Catching Up

I recently got a new job and am still adjusting to my new schedule –  apologies for the prolonged silence! I plan to keep up posts here and work with Miss Representation (here’s the Hoboken area Google Plus page). In the meantime, here’s another Quora response:

Why do feminists attack men for being the way that they are but at the same time become outraged if anyone points out that there are actual differences between men and women?

It’s very difficult to speak for the entire movement and everyone in it, but as someone who does consider herself a feminist, I disagree with the premise of this question. I know many feminists who have influenced me would do the same.

To me, feminism is not about female superiority, nor is it about claiming the genders are “exactly the same.” Rather, it is about breaking down gender essentialism, i.e., the belief that people are to act in a predetermined way based on their sex, and the oppressions that result. There are unequal values assigned to gendered behaviors and preferences, meaning that what is “feminine” is generally seen as “less than.” For example, “You’re a real man” is favorable, “You’re such a woman” is not.

Consequently, feminism leads me to question the phrase “men for being the way that they are.” What does that even mean? Most feminists I know challenge gender-based oppression, not men