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Putting Your House in Order: An Overview of the Internal Battle Within Feminism
While meeting with my cousin in Cornell the other day, he spoke to me about his issues with liberal politics. His main issue was that he believed its promoters to be hypocrites when it came to their practice of tolerance. As an example, he singled out feminism. I asked him what was wrong with women standing up for themselves and their rights that had long been denied them?
He replied that while he agreed with most of their rights like voting and being allowed to work, he had also observed that feminist activists were very hostile to traditional roles of women running the household and having families. While the ideal that feminism preaches is that women have the right to choose what they do with their lives, if they choose a traditional role for themselves, then they are attacked by those same activists for the choice they had made freely.
Through A Mirror Darkly
As much as I disagreed with my cousin, I couldn’t deny that there was some truth to what he said. I had recalled that a month after the election of Donald Trump to president, that I was having a discussion with a woman who had been active during the campaign for Hillary Clinton. Like most progressive people who voted against Trump, she attacked the Trump voters as White, conservative bigots. However when I mentioned that there were statics that half the people who voted for Trump were women, she replied that she thought they were probably too used to the comfortable lifestyles that their husbands provided or simply disregarded the information entirely. To be fair it was only a month after the elections. People were still raw.
Now obviously one, two, or even one hundred people can’t speak for an entire group or cause. Armies are not as uniformed in their ideas or how they practice them as they make themselves out to be. That said, there is almost an apologetic atmosphere to some feminist activists when dealing with other women who don’t follow their call. Why wouldn’t they after all? They were fighting for the rights of all women!
It’s easy to brush off the criticisms of someone with a dick because as Wonder Woman director, Patty Jenkins said of peer, James Cameron’s criticisms of the film: “He’s not a woman.” The only possibly, successful argument a man might make to that would be if he were of another race or gay. However if the attack is coming from someone on their own side of the fence, then their position becomes harder to defend.
Default counter-attacks wont work on them because one, they would be becoming the very enemies they are fighting, and two; they may have indeed endured the same injustices that other progressive women have. Some conservative women’s’ groups have come to refer to this as ‘femball’.
You could almost say never send a man to do a women’s’ job.
Conservative women groups are as common as their feminist counterparts like Conservative Women for America and the Eagle Forum. They are just as active and passionate about their views of womanhood. Even celebrated female activists are cautious in how they approach feminism. Malala Yousafzai, who is from Pakistan and was shot for trying to pursue an education and encouraging other girls to do so, didn’t immediately embrace feminism at first. Many of its opponents both stateside and across the world regard the movement as a threat to their identity as well as being arrogant and condescending.
"Overall, both sides perceive their respective positions as rock solid with no cracks and all their members marching to the same tune. This is not the case."
Right Makes Might
I believe the primary issue driving this isn’t feminism or anti-feminism. Both of those positions, no matter where they fall on the spectrum or in practice, are just reactions to each other or the power that men have wielded. The current driving this internal conflict has more to do with becoming caught up in the righteous cause than the extensions of what sex is saying what.
What I mean by that is that all groups that fight against injustice see themselves initially as the victims. They are fighting back for the idea of something better. Because it’s an idea that is being fought for, it carries with it some weight of morality. The fight becomes less about politics, though that is involved, and more about establishing the righteousness that is due to the oppressed. In such battles, passion just about overrules everything else and an objective outlook as to what is being done and what those actions are producing is often overlooked or tweeked to support the causes’ narrative. They also may overlook more subtle realities happening within their own ranks.
These ignored factors can undermine the revolution’s strength or more importantly its foundations. That is what women activists on both sides are facing now. Overall, both sides perceive their respective positions as rock solid with no cracks and all their members marching to the same tune. This is not the case.
Conservative activists are facing the reality that not all women embrace traditional roles, write off the injustices their gender has suffered, and are now demanding change. And while some of them want to work outside the home while still holding their conservative values, others are not only content with being just housewives, but believed that the shift in moral values is because women were letting go of that role and failing.
Conversely, feminist activists are finding that not all women want to be progressive, or at least not to the degree that activists are pushing for. Women who did not follow their narrative were seeing it more as a threat than men abusing power. Moreover, because feminism itself is a reaction to male power and injustice, there are many within their ranks that are so caught up in the narrative that anything they see as weakening it is not tolerated. Rather its perceived as giving up power to the enemy or allowing their own justified cause to become second fiddle to something else…again!
And then lastly, actions are reactions to individual experiences. And not everyone has the same experience and because of that there is no unified position. The illusion of course is that there is. Can’t fight a war much less recruit others when it appears that the side you are pitching cant get its shit together. And if that isn’t possible, then sale the idea anyway: fake it till you make it.
What’s the Bigger Number: Five or One?
And that’s what we have been doing since the 1980’s overall really: selling the illusion of unity, affiliations didn’t matter. If the 2016 election did anything positive, it was shattering all the illusions that we had about ourselves as a society.
As our society becomes more volatile over these issues and others, the cracks will continue to reveal themselves. A clear definition of what feminism actually is needs to be established whereby both progressive and conservative activists can agree to so that the unified front maybe created. A definition that ultimately respects the dignity and choices of both groups of women: If that’s even possible as human nature goes…
As it is, there are already several interpretations floating around right now. Some in the spectrum like social justice warriors on the internet feel feminism is to shut down the voice of all traditional establishments that may want to impede their advancement. Others such as actor/activists Emma Watson, believe feminism to be both sexes supporting and respecting each others' rights and dignity rather than one replacing downplaying one another. And women in traditional societies like Saudi Arabia believe feminism to be yet another extension of western imperialism and white people again trying to establish their moral superiority.
Not exactly a united front guys…
Yeah, I know am I a guy. And my experiences with injustice are not the same as women’s. However I have eyes and know a thing or two about trying to change the world and what has historically worked and what hasn’t. Observation is at least second to experience, even with a margin of error. I hope all people will one day be united and get the justice due to them, but being blind to internal problems only extends an already long war.