A couple of weeks ago I was watching ‘The Big Questions’, a debate show, hosted by Nicky Campbell; covering different moral, ethical and religious topics. The topic on this particular week – ‘Is Feminism in Crisis?’.
Initially, my thoughts were – that of course it wasn’t, the current feminist wave is the best it has ever been. Especially with the rise of the ‘#metoo’ campaign and many high profile people supporting the cause. However, as the debate went on and I listened to many differing points of view, I came to the conclusion that it’s not the feminist cause itself that’s in crisis, but the definition of it.
To me, feminism should be defined as the following:
Making sure that all genders and sexes are treated equally, it’s not about one being superior to the other; but living in a world where nobody’s sex or gender is a barrier to them. Feminism also shouldn’t be made exclusive to white middle class women; but all races, genders, sexes, religions, ethnicities, ages etc. There shouldn’t be a stigma against women being plumbers or builders, just as much as there shouldn’t be one for men being midwives or babysitters.
However, according to Dr Sheila Jeffreys, feminism should only be concerned with women. Using the example of young girls going off to universities that now accept there being more than two genders, she came to the conclusion that this is damaging feminism and that feminism is becoming ‘diluted’. I’m sorry, what? Feminism is about gender equality for everyone. Not just women. I believe that this is where feminist still get their bad name from, it’s people like Jeffreys who would only concentrate on domestic violence against women and not even consider that women can also be the perpetrators of it. I think that we should all be feminists. We should all believe in gender equality, because why not? If you’re a person, you have a some sort of gender, whether that’s female, male, trans, binary, fluid, none at all or something else. Therefore, why would anyone want their gender to be inferior to another? Everyone should be treated equally, no matter what they class themselves as. Based on this, simply everyone in their right mind should be a feminist.
Thankfully, Jeffreys wasn’t the only person debating that day. Dr Finn Mackay, thankfully brought to light Andrea Dworkins quote of (and I’m paraphrasing here), “feminist are not feminists because they hate men but because they believe in men’s humanity”. This perfectly sums up what I’m trying to say. Max Blumberg was also fighting this corner. He brought to the debate the argument of feminism sometimes excluding male voices, as he feels like (and rightly so), that he should be allowed to be a voice for feminism. Of course he feels that he should be a voice for feminism, he’s a human and classes himself as male. Therefore his gender rights should automatically be stood up for. An audience member pointed out how there are times where women’s rights are automatically stood up for, but men’s are not. For example, in a TV soap opera, if a male and female couple are having an argument and the man slaps the woman, then this is dreadful and shouldn’t be stood for. However, if the woman slapped the man, this is seen as comedic and not taken seriously. The audience member concluded in saying that if feminists believe in gender equality then domestic violence against men, for example, should be as much of an issue as it for women.
I think that one of the most stigmatising areas of feminism is that people only tend to see the radical side of things. I believe that radical feminists unfortunately bring feminism down to a level that anti-feminists would love to see it at. For example, Sue Jones, who was in the audience, believes those who are trans, genderqueer or gender binary are being drowned out or even removed from feminism as it is being taken over by radicalists. I think that from an outsider’s point of view, and because of the word ‘feminism’ itself, with the prefix ‘fem’, it may look like feminism is all about women – women should be the ones in power, they should be above men in the pecking order, with men seen as ‘the enemy’. When I was at school, I was taught that this is what radical feminism was. No wonder then, that if all the extreme feminist actions which give feminism a bad name (quite possibly caused by radical feminists), are in the media, undoubtedly this is what feminism looks like to an outsider. Unfortunately though, the media won’t report on normal feminist actions e.g. university students taking part in a women’s rights protest or a man starting a petition for baby changing facilities to be in both men and women’s bathrooms.
After hearing all the different points of view on ‘The Big Questions’, it was no surprise I came to the conclusion that I did. Proper feminism, liberal feminism which allows all genders and sexes to be involved in the cause, as they’re all represented, is perfectly fine and not in crisis. However, the definition of feminism is. I think we need to come to a consensus of what feminism actually means, because until we do, it’s no surprise that people are becoming confused and debates like this one are ongoing.