of relationships, this is often the case).

However, this idea came crashing down very recently, directly connected to the uprising of modern-day-first-world-third-wave feminism. You may have noticed it yourself during the last few years, where this mass influx of interest over said movement, slowly dominated our social feeds and sprouted all over our news sources, and while most of my friends managed to escape it, this shit really messed with my insides. You mean to tell me that girls are not part of some organisation which completely controls the planet? You are saying that they, in actual fact, consider themselves victims of our society? I was disappointed, but even more so, was overwhelmed by guilt. As a male, I was shocked at what they were saying about me and my gender, the wrong things we were doing and saying and thinking, and especially the suggestion that none of these girls felt safe because of us. This would not do. I needed to help.

It consumed me. It swallowed me up and boiled me in its womb. I became obsessed. I studied everything I could on the history of the subject, I read a new article every single day (and still do), I joined forums and I followed relevant twitter accounts, making a load of feminist friends (male and female) along the way. I estimate that I know more about the subject than at least 70% of the community, and I'm open to be challenged. And, how exciting, it appeared I had joined the army at just the right time. New reports were pouring in every minute, my facebook was flooded, people were making some noise! It was madness! We were shouting! We were spreading awareness! We were making a difference.

But then one day, I made a mistake. I asked questions.

I'd done well at grasping the fundamental basics of feminism: the equality of all people. I knew the topics we were fighting against: the pay gap, the sexualised body image, the lack of sexual freedom, the catcalling, the security of women, etc. However, there were some details I was unsure of, factors which seemed either irrelevant, overly-sensitive, or at times, a little excessively man-hating. And so I started querying things, to the likes of:

Do you ever feel feminism is trying to make boys and girls the same rather than celebrating our differences?
Isn’t catcalling a bit of a first world problem in comparison to what’s going on in other countries, gender wise?
I get what we’re trying to do here, but are we proposing problems or solutions? And while we’re on the topic, what are the solutions?
Are we also giving enough time to the gender role problems men face too, like rights over children or statutory rape charges when both parties were equally drunk and consensual?
Is the word FEMinism really all inclusive? Shouldn’t we consider changing it?

And then BAM, just like that, the crew I had devoted so many hours of my energy supporting, turned to face me with claws and teeth and spit and growls. I was told to check my privilege. I was labeled a sexist just for asking. I was condescendingly informed I was a white male, and so I would never understand. In fact, I am willing to bet money that some of you reading this right now, judge me on the same basis. How dare a boy write about feminism when he cannot comprehend what it’s like to be a victim? Just because he takes an interest in equality and wants girls to feel free from harm, does not give him a right to ask questions, correct? He is not a girl, and therefore will never know what it means. Be honest with yourself, is that what you were thinking? Don’t worry if it was, I’m used to it. But you have to at least recognise why, at this point, I started to wonder if feminism was a healthy movement after all. Once the curtain dropped and I had been attacked for asking things, I notice a new side to the story, which only provoked me to ask further questions and make louder jokes. Naturally that didn't help the situation whatsoever.

It's a difficult thing to explain without digging a hole, so I must firstly say #NotAllFeminists, and thank the various people who have taken the time to approach my concerns with intelligence and a solution-based mentality. Those are the girls (and boys) who give feminism a good name and helped the growth of my interest, and I appreciate them wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, such examples were few and far between. More often than not, I saw the word being driven by anger, by insecurity, by a bombardment of keywords, and a disregard to any opposing opinions. It was no wonder I had been feeling so negative lately! I had surrounded myself with hate! This was not a journey of positive change! This was a journey of barking and stress! And so regrettably, while still actively playing my part in the equality of genders by defending women's rights and going out of my way to make the girls in my own life feel safe and comfortable, I had to reluctantly turn my back on the word “feminism”.

And here's the thing. I am not alone.

As with anything in our world, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The feminist culture has grown so massive and in-your-face, that the inevitable counterculture rose up in protest. And even though I find it mostly comedic, the Women Against Feminism facebook group was a real eye opener to me. It not only showed that feminists weren’t talking on behalf of females (they are talking on behalf of feminists, fyi), but also further revealed the ugly side of the movement. We have women fighting for the equality of women, but if other women didn’t agree with their methods, then they were the enemy along with everyone else—and of course, the enemy was always stupid. I don't know, something about that mentality didn’t sit right with me, perhaps because I figured equality was about freedom of opinions?

