So, it might be surprising that I don't call myself a feminist now. I'm not afraid of the word and I don't equate feminists with man hating. I don't feel hate when I hear the word, I feel frustration, and frankly anger that women's rights has allowed itself to follow the same path as so many political movements before it, allowed a dogma to replace common sense and common decency.
Friends, hear me out.
The definition of feminism is "a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women." More recently, the definition has included rights for other disenfranchised groups like LBGT and racial minorities. Anyone that isn't a hetero while male, basically. So far, so good. I stand by all of that.
Feminist theory is what lies behind feminism. It didn't start the movement, but it arose from scholarly research on the topic of women experiences, largely researched by feminist social scientists, writers and journalists.
"Feminist researchers embrace two key tenets: (1) their research should focus on the condition of women in society, and (2) their research must be grounded in the assumption that women generally experience subordination. "You see, women had it pretty shitty for a long time. The 19th amendment wasn't passed until 1920, finally allowing us representation in our government. Wearing pants in public was considered obscene. Certain jobs were just not open to women. Women were mothers and wives unless there were unmarried, in which case they could be school teachers, nurses and seamstresses or do factory work. The definition of rape was such that a husband couldn't rape his wife and victims were usually at fault in some way. Birth control was non-existent. When a woman got pregnant, there was nothing (legal) to be done and her life would never be the same. The inevitable marriage was for all intents and purposes a sentence to perpetual baby making, with the possibility of death in childbirth a very real result. This is of course an extremely abbreviated version of the injustices that women were forced to endure, suffice to say that life was no bed of roses for women of the past.
We should all be grateful to the women's rights activists in the past. There's still work to do, but it's much better. Cups raised to all the women that lost their lives, their livelihoods and their loved ones in the pursuit of equal rights. I thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart.
So what was going on with men during this revolution. Were they lounging in their libraries and dens, smoking pipes and drinking bourbon, enjoying secret stashes of scantily clad women? Yes! And also, running the world! But really, the answer to this is that the overwhelming majority were not.
Before the early 1900's, premarital sex was pretty scandalous so the only way to have sex was to pay for it and risk your junk, or get married. Being married had a lot of other advantages besides. You gained a partner that was as invested in your well-being as you were. You gained the comforts of a family and a home. You gained connections within your community. So most people got married.
Imagine you're a man in the US in the time prior to women's right activism. It wasn't until the mid 1800's that men who didn't own property could vote. So, unless you had a good job or a rich family, you also had no say in your representation. You were legally and socially responsible for your wife, meaning that if your wife committed a crime, you were considered responsible. This included paying of debts accrued without your knowledge. Contrary to popular belief most places had domestic violence laws, and beating your wife was discouraged. On the other hand, if your wife physically abused you, you had no recourse but to hit her back. If you were handicapped in someway, or simply to nice to hit back, too bad for you.
You were required by law to support your family. The only birth control at the time was unreliable and discouraged so if everyone was healthy, the babies just kept coming. Unless your wife took care of that somehow. More babies meant more work for you which meant no chance to see your wife kids. Staying at home wasn't even a option. You were lucky if you say your kids an hour a day, unless you were a farmer.
If you were working outside the home and poor there was a good chance what you did was pretty dangerous, like factories or mines. Or during war you were required to join the military.
So where we the men's rights activist in all this upheaval? Well, with a few exceptions, there just weren't any. While things were changing for women, things were not changing as quickly for men. In fact, men deviating from the norm of being the sole financial provider were dismissed, mocked, and ostracized.
The fact of the matter is that men had it pretty shitty too, and it was, and still is ignored. The gender binary screwed absolutely everyone in one way or another.
Did women have it worse than men? I don't know but when I contrast not having the right to vote, with the legal responsibility to fight and die for a cause I don't understand or support...women come out better. Safer.
In the world I live in right now, I know that the gender binary is still screwing everyone. But for women's issues there is a dialogue, there is movement and change. There is support from churches, government agencies, and individuals for "women's" issues. Not only doesn't this exist for men, it isn't allowed to exist. Men's rights is a dirty word for most feminists, with people throwing around accusations of misogyny, sexism, racism.
I'm not going to allow feminists to define this movement for me. There are some very, very angry men involved, it's true. Anger can be destructive, but it can also breed change. Many men have just had enough of being told they don't matter unless they're rich and white.
I get it.