leaveten's Diaryland Diary


seriously: a feminist letter

to all the non-feminists:

I'll start with a definition.

feminism*: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

*this definition is pulled directly from the Merriam-Webster website (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism)

I've always thought it's interesting that the idea of feminism is point of contention to anyone at all at this point in human history. We live in a nation that promises freedom and equality, empowers the people to voice themselves, treasures ideals based around improvement, and has a deep rooted metaphoric "dream" of a better life. America's history is certainly controversial at many points, but nonetheless we've persevered our national persona as one associated with utopic concepts other nations strive to achieve. We are a world power, a first world nation, a new hope, the land of the free.

That's where the surprise settles in. How can a concept, as it's poignantly defined by the experts at Merriam-Webster, that advocates the same type of freedom that we stand for, be met with any sort of debate? Feminism carries with it an emotional meaning that has overshadowed it's simple definition for years, and the response it elicits manifests divide rather than the idealistic cohesion that one would logistically expect. The only hypothesis I could come to that has helped to make any sense of validates perhaps the greatest fear a feminist would have: that sexism is well and alive today.

And with that sentence, I'm sure I've elicited some outrage. Unfortunately, we hear words like "sexism" or "racism" and find ourselves defensive as if the entirety of our persona has been attacked or misrepresented. That is not my intention. Contrarily, sexism and racism exist, typically, outside the individual level and are rather characteristics of a society only somewhat represented in a person. In other words, no man is immune to it and all people are systemically affected by it. Like the cells in our body, or the atmosphere that surrounds us, we exist as a part of a larger microcosm where every part both effects and is effected by the whole. Shaped by both our experiences and our surroundings, we are flexibly made to mold and adapt, both for better and for worse.

That being said, let us return to the topic at hand: the duplicitous response to feminism. As a flawed person like all of my fellow human counterparts, the belief I've enveloped from my own exposure and experiences is that most people, by definition, are feminists. In the past year or so, I've had the opportunity to speak to many who make claims against it. With this in mind, here, I speak to the non-feminists:

I believe that you are good people. I believe that you have women in your lives that you respect and love, and that you would not want those women to face discrimination in any sense. Be that the mother who raised you, the grandmother who loved you, the partner who supported you, the friend who offered their hand to you, the wife who bore your children, the daughter you want to give the world to, the coworker who greets you, the waitress who serves you, the officers who protect you, and so on. I believe if asked point blank if they should work as hard as their male counterparts for the same opportunities, or have to work even harder on the basis of gender, you would answer that of course you prefer the former. I believe that if you were asked if the women in your life should be denied the opportunities they worked hard for in favor of another candidate solely on the basis of gender you would be appalled at the question itself. I believe that if I asked if your mother, daughter, sister, partner, wife and so on are less than their male coworkers, partners, friends or classmates because they are women you would defend their value. I believe in you the same way you believe in them.

So then, if this is true, and if the concept of feminism is as pure as a belief in equality, why the outrage at the name? Occam's razor, a scientific problem-solving principle rooted in empirical evidence, states that the simplest solution is often the correct one. With that in mind, I offer you this: Feminism sparks outrage because of the name itself. Because it is, for all intents and purposes, feminine. Though this sounds ridiculous, I ask you approach the following paragraph with an open mind as I dissect the sociological and historical influences that shape our systemic growth, and ultimate distaste with the word "feminism".

Historically speaking, femininity has been associated with lesser being since early human history. During our most primal beginnings, it was important to have traits more commonly associated with masculinity as it promoted survival. Strength, in the physical form, offered the greatest chance for humanity. Additionally, men had evolutionary traits that were most suited for the time; namely, their ability to procreate with multiple women at once. During this time in human history, the population was scarce and we often faced physiological threats to survival in the form of stronger, larger, and faster species. Our evolutionary goals were to hunt, populate, and fight. Traits that are biologically tied to men under most circumstances.