But now we had an active “pro-feminism/anti-feminism” debate going on, and as a result, it only exploded further. So much so, that in a recent poll conducted by Time Magazine, the word “feminism” was rated as one of the most annoying terms of 2014, up there with “bae”, “said no one ever” and “om nom nom nom” (note: they did retract this entry later, but the damage was done). Whichever side of the feminism fence you are on, this is a severe blow to the development, one which indicates a general public apathy towards the perpetual vomit of the topic forced upon us on a daily basis. People are getting sick of it, and that’s the most dangerous threat any idea can face.

It continues: not so long ago Amanda Palmer (a feminist icon to many) posted this link to her facebook, which explicitedly warns feminists against overdoing it. It’s worth the read in full, but here is an excerpt:

“...if feminism becomes like the boy who cried wolf—if girls, and women, cry sexism too readily and often—America will stop listening. The minute feminism becomes hypercritical and humorless, it becomes too easy for the mainstream to dismiss our more valid complaints.”

And these type of articles are not the anomaly, they are becoming the norm, especially in regards to how males are often ignored on the subject of equality. Men are no longer afraid to express concerns over the word's exclusivity. Videos have surfaced attempting to highlight the double standards of gender domestic abuse and catcalling. Statistics are only now coming out that one in every nine rape victims are men. And while online harassment has recently grown into a hot topic for the feminist world, studies have shown that this too is not necessarily a girl issue.

Just quickly while we're talking cyberbullying, we cannot ignore that at times, it is the feminists themselves who are carrying out the attack. Just a few days ago, Dr Matt Taylor was involved in the incredible feat of landing a probe on a comet—which should have been the greatest day of his life. Instead, it turned out to be the worst, as he went viral as a mysogonist for his misjudged choice of shirt, one displaying provocative images of anime characters, and the femternet tore him a new one, calling him every variation of a sexist under the stars until he cried. Perhaps his choice of attire may have been a little on the bad taste side (if nothing else, even in a fashion sense type of way), but it once again exposed the over-sensitivety and brutality of this community. It's just a fucking shirt, yet it shall stick to his reputation for the rest of his life.

All these things are damaging women's liberation too, as it starts to become a parody of itself and reflects badly on those who remember what the real fight was meant to be. How about the conspiracy that drug companies are using feminism against you? Or that adverts are exploiting little kids by paying them to swear about feminism just to sell shirts? These are only some of the examples about how the once beautiful intention of bringing genders closer together, has slowly turned into a war between who thinks what about feminism as a concept itself, rather than what it's trying to accomplish. In fact, on any given day, just check Google news, and you are sure to find an almost even amount of reports supporting or questioning feminism (usually about feminism rather than what feminism is about), and none of them will make you feel any better.

But what about the celebrity support? The world cheered for Emma Watson's UN speech, and that was a huge win for the pro-feminist arena, right? Right! But let's not forget a big part of that was her careful inclusion of the social injustices towards men too, something so rare for a public figure to acknowledge that almost every headline focused on it. But even when considering this, there are countless celebrities who have distanced themselves from the word, including: Selma Hayek, Katy Perry, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Bjork, Madonna, Susan Sarandon, and Demi Moore, to name a few. Does this make feminism look alive and well to you? Hell, even those who do believe in the movement are fighting. It's a mess.

To conclude, the problem here is that a lot of people get confused and consider “anti-feminism” to be synonymous with “anti-women and equal rights,” but this is not the case. It is against the culture, the moral superiority, the repetitiveness, and the rivalry, which is not a bad thing to be against. But even with that being said, I still see no need to be anti-feminist myself. I will forever pay attention to what is being spoken about, support what I believe in, skim over what I don’t, admire the past successes, and respect anyone who has this level of passion for anything. But based on how the community all too often neglects my gender and has embarked on a quest to find prejudice within any corner of conversation (at times, making it up if it's not there), I can no longer associate that label with myself. Then again, maybe this all serves me right. Maybe I deserve the animosity. I am a male after all.

But finally, the real tragedy here is how close to change we nearly were. For almost a whole year, feminists had the mic, and the entire world was listening. The complication arose when no two feminists could seem to agree on what the priority was, and instead we, the listeners, were hit with a list of a hundred points, some of which contradicted each other and others of which were even rejected by their own comrades—which is just so typical female (lol, joke! That was a joke! Please don't judge this article by that line!). If we had only decided to tackle one issue at a time (say perhaps, the pay gap or catcalling), and focused all that energy and vocal power on destroying a specific factor of discrimination piece by piece, we probably would have solved at least two or three major issues by now instead of alienating and confusing the masses until they were bored with the conversation. And I'm worried that at this advanced stage, it may be too late. We may have already blown it.

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