Feminism

What Feminism Definitely Doesn’t Look Like

I once wrote about what I call fauxminism, poking fun at “empowered” women who do little to nothing for (or even who actually hinder) other women’s choices and freedom.

That’s one thing. This is another thing, entirely.

Recently, I had the distinct displeasure of overhearing two men laugh it up over domestic abuse. As it really wasn’t my conversation and I was in far from the right situation to say anything, I was mostly silent as I listened. I learned that, to them, years of abuse at the hands of his wife rendered a man laughable, not pitiable.

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The battle cry of the Men’s Rights Activist or any other breed of anti-feminist is the oft-mocked “but what about teh menz?” That particular question is posed whenever anyone dares to say anything uncritical about feminism. The frustration that many feminists feel regarding that particular derailment is, more often than not, misunderstood as a dismissal and/or trivialization of primarily male-related concerns. This leads to the belief that feminists are female supremacists (feminazis or even femi-stasi, sometimes) who want to oppress men or at least ignore men’s concerns. Taken further, the claim becomes that said problems are somehow caused by feminism.

Setting the misconstruing of feminist aims aside, let us admit a rather painful truth. To blame feminism for the mainstream gender status quo is to attribute way more ideological success to it than it has actually attained. Let us also set aside the fact that most feminists are against all oppressive gender norms and how many feminists are actively working against gender-based oppression of all kinds.

Where do oppressive gender norms for men originate?

There is no question that oppressive gender norms for women existed prior to feminism. Indeed, feminism arose in response to said norms, so to argue otherwise would be more than somewhat disingenuous. In this case, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander: gender norms for men existed prior to feminism. Additionally, so did the effects that gender norms for women had, and continue to have, on men.

Now, let us consider the matter of female-on-male domestic violence. The men I heard making a mockery of a fellow man’s abuse at the hands of his wife were not feminists. I do not say this in judgment of them or their beliefs, I say this with the knowledge that they mock and oppose feminism and say misogynistic things with alarming frequency and audacity.

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This is why the allegation that feminism is to blame for female-on-male abuse, or at least its trivialization, is not only untrue but also utterly infuriating. Sexists enforce the gender binary for women — and for men. In their minds, women are weak and inferior to men, therefore abuse by a woman upon a man can’t be serious. That is why they can howl with laughter so shamelessly without a second thought as to the harm being done to a fellow human being.

Similarly, when it comes to women, the “you go girl” attitude towards female abuse of men isn’t exactly a gender-radical, feminist one. In fact, it fits quite neatly into traditional narratives with regards to inter-gender relations. To wit: “He must be cheating on her!”, “she can’t really hurt him,” and so on, ad nauseum.

Although I know I will be accused of doing so within the next 72 hours (if not sooner) because I am not afraid to say that I am a feminist, endorsing female-driven abuse of men isn’t what feminism looks like. Two man espousing an utterly cavalier attitude towards domestic abuse isn’t what feminism looks like. My hands shaking in anger at two men’s cavalier attitude towards domestic violence so hard that I can barely type this?

That’s what feminism fucking looks like.

EDIT (5/5/13): See comment from hierophant as to why I’ve removed a link.

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Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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6 Comments

  1. Heina

    Most people like this would probably love to send America back to the nineteen fifties, at least when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality. I find it disheartening that such people still exist, but I guess unfortunately they will always be around. Even if that weren’t the case, I would still find it offensive that anyone could make fun of a domestic abuse victim like that.

    1. The 1950s were great for: misogynists, racists, churches, homophobes, snake oil salesmen, people who like to beat their children with belts and sticks … oh, the list could go on.

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