Are all equality movements really about equality if they are all divisive? Merriam Webster defines feminism as the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. However, many would argue that the name Feminist in itself implies the advocation of women’s rights over men. In fact, the American feminist movement has a history of being exclusive to white women and excluding minority groups. Nevertheless, it is important to mention that no social movement is perfect and in most cases, they tend to fall victim to their historical periods. It is also important to note that this is not an assailment on feminism, nor is this an attack on those outsides of the feminist movement. The need for social groups and advocates of oppressed people is amply relevant across history and even today. However, it is yet to be decided if so much specialization is an aid or a hindrance for the fight for equality.
As aforementioned, the traditional feminist movement has a history of being exclusionary to the concerns of minority women and men in general. For example, the American suffragist movement began in 1848 and concluded in 1920 when women acquired the right to vote. During this same time, Black Americans were still enslaved until 1863, and even after that were combating the conditions of inequality in American for decades to come. While Feminists were trying to secure the vote for women, black women were focusing on securing some of the most basic human rights. Even after “women” were granted the right to vote in 1920, black and racially minority Americans were not granted full voting privileges until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Although black women were not blatantly excluded from the suffragist movement, it can be said that the feminist movement’s inconsideration of other women’s situation created friction between the groups which later promoted a division between the two.
The notion that feminism is focused on the rights of a particular group of individuals has led to the creation countless “equality groups.” Womanist identify as the champions of black woman’s social issues, xicanisma is a form of feminism which support the ending of the traditional role of Mexican American Women, and transfeminism emphases the feminist issues most important to trans women. Individuals who wish to promote equality without promoting one gender or race specifically tend to identify with humanism and egalitarianism ways of thinking. To some, this type of diversity can be a good thing. After all, one cannot expect one group to be focused on all of the problems of everyone in the world.
Many men believe that feminist movements focus too much on the oppression of women and discount the flounders of men. The men’s rights movement and “meninist” movement were both created by men in order to highlight the ways men’s issues are marginalized in society. The meninist movement is relatively new and is argued to be a parody of feminist movements, but the men’s rights movement has been established since the 1970s. MRM supporters believe that there are numerous ways that men are discriminated against in the fields of criminal justice, family law, reproductive rights, and government benefits such as social security. MRM proponents also criticize such practices as circumcision and compulsory military services.
Having a diverse number of equality groups can be a good thing, however, diversity lays way to division once too much specialization is enacted. For example, the meninism movement, or meninism, is argued to have been created by men to make fun of the modern feminist movement. Subsections of feminism like TERFs (Trans-exclusionary radical feminist) have been erected with the sole purpose of forcibly discounting the struggles of others. The creation of these groups have not only created a dividing line between themselves and others but have also reduced the credibility of feminist and MRMs alike. Once the champions of women’s rights, feminist have been reduced to men-hating promoters of inequality. The men’s right movement has gone from bringing attention to the ailments of men to acting as a shield for misogynists who wish to spew sexist rhetoric.
Whether a person is a feminist, a men’s rights activist, or simply a promoter of equality, all should remember that no one’s cause is greater than the other. If the goal is equality, then it should not matter what you call yourself. What should matter is that you are doing the best you can to promote your cause, without promoting hate in the process.