I am a mother to two boys and one girl. I am therefore personally invested in the future of both genders, and mathematically speaking I have more stock in the success of boys… but I still call myself a feminist. Yes, I said the word… even though it has become cringeworthy for many.
I’m not entirely sure where the actual word feminism got so caught up in so much controversy. So many (many women included) seem to think that it now stands for some kind of female fantasy where we’re planning world domination. (Ya know, kind of how men have handled things for centuries 😉 ) But honestly, that’s not what feminism means to me… and that’s not what it is. Why would I advocate for a future that wasn’t in the best interest for two thirds of my children?
First of all, feminism is not womanism.
The word itself is rooted in the characteristics of a gender not a gender per se. And it seeks to combat the perception of said characteristics as being definitive of the female gender as a whole. For so long, femininity has been associated with being less. “You throw like a girl” has never been intended as a compliment. “You’re a pussy” has directly associated the female genitals (and psyche) with a lack of bravery or too much emotion. “Boys will be boys” has taught my sons that they are expected to play rough, behave wildly, act defiantly, and most of all to “man up” and not to “cry like a girl.”
One might think that this is harmless, and in fact many people do… but the list of similar examples is endless, and it has simultaneously taught my daughter her place as a female in our society as well as teaching my sons theirs. It has life long repercussions as we carry these gender roles with us. You can witness this clearly in career fields heavily dominated by one sex or the other. For example men account for less than 3% of preschool/kindergarten teachers and less than 20% of all elementary school teachers (source.) American women are lucky if they can fill the House of Representatives with 20% women regardless of whether it’s dominated by democrats or republicans (source.) Women make up the vast majority of nurses and doctors are predominantly men. It is obvious that women carry the role of “the nurturer” with them through adulthood and men are more inclined to fill the positions of power.
These gender roles are harmful to boys and girls alike.
One stat that I find particularly alarming – men are less likely to seek help for mental illness than women AND doctors are less likely to diagnose mental illness in men (source.) The bias against men and their ability to have emotions carries all the way through to the health treatments made available to them. It is just as degrading for my sons to have their interests and feelings dictated to them by society as it is for my daughter to be taught indirectly to equate her worth to her role as a nurturer, or worse… her appearance.
Every discriminatory limit placed on women in society also has an effect on men.
As a woman, being the primary caregiver in the family unit limits the role my husband is able to play as well. It also limits the the roles my children see themselves playing when they become adults.
So why then, is the movement referred to as “feminism?” I mean, the term obviously implies that it must be about man-hating, right? Just like “mankind” obviously wasn’t originally intended to include women. I mean, would calling it by another name make people more comfortable with it? Is that in itself not representative of how society feels about women? Because this movement is not just about equality for women.
I mean, close your eyes and imagine a United States Congress comprised of 430 women and only 105 men (a reversal of the current breakdown.) As soon as this idea isn’t positively laughable come try and tell me that my daughter “can be anything she wants to be” in this country. Equality can’t exist when half of the population wasn’t even invited to the conversation. But I am actually happy that the political atmosphere in our nation has people so fired up about “women’s rights.”
I personally know a great many women who would rather go make their man a damn sandwich right now than label themselves a feminist, because they feel empowered by their choice to do so. They decry the current feminist movement as unnecessary because “we’re already equal.” And I guess in some way, I am glad that some feel that way. I wholeheartedly disagree, but I’m excited that for the first time, so many women have an open opinion about the social stature of our gender.
So whether you think X chromosomes dictate your behavioral qualities… or you don’t. Whether you think woman are naturally inclined to fill certain professional roles or you think society has decided this for them. Whether you think my sons and daughter really do have all the same opportunities as it stands, or you don’t. I’m happy to finally have so many vaginas at the table talking about it.