I’ve been writing a lot about feminism lately. We’ve been talking about it at home — and it seems like the more often it comes up in conversation, the more often I see how feminism’s public image washes across an average guy.
The thing is, feminism isn’t about hating men, burning bras, or generally thinking that women are better than men. Instead, it’s called “feminism” because all women have the problem of being oppressed in some way by the patriarchy — it’s all a matter of degree. It’s also the case that many individual men are impacted by the patriarchy.
Really, I think the term “oppression” is to strong, or perhaps too vague for what I’m talking about. I don’t have a better word for it, but generally the idea is that this use of the term ‘oppression’ includes the way in which societal expectations sink into people, causing them to act differently — change their direction, or otherwise do what they wouldn’t have done if left to their own internal drives or desires. Most women in this country aren’t significantly oppressed, we have the right to vote, own property, be single parents etc… compared to many other parts of the world, we’re doing pretty well.
The other part of a common perception about feminism is that it’s anti-male… along with that is a seeming rejection of things that many men enjoy. The thing is, there is nothing wrong with men enjoying supposedly “male” things, just as there is nothing wrong with women enjoying supposedly “female” things — Men can enjoy building a fire, grilling a stake, hunting and riding around on a tractor — or whatever.. that doesn’t make them non-feminist. It’s when those activities are somehow limited to men — either by saying women “can’t” or “shouldn’t” do those things — or by saying that men “must” do those things — that stuff gets dicey.
Additionally, individual women CAN and often DO appreciate another person who likes to do those things because she doesn’t. I recall a recent conversation with my partner — we were house-sitting on a hobby farm when it snowed. He was thrilled that it snowed because he got to plow the long driveway with the John Deere “gator” — (fyi — that’s a kind of riding tractor-like thing… I didn’t know that until I saw him on it..). I was more than happy to let him do that because it would make me nervous as heck to do so. That wasn’t a strictly male/female division of labor, instead it was one partner enjoying doing a task that another doesn’t.
Finally, there are differences among the sexes. Men are generally taller and stronger than women. That doesn’t mean that if there is only one man in a workplace that he has to do all the lifting etc.. BUT, it does sometimes mean that I have to ask my taller and stronger partner to get stuff off of a high shelf for me or open a jar I’ve tried to open but can’t. On the other hand, my hands are smaller, so if there is something in a tight space I’ll reach for it. I generally have fingernails that are long enough to peel off stickers etc… I have different tools than he does, neither of which is better or worse, just different.
For me, feminism is a way to think about the world — one that helps me to recognize external influences and especially how they turn into internal influences. It’s about holding some core values of equality between persons and letting that be the driving force in how I treat people. Sometimes I’m a better feminist than others —