It never has been.
A while ago, my friend Adam wrote this post about anti-feminism backlash, and I couldn’t help but be prompted to write about feminism not being the enemy.
Our ongoing quest for social, political, and economic equality of the sexes does not mean we want men to have less. Raising the bar for women does not mean lowering the bar for men. As I’ve written here before (which I borrowed from an meme making the rounds on the internet), in the quest for equal rights, more rights for me doesn’t mean fewer rights for you. It’s not pie.
Feminism is not the enemy. Feminism has never been the enemy. Feminism has not only made the lives of girls and women better (and continues to do so), it’s also made the lives of boys and men better.
Patriarchy is the enemy.
A system of society which was developed and continues to be ruled primarily by men is the enemy. It’s a system that largely excludes women.
Patriarchy is the cause of so much of the grief in our lives; not getting what we expected; men not achieving or receiving what they’ve been led to believe they would.
Now, as this blog has picked up a few people who seem to thrive on demonstrating how feminism is the enemy or that feminism is a waste of time or, yes, that feminism should be destroyed, allow me for a moment to cater to your oh-so-important feelings and acknowledge that we know that you, as an individual man, are not the creator of patriarchy. You, as an individual man, like women just fine. You, as an individual man, probably know a woman or three who hold a position of power. You, as an individual man, are having a rough time finding work, finding a partner, enjoying your life. We get it. (Also, read Adam’s post.)
Patriarchy is a system. It is not a thing that one individual can change. As feminists, we know that, otherwise we wouldn’t still be fighting for that social, economic, and political equality.
But listen up for just a second.
Patriarchy is what tells you that you have to be the breadwinner in your family. Patriarchy is what tells you that you shouldn’t be the one to stay home and raise your children. Patriarchy is what tells you that if you’re both working, you better be making more money or she’s emasculating you. Patriarchy is what tells you to “man up.” Patriarchy is what tells you that you’re strong enough to push through that illness without seeking medical attention. Patriarchy is what tells you that you can’t seek help for those feelings of constant sadness. Patriarchy is what tells you that men shouldn’t cry. Patriarchy is what tells you that “boys will be boys” when your daughter has been raped. Patriarchy is what tells you that you shouldn’t believe victims of sexual violence because there’s something to be gained in making false accusations. Patriarchy is what tells you that you don’t deserve equal custody of your children because the mother is the ‘natural’ caregiver. Patriarchy is what tells you that you shouldn’t seek a career in a ‘caring profession’ unless you have plans for management, because what kind of man does that? Patriarchy is what tells you that she belongs in the kitchen; that she’s intimidating if she’s smarter or more highly educated that you; that you are less than if she beats you in any sort of athletic competition. Patriarchy is what tells you that your daughter will never be worth as much to the world as your son.
Feminism understands that we are all emotional beings who deserve respect. Feminism understands that no one should be abused at any age by anyone for any reason. Feminism believes that women should have as many opportunities to work outside of the home as their male counterparts, and get paid an equal amount for that equivalent work. Feminism believes that men are more than their urges and can control themselves around women no matter what they’re wearing or drinking. Feminism believes that good fathers deserve as much access to their children as good mothers.
Feminism works to improve the lives of everyone – girls, women, boys, and men.
Patriarchy works to keep people ‘in their place;’ to keep people down; to serve up expectations of men that cause mental, emotional and, sometimes, physical injury.
Patriarchy is the enemy.