Altering Societal Interpretations of Feminist Beliefs: Equal, Not Superior
Feminism is seen in different lenses for each individual depending on values and experiences. (For more on this, check out “Hey am I a Feminist”). The varying views sometimes conflict with each other, however, there are key pillars to how feminism should be viewed: equal rights, identical responsibilities, uniform societal expectations.
Please do not think that I am not a strong supporter of women and the fight for equality that has long been neglected, I am. However, I do not support the societal understanding of feminists blaming men. Today’s feminism is commonly thought to focus on the faults in the history of men and their actions. Our fight should focus not on placing blame but creating a new culture behind the belief in feminism.
Consider the following statement: “It is NEVER okay to hit a woman.”
Do you agree? Do you believe that this account supports modern feminist culture? I personally consider it to be an accurate representation of societies belief in feminism. Nonetheless, I do not support it. I reason instead, that the sentence should be adjusted: “It is NEVER okay to hit anyone.” We cannot preach the basis of our morals centered around superiority, instead emphasis needs to be placed on equality. There is a common belief that feminists are women who don’t play by the rules, who expect too much, and who think far too highly of themselves, by daring to believe that they are – cough – superior to men.
As I get older and begin to learn other viewpoints, I am increasingly proud to identify as a feminist. Certain truths are self-evident: women are equal to men. We have the right to obtain equal pay for equal work. We have the right to make choices about our bodies, free from legislative opinions. We have the right to experience life as we choose, especially free from harassment and violence. We have the right to respect.
Let’s be clear; we are a mess. We are all full of contradictions and there are many ways in which we’re supporting feminism wrong. Even simple, thoughtless actions go directly against what I claim to believe. These actions are as basic as not changing the song when I listen to “thuggish” rap with lyrics degrading to women or encouraging the idea that there are domestic tasks designed for men such as killing bugs, or vehicle maintenance. Even long-standing societal transgressions, including taking your husband’s last name or expecting males to pay for the meal on dates contradict true feminist beliefs. Partaking in all of these, I am unconsciously making decisions that go directly against what I am trying to support. Ultimately, the ugly reality of the world is, that unless we eliminate the demand and affect the bottom line, we encourage humanity that they do not need to change the way they think about women.
The problem, here is not that we make ourselves, as women, economically vulnerable in that choice; it’s that society is set up to make women economically vulnerable when they choose. That’s what we need to deal with.
There is also another factor influencing feminism that is a result of society; the pressure. The tendency to put visible feminists on a pedestal, with expectations to perform perfectly that must result in inevitable disappointment. Too many women, particularly ground-breaking women and industry leaders, are afraid to be labeled as feminists. Fear of what accompanies that title in society today is exactly the reason we need to alter our description.
Another commonly untouched viewpoint in society is male opinions on feminism. Consider a situation in which a male was to comment on the fact that women believe they are superior, for instance through a suggestion that a woman should pay for their half of the bill on the first date. In most cases, this man would be titled a “misogynistic pig” or other such harassment. Men are rarely allowed to express opinions similar to the ones I have mentioned here, without enduring revolt and hate.
Before the world can take women seriously, we need to get our priorities in order and figure out what we’re truly fighting for, aligning accurate norms throughout society. When we talk about the needs of women, we need to consider the other identities we inhabit. We are not just women; we are people. We have different bodies, faiths, gender expressions, sexualities, abilities, class backgrounds, and infinitely more. Without acknowledging this kind of inclusion, our feminism is nothing.
It's time to emphasize equality, not superiority.
Rayna Olynuk, Corporate Relations Coordinator