As we know from evaluations of recent history, change happens slowly and the old blends with the new. We do not suddenly halt and rearrange our way of life, we carefully blend into it. As such, human history continued to evolve with men continuing to dominate even when evolution did not necessarily support their dominance. From a sociological perspective, attitudes toward women continued to be discriminatory. Women were the last subgroup to be given the right to vote or enter the work force, women continue (in most cases) to earn the lowest pay of all groups, and are most harshly critiqued. Where we judge men for their attitudes, intellect and decisions we judge women for their clothing, weight and likability. Speaking further in terms of evolution, our current climate is much different than that of our ancestors. We currently face overpopulation, indicating that the man's ability to procreate quickly is no longer a desired trait should we want to make optimal use of our resources that ensure our long-term survival. Furthermore, the greatest threats to our survival today (including illness, distribution of resources, advancements in technology and climate change) do not require physical strength but copious intellect. Notably, this trait is shown the research and replicated over time to be associated with women rather than men.

Darwin poised that evolution will not be denied. His theory has yet to be disproved. Therefore, we have seen shifts in our society. Women have continued to advance in fields that were traditionally dominated by men, statistical information based on recent consensus indicates growth of women in the workforce, and feminism has become a more serious topic of discussion.

However, as stated earlier, change comes slowly and we are often keen to reject it. In our minds, we have grown up with that notion that all things associated with feminine traits are lesser. Even on a microscopic level, we use phrases associated with female traits and anatomy to describe something that is lacking or deficient. Television shows, movies, and books with female main characters often make less money. In blind studies, candidates for job interviews with traditionally female names are 73% less likely to get an interview than those with male names even when their resumes are identical. The wealthiest woman in America makes over 50 billion less than the top earning man. Of the top ten CEO's in America, only one is a woman and she does not even break the top 5. Further evidence of this exists in our treatment of men who behave in a way that at all resembles femininity: these men are chastised and rejected. When we hear phrases that allude to femininity, not to be mistaken with phrases that are feminine in nature based on biological or emotional disposition, but phrases associated with femininity based on false standards and outdated ignorant information, we instantly and automatically reject them. Now imagine a word that embraces implied femininity all together, in the form of explicit acknowledgment of the word. See: feminism.

If you recall my earlier statement on the rejection of feminism and my hypothesis about associated sexism, I hope you can better understand it now. That again, when I spoke of sexism, I did not speak of it in the explicit sense that implies one is discriminatory by nature, but in the automatic sense shaped by systemic belief naturally founded on history and sociology. Though, as outlined above, to speak against feminism is to deny evolution in favor of an emotional response. Let us remember Occam's razor, and simply the terms: rejecting a word that means equality, even though you believe in equality, because it sounds girly.

Of course, I acknowledge misunderstanding of feminism based on radicals and media portrayal. Some cite the 1970's era second wave feminists as their rationale for rejection of feminism. In this case, people chose to view feminism as a political statement rather than an overarching concept, which is fair. However, humanity is not stagnant. We have had many concepts, technologies, and peoples that were once deemed unworthy and have since advanced to become useful and necessary. Second wave feminism came to a close over 30 years ago, and has since found a new message rooted in less anger and more intellect: that all people have a right to whatever they chose within reason. While some believe that feminism implies women want power over men, today's feminism, as it has stood for the last 30 years, explicitly states that women want to share power with men. To say that a feminist woman wants not to bare children, be a homemaker, or engage in traditionally feminine acts is an astute falsehood that entirely contradicts feminism and is based in ignorance and misunderstanding. Additionally, some cite radical figures as another rationale. For this, I offer the simple statement that radicals exist across the spectrum of all people. In layman's terms, in the same way not all Trump voters are Nazi racists, not all feminists are insane bra-burning man haters.

In my final point, I want to speak to the part of each person who instantly read "sexist" and thought that they are patrons for equality and freedom. To the people who love our nation and all that it stands for. To the people who do not believe they are sexist or racist and believe we are all created equal, in alignment with the words written in our constitution. If you are this person, then you are categorically, and fit perfectly in the definition of, a feminist.

12:21 am - 12-27-18


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