Let me start by saying, I have thought about writing this for a long time and it took me until now to finally to realize that I needed to write it. While it might be viewed unfavorably by those reading this piece, the simple fact is: it needs to be said, and all I ask is that those choosing to read it bear with me as it is going to get long and may, possibly, strike some nerves.
Now that we have that part out of the way we can move onto the actual post.
For quite awhile now, I’ve been seeing an argument circulating the Internet that is rather insulting to women, and that when used either implies, or outright states, that a woman’s choices are actually being made by men without any supporting evidence to validate these claims. What makes this argument insulting is that it’s putting there a narrow view: any woman that goes against the societal norm or is of a negative viewpoint isn’t making these decisions on her own. An argument that makes it sound as though women are incapable of making decisions for themselves. The baffling part about it is that one thing so highly fought for in regard to women’s rights, and the feminist movement, is for a woman to do so.
Everywhere, and for quite sometime, women have been making it clear that they can make decisions for themselves and that they don’t need others to do it for them. This is why when people that identify as part of the feminist movement use this argument to judge or justify the actions of these women I find myself genuinely confused; this illogical notion seeming more appropriate for the anti-feminism camp than for the feminism camp that it’s used in more prevalently. When I have seen this argument used, and I have seen it often, it’s either used to: excuse unintelligent or cruel arguments made by female politicians, or to judge decisions that don’t fall in line with societal views born from antiquated notions generally in regards to female celebrities.
In the case of the former, it seems to stem from another flawed idea being bandied about by some feminists, usually in the extremist camp, that a woman is incapable of doing anything wrong simply for the reason that she is a woman. This notion drives me up a wall in ways I cannot express, because essentially it reduces women to their gender which seems to go against the threads that create the fabric of the feminist movement. With that in mind then it just makes me go “what?” when I do see this happening where self-proclaimed feminists are using it as a main staple of their arguments.
As a woman, I will honestly admit that I’ve been wrong, made poor decisions, been a total bitch, et cetera. Being a woman doesn’t erase the possibility nor does it negate my culpability. There’s no correlation in regards to this idea as history can attest that women are capable of behaving just as poorly as men. When a woman is being equated to inherent rightness due to gender this tends to happen in an argument where it’s used as an unreasonable method of defense that would not happen if it was in regards to a man. In fact, if that defense was used concerning a man the person would be called out quickly for being both sexist and misogynistic, but when this is being used in defense of a female it’s allowed.
This view even crosses into fandoms(tv, books, movies, etc) where you can find it prominently tossed about in response to any negative comment made concerning a female character that is justified. The automatic response to saying you dislike a female character for possible reasons such as they’re cruelly manipulative, repeatedly naive without learning from their mistakes, or a murderer is: you’re not a feminist and you’re a misogynist. If the same is said of a male character the response is not the same nor are his actions excused based on his gender. Instead it’s usually these same people defending these imagined attacks on female characters that will tear the male characters to shreds for the same actions. This same “logic” is even used to laud poor examples as role models to young girls, which is unsettling to say the least, and, more baffling, using it to excuse the actions of young female characters while not doing it for young male characters. And there are examples to be found of this in real life with young women and men as well.
What outrages me is that there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that women aren’t always sophisticated, correct, or intelligent; that we can be wrong or flawed without having it excused as though we’re not at fault for our actions, and in a manner it’s almost as bad as the oh-excuse-her-it’s-that-time-of-the-month phrase that gets used to explain a woman when she’s upset and/or furious. Using gender to excuse behavior is an appalling example to set for our youth and to introduce as a possible shaping tool of our future. We should encourage, and allow for, the acknowledgement that women can be bad role models just as they can be good role models.
Using these examples, our young women — even men and society — can be shaped to recognize what makes a good role model and what makes a bad role model; offering a balance of good to bad for them to educate themselves. The representations of them in real life and fiction allows the decreased chance of their view being skewed, and this is a plus as having one could result in not recognizing the bad from the good. We present these for men and that makes me firmly believe that women should not be excluded for having access to them either. It makes little sense to excuse their actions based on a defensive argument being aired that is demeaning. The same can be said for the idea that we are superior to men in all ways.
While it’s a nice, idyllic concept that a woman in a seat of power(e.g. President, Judge, CEO) means world peace and the vanquishing of the world’s woes — it is just a dream. This will not inherently be the case if a woman is in these types of positions and if it’s not the case it won’t necessarily be due to men controlling them. Whether or not a woman is suitable to be in political positions should be determined by their policies instead of by their gender and even looks. These are two things I find cropping up in the decision-making process of who to vote for even if the candidate is male. I see criticism for it when a male politician is voted for due to gender or looks, and have been vocally disapproving of it myself, which means that it should be the same in the case of a woman.
These ideas that women are inherently superior and can do no wrong needs to fade as it continues to fuel views that work against feminism while also pushing the hateful misandry views of a certain subset of feminists that are essentially extremists. This subset justifies treating men the way women were treated, because women were treated that way and speaks of the desire to breed out men which is basically advocating the horrific practice of eugenics. These are outrageous lessons, and views, to teach as it sends a poor message to younger generations and ignores the fact that not all feminists are women(yes, men can be feminists and excluding them is erroneous on the part of anyone that is part of the movement — more on this another time).
The messages that need to be taught are:
That the actions of a person, whether man or woman, should not be excused due to their gender.
That all people, both men and women, should have examples of bad and good role models as the former is just as important as the latter in regards to shaping our future.
That we, men and women, are not perfect nor superior over the other, and that we are not inherently right or wrong based on our gender.
That the mistreatment of the opposite gender, no matter man or woman, in the name of bringing about equality is both detestable and asinine.
True equality in regards to gender, and not having it factor into every little detail of our lives, will never be achieved until we stop spreading hate then work together to bring about balance by recognizing the pros and cons of both sides. By doing this we could then possibly have the opportunity to recognize that we are equal.
The latter issue of using the women-being-controlled-by-men argument to judge females — usually female, as I stated above, though women in politics or normal everyday situations not exempt — who do something that doesn’t fit the societal norm is beyond absurd. These never fall into place for men, but I still see it tossed about for women these days. Women who do risque performances are frowned upon, called immoral or slutty, and now have it put out there that it must obviously be men who pushed them into these things; as though women are incapable of choosing to commit these actions of their own volition. We like to think, especially in the U.S. I’ve noticed, that we’ve progressed in our views as far as sexuality and self-expression, but that is a whopping lie. If anything we’ve become more prudish in our views as a society while trying to claim we’re shaking off the antiquated shackles that bind us.
This was evident last year with Miley Cyrus when people who claimed to be feminists applauded a letter from Sinead O’Connor that was loaded with polite slut-shaming and offensively antiquated ideas such as “your body belongs to ___” when the only person a woman’s body belongs to is herself; what she chooses to do with it or who she chooses to give it to is her own business. That offensive letter got a ton of attention with a heavy dose of praise to Sinead O’Connor for writing it while a letter that was far more considerate, and without the slut-shaming, by Amanda Palmer got little notice. The people I saw commenting also regularly speak out, as the feminist movement usually does, against slut-shaming yet did not say a word in regards to this incident. If you are against slut-shaming as a feminist then that extends to the politely phrased kind as well; having it both ways is not an option in the least. This same behavior showed in the oh-poor-Robin-Thicke comments that circulated, which stated how embarrassed or bad people felt for him during the twerking performance, when before he’d been torn apart for weeks by some of these same people for being sexist.
You may express dislike with either situation — twerking performance or Wrecking Ball video — yet going around shaming in either situation, and insulting Miley Cyrus’s decision to make those choices by claiming she is crazy or immoral or being controlled by men, makes you just as bad as the anti-feminists; especially since I’ve seen risqué performances, and outrageous behavior, by men that didn’t receive this type of flak. I don’t see people forbidding their sons from the work of these celebrities like I do with daughters. I respect teaching the importance of self-worth though it’s equally important to not make them feel ashamed of expressing themselves or showing off their body, which is likely to happen if they see the attitude being expressed by parents or family members toward these women, while also allowing for them to make decisions for themselves.
There’s nothing wrong with being a voyeuristic type or showing some skin just as there’s nothing wrong with the opposite, and there’s nothing wrong with liking these types whether professionally or personally. There’s so many feminists in each camp that we forget it’s perfectly fine to accept both views as neither one is detrimental to the cause. Enforcing either to extreme points can have negative impacts on the self-image of women and accepting both can have more positive results. Want to wear a floor length skirt and a long-sleeved shirt with a high neckline? Go for it! Want to wear a mini-skirt and a sleeveless shirt with a severely dipping neckline? Go for it! Neither is wrong just like showing off or not showing off your body with nudity isn’t bad.
If we keep this up, this judging using outrageous justification and antiquated social views, we’re going to continue moving backward when we should go forward. And I don’t know about you, but I’d like us to hit a point where no matter the gender we won’t get get judged for how we do or do not dress, for whether we do or do not display nudity, and for if we do or do not have sex or how much of it we’re having.
There are many things we want to see happen for women in regards to the feminist movement. The biggest factor in any of it happening is that we move forward and open our minds. However, the outdated views and extremist nonsense that gets spread in the name of feminism will only serve as a hindrance. When we see these extremist sorts spreading harmful words in the name of the movement then it is our responsibility to speak up instead of just believing that we need to accept it too. They can and do hurt the goals of the movement, and are pushing people away from wanting to be part of or associated with it altogether. If you see this type of behavior? Say something. Don’t accept it cause it’s spoken by someone that identifies as a feminist. We point to religion and say that using it to justify hateful ideas, and to vocalize them without others calling them out for it, is wrong yet we don’t stand by our own advice. It’s as important for us to do as for anyone else dealing with similar situations. If not, we’ll just continue to get in our own way.
That is all I have to say for now. As I said at the start, I know there’ll be disagreeing viewpoints. If you wish to post comments and discuss any points then please keep it civil. Thank you for taking the time to read this piece whether you agree or disagree.