“Feminazi.” I’ll admit it, I’ve used that word. It was a word I used to separate myself (a “reasonable equalist”) from those crazy, extremist feminists who just took the idea too far. Those women didn’t just want equality, they wanted dominance, they wanted power at the expense of men, they wanted to tear apart the foundations of our very society with their hatred.
Or, you know, those women were just better-educated in the realities of society than I was. They weren’t so busy proving they could be One of the Boys® that they ignored their own oppression by that very boys’ club. They were smart enough to recognize prejudice when they saw it, and brave enough to call out inequality.
At least we can all take solace in the fact that our detractors don’t understand plurals and the grammatically correct usage of apostrophes.
It can be really painful to recognize that you are contributing to your own oppression. Internalized misogyny is a rampant problem in modern society, particularly among those women who embrace misogynistic standards while crowing to the imaginary goddess of Girl Power. It’s a lot easier to take false pride, to brag about your equality and fortune, than it is to step back and acknowledge that you and your rights are torn down on a daily basis. Some people seem to believe that marginalized people are exaggerating their oppression, that we all just enjoy having something to complain about, something to blame our problems on. But that’s a naive assumption, particularly in the face of someone like me, someone who spent so many years blindly pretending that their oppression wasn’t real, because it’s easier than facing the reality of it.
The sad fact is, this is still a battle I have to regularly fight, though in a form slightly evolved from that I struggled with as a younger woman. I’m no longer concerned with placating men, or with assuring everyone that I’m a “balanced” woman who maintains feminine standards while pursuing equality. But I still fall into traps, I’m still victimized by misogynistic mind games that trick me into abandoning my philosophy in the name of “proving myself.”
I try to integrate my activism into not only my daily life, but my personal philosophy. Equality is not just an academic curiosity for me, it’s a real-world pursuit that I actively engage on a daily basis. This means it exists beside and integrated with my other real-world philosophies, including things like my religion, environmentalism, attached parenting, and honest interpersonal relations. This integration has largely allowed me to examine all those philosophies that are important to me through a more critical, fair, and objective lens, and work to pursue all of my life goals with the frankest approach possible. But it also creates problems as opponents use those other philosophies against me, as an attack against my feminism.
This is most successfully done through a spiritual approach. I’ve recognized in myself such a strong desire to defend my personal faith and spiritual philosophy that it often obscures my attempts at female equality. The best example of this is when an anti-feminist accuses me of being a “man-hater.”
The man-hating stereotype is perhaps the most common falsehood thrown against all feminists. This is not to say there aren’t women who stand firm under the feminist flag while also declaring a hatred for males; I’m not naive, but I also don’t feel the need to justify such women’s behavior or beliefs. Truthfully, while it goes strongly against my own philosophy to maintain such a hatred, I do not condemn those women. It’s immensely difficult to acknowledge your constant oppression and not become bitter and angry toward your oppressors, and I refuse to judge a marginalized person for doing so. But the man-hating stereotype is largely false within the feminist community, and certainly with me in particular.
And this is where my philosophy opens me up to misogynistic attack. You see, I’d have to call hatred my greatest spiritual foe. I have never found a use for it on a personal level, and have instead found it to be detrimental to my attempts at happiness. Whenever I’ve indulged in hate, it’s done nothing but swallow my life and make me entirely miserable. Moving away from hate, learning to forgive and/or empathize with those who would inspire hatred, is one of my spiritual tenets. And this makes being accused of hating when I don’t one of the deepest insults I can have hurled against me.
This works in the favor of anti-feminists by throwing me off-track when engaging in debates on equality. Call all feminists man-haters and I’ll become so busy justifying my personal philosophy and defending the virtue of non-hateful feminists that I’ll get distracted from the true debate. The fact is, it doesn’t matter whether or not feminists hate men; even if all of us were the violent, hateful harpies that anti-feminists make us out to be, we still wouldn’t have the power to use that hate to oppress men, so its real-world consequences are nil when compared to the subtle and blatant misogyny espoused and perpetuated by men. Essentially, feminist man-hate is an entirely moot point, yet it is the cornerstone of anti-feminism.
There is a delicate line that must be walked by feminists like myself. I don’t hate men, and I don’t want to personally harm those males that I love, but I must acknowledge that for the feminist movement to be successful, we need to stop catering to male allies. We need to acknowledge that men are not the ones that matter in this, and our energy should not be divided between the sexes. Why? Because of the same answer to common anti-feminist questions like, “Why do you make rape and spousal abuse feminist issues when men get raped and abused, too?” Because men are in power. Men are not the majority of those victimized. Men dominate politics, economics, social doctrine. Men are granted an unfair advantage over women, and until that advantage is stripped, until men and women have equal access to power, and equal ability to exercise control over themselves as individuals and over society at large, focusing on men does nothing but prolong inequality.
Picture two children, each with a bowl of jellybeans. Jimmy has 10, and Sally has 4. If you want to allow them an equal number, choose the scenario that is the most efficient, logical course of action:
A) Taking 3 jellybeans from Jimmy and giving them to Sally, so they each have 7.
B) Giving Sally 6 jellybeans, so they each have 10.
C) Giving Jimmy 1 jellybean for every 2 given to Sally, until they each have 16.
Option “C” takes far more jellybeans than both of the proceeding options, and takes longer to enact. And both “B” and “C,” while eventually reaching equality, rely on the assumption that there are extra jellybeans at your disposal. What if there are no extras, and you’re forced to only work with the original 14? “A” is the only possible answer. Yet anyone who’s ever raised, worked with, or spent time around children knows Jimmy will cry a stream of crocodile tears over his lost jellybeans; Sally, fairness, and sharing be damned.
Now picture those jellybeans as representations of social, economic, and political power. Should we add extra seats to Congress, and insist that only women be allowed to run for them? Should we add even more additional seats and demand that women be elected to two-thirds of them? Or do we create a society where women are equally voted into those seats that already exist? Where female candidates are allowed the same encouragement in academic pursuits, the same opportunities for political success, the same popular criticisms as their male counterparts? The answer seems obvious, yet when feminists pursue that obvious solution, we’re derided as selfish man-haters, out to strip men of their rights while promoting ourselves to the top of the social hierarchy. Are we forced to take power away from men in order to have some granted to women? Sometimes, yes. But that still does not create the grand imbalance that anti-feminists claim to suffer from, because we are still struggling against such massive inequality that the crumbs we manage to nibble are nothing compared to the cookies devoured by the men in power.
Feminism is not about hate, but feminists shouldn’t have to keep saying that. We shouldn’t be forced to spend so much time assuring everyone that we’re good, honest, equality-driven people that we have less time to devote to actually achieving that equality. Men at large need to start understanding the simple truth of the privilege they’re given when they are handed that heavy bowl of jellybeans. And if male allies want to be appreciated in feminist circles, they need to stop making such a big deal about how wonderful they are for handing over their candy. The goal is not a world where women are granted male charity, it’s a world where the treats aren’t divided unevenly in the first place. And until that world is a reality, you’ll have to excuse me for not gushing over the miraculous generosity of males who go so far as to consider the radical notion that I am their peer.