Don’t get me wrong, I am most definitely a feminist. I strongly identify with and care about the feminist movement. In fact, it was early on in my life that I saw how unfairly women are treated in so many circumstances. The first time I truly noticed gender bias was in high school. I was in a class of about 40 students, probably 35 boys and 5 girls. My teacher told us to split into pairs to work on a project, but made the clear statement that “girls can’t work with girls.” I wonder if he still says that.
It is no secret that many women are under-compensated, overworked and have to deal with many problems of inequality. Women deserve the respect that they are looking for, but the overarching problem that I have with modern feminism is that it pushes for women to act more like men.
The recognized definition of feminism is simply “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes”. However, the socially recognized feminist movement today is much more narrow than the true umbrella of feminism. However, feminism is not defined by one narrow set of rules and guidelines you have to follow to call yourself a feminist; it is so much more. Feminism has so many different possible ideologies and paths that fall under the large umbrella term. Different feminists may have different ideas about how to achieve the equality of the sexes. While I wholly agree with the ultimate goal of feminism, I do think there are things we do in the name of feminism that can be problematic.
Gender identity exists on a spectrum, so our physical and mental characteristics are not necessarily determined by what’s in our pants. However, men and women are not the same and we have to acknowledge this to support gender equality; there are even biological differences in our brains. However, traditional societal expectations have in some ways set up girls to think of themselves as less. We do not tell girls growing up that they can be whoever they want to be. Instead, we dress them up in princess costumes. I cannot say that I was not a girly girl in pink sparkly princess costumes; even today, princess costumes are my favorite. But even I cannot deny that princesses are not the same empowering images we push little boys to strive to be. Instead of empowering little girls and convincing them that princesses can be tough and strong and taken as seriously as firefighters, we let the idea that femininity is less than masculinity become an everlasting societal idea.
Gender equality means I should be able to show up in a sparkly pink dress and still be taken seriously. We should not take women in pantsuits more seriously than women in skirt suits.
Another problem with the feminist movement today is the fact that we put hate for men at the center of it all. You can be a feminist without hating men. Moreover, you should not have to hate men. Putting hate for men at the center of the feminist movement has pushed away men who might otherwise have wanted to be a part of feminism. This is an issue that I think we are getting better at, but could still use improvement: man-hating should not center our movement. The goal of feminism should not be to push men down so that women look better, but to lift women up.
I also think the feminist movement focuses too much on sex. Sex positivity and embracing female sexuality is important, but should not be the main focus of the feminist movement. Women deserve to enjoy sex and address sex with the same attitudes that men take for granted. The problem I see with centering this movement on sex is that it leads to the exclusion of people who cannot address this specific issue. Women who are not as sexually liberated as others may feel excluded. In addition, we should not consider endless meaningless hookups to be sexually liberating to all women. Each woman should be allowed to determine what sexual liberation means and should be able to choose if they want a meaningless or an emotional connection, depending on what makes them happy.
Feminism is a belief that we should all hold close. Gender or gender identity should not be a determining factor for self-worth. It is important that we view feminism through the wider lens that its original definition intends for us to look through. Feminism should be more than emulating men, man-hating and sexual liberation, so hopefully we can focus more on the women empowering women aspect of feminism.