Feminism at its core is about equality of men and women, not “sameness.” So many people offer up the argument that women are not the “same” as men so there can’t be equality. In other words, because their bodies are different (many say “weaker” and smaller), and because men and women have different physical capabilities, these physical differences mean equality is not possible.
“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.”
“Feminism” in the dictionary, you’ll see these statements:
1. The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes
2. The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
3. The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
4. The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men
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It’s critical to understand that “same” does not mean “equal.” The issue here is about equal rights and equal access to opportunities. Men and women don’t have to be the “same” in physicality to have the right to equality. I’d love to see that argument (that women and men aren’t the “same” so they can’t be equal) disappear forever. From my view, it’s a misguided one.
Example of why: If there were two young boys in a classroom, and one was physically weaker and smaller than the other, would we believe it’s right to keep the weaker, smaller boy from having the same access – to the teacher, to learning, to the computers, to the books and class resources, to other children in the class — because he didn’t have the same physical strength as the other boy?
How we can gain deeper understanding of where we personally stand on the issue of equality:
Do you believe in equality? Asking yourself these questions and answering them candidly will get you closer to recognizing what you truly, honestly believe:
1. Do you believe that women and men deserve equal rights and equal opportunities? If not, why not, specifically?
2. Do you oppose the idea that every human being on the planet deserves equal rights and equal access to all opportunities? If you oppose it, what are you concerned will happen if equality is achieved? What are the downsides, in your way of thinking?
3. Do you believe that only certain groups of people should be allowed to have access to certain opportunities and rights? If so, which groups should be favored and granted this access, and who should decide that?
4. Do you believe that it would be inherently fair to grant women access to only partial rights while men have full array of other rights and opportunities?
5. Think back on what has shaped all your beliefs about these issues. Where did they come from specifically? Childhood, early adulthood? Your personal experiences with men and women, or what you read and watch in the media? Who in your “tribe,” family or peers influences your beliefs today?
6. What makes you mad and agitated to read in the media, about men, women and equality?
7. Do you believe that a world that prevents certain people from accessing full rights and opportunities would lead to a fair, healthy, prosperous world for all?
8. In the end, do your beliefs actually feel right for you? Do they feel aligned with who you really are — healthy, whole, integrity-filled, compassionate, and fair?
The vast majority of people do believe in equal rights for men and women, but the conflict is about how that equality should be achieved. Many resist calling themselves a “feminist” or supporting the feminist “movement.”
Why many hate the term feminism and the feminist movement:
There are five main reasons behind this issue:
1. Feminism has been associated with strong, forceful and angry women, and our society continues to punishes forceful women.
2. Many people fear that feminism will mean that men will eventually lose out – of power, influence, impact, authority, and control, and economic opportunities.
3. Many people believe that feminists want to control the world and put men down.
4. Many people fear that feminism will overturn time-honored traditions, religious beliefs and established gender roles, and that feels scary and wrong.
5. Many people fear that feminism will bring about negative shifts in relationships, marriage, society, culture, power and authority dynamics, and in business, job and economic opportunities if and when women are on an equal footing with men.
Sexuality – what it has to do with feminism:
In reading about the media uproar over Emma Watson’s baring a bit of her breasts in Vanity Fair this month, we see that women are fighting among themselves about what feminism is and how women should behave if they’re true feminists. Emma (and Gloria Steinem) make a powerful point – feminism at its core is about choice. Feminists can wear whatever they want. If we cannot choose freely how to behave, speak, act and present ourselves, then we’re moving backwards.
Unconscious gender bias:
In Kristen Pressner’s powerful TEDx talk “Are You Biased? I Am” she shares how her own unconscious bias against working women (in fact, against women who were just like her) was affecting her ability to treat men and women equally. Her brave revelation paves the way for all of us to think more deeply about our unconscious biases, and work tirelessly to bring these biases to light. Her suggested strategy of “flip it to test it” is an effective tool to help us do just that.
In the end, we all must honor the beliefs, values, and ideals that feel right and good to us. To help us do that, I’d ask you to think about these final questions:
• Do your beliefs and behaviors support equality for all, or just for some?
• Could there be hidden biases that color how you experience people of different genders, race, color, religion, etc? Could your personal experiences be tainting how you’re looking at the whole world?
• If you believe in equality for women, but not in feminism, can you articulate why?
• If you believe in equality for all, are you able to take a brave stand for it, in a way that feels right to you, in your own life and in your own sphere of influence?
The feminist movement refers to a series of political campaigns for reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, women’s suffrage, sexual harassment, and sexual violence, all of which fall under the label of feminism and the feminist movement.