In High School, I was the girl who boldly declared herself a feminist to anyone who cared to listen. I firmly believed that the dreaded patriarchy needed to be smashed and that the oppressed women needed to make their voices heard. Learning about courageous women like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Harriet Tubman, Mary Wollstonecraft etc. emboldened me, and I was proud to stand alongside them.
And then a few years went by, and a lot changed.
First of all, feminism today is different than it was in the late nineteenth century. The first wave feminism – which includes my feminist heroes – is probably the purest form of feminism. All women wanted was for men to “remove their feet from their necks.” They wanted to be treated as individuals and not as property, to be given the right to vote, and to be considered as intellectual equals. The women did not disrespect or hate men, and their goal was to gain the respect and the rights that they had always deserved — this I will always support.
Today’s feminism has become far more complex. At its core, I still believe that it still embodies the basic principle of equality; yet, there are so many modern feminists today who have warped and twisted the original meaning. Because of this, I find myself routinely disagreeing with today’s feminism.
Feminists today state that not only is abortion justified, but that it’s their right to abort their unborn children. “My body, my choice!” is the mantra that rings throughout the Women’s March and encases the Planned Parenthood stickers and pins that women proudly wear. What I believe is that women have been fed the lie that they can be empowered and gain strength through “taking control of their bodies,” and choosing whether or not to have the baby. It’s an awful lie that silences the women who will never be able to speak for themselves: the unborn women. Hundreds of years ago, women did not have a voice, and they were able to make it heard within the past 150 years. Unborn women will never find their voice because they can’t use it yet! But they deserve to live just as much as me, or any other woman. True feminism would not support this belief. Feminism should support all women – even if they haven’t exited the womb yet.
Secondly, feminism today is selective. If a woman is a liberal activist, she’s brave and strong. If a woman dares to be conservative then she’s evil and gross. For example, Chelsea Handler re-tweeted a video that mocked Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks. When Twitter followers called her out for it, she justified her position by stating: “This woman deserves to be taken down. She is pure evil.” Many “feminists” today engage in this behavior; instead of respecting other women’s perspectives, they choose to dehumanize, degrade, and insult them.
Another example is Michelle Obama stating how she could not believe or understand why women would not vote for Hillary Clinton. In September 2017, Obama stated, “Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice.”Assuming that all women would agree with Hillary Clinton’s views or her beliefs solely because she is a woman is ridiculous. Real feminists would recognize that women can think for themselves — they are not sheep. Real feminists would recognize that some may women may have been disturbed by Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, or the fact that she actively tried to silence her husband’s rape victims. Real feminists would encourage diversity of opinion and would not promote the misogynistic belief that women should be of one mind.
Essentially, true feminism is the idea that women support women, and – yes, believe it or not – this means that you support a woman’s ability to choose and think for herself even if you disagree with her.
Many feminists today also blast men repeatedly, and deem far too many things as sexist. “Smash the patriarchy,” and “girl power” are the battle-cry of modern day feminists; many routinely put men down and subtly imply that men are lesser human beings than women. For all this I have to wonder what their objective is. Are they trying to show men that they believe in equality? Incessantly berating and degrading men doesn’t seem to be the way to do it. If you want someone to understand your viewpoint, you can’t do that by condemning their existence. If you say you believe in equality, show it in the way you treat the opposite sex. This does not mean that women should stay silent if men display sexist behaviors. If men assault women or demean them then of course we need to condemn men and call them out for their unacceptable behavior. But saying that men are inherently dangerous, and promoting the idea that women are better, stronger, and smarter than men is counterproductive to the movement for equality.
Then there’s the extreme feminist movements that tend to isolate most rational women: the pussy hat, the yelling, the free-the-nipple movement, the over-sexualization…there are a lot of extremes that many proclaimed modern feminists resort to that seem to take women’s progression a few steps backwards. I don’t need to wear a pussy hat to show I support women, or that I am strong. Working hard for my career goals, living life as an independent woman who doesn’t depend on a man for success or survival, respecting all those around me regardless of their beliefs – that’s feminism. I feel that if modern day feminism focused more on those core aspects that make it what it is, most people would still proudly identify as feminists.
I know that many of these aspects of feminism resonate with many women. I may disagree or fail to understand these aspects, but I can respect other women’s perspectives. I believe in the power women can have, in the strength they possess, and I have so much respect for all the boundaries we’ve crossed and the glass ceilings we’ve shattered. The feminist movement is a powerful one with plenty of potential – it has always been that. Perhaps if this movement shifts its focus and tone to a more respectful and tolerant one, then more progress will be made and more people will respect the movement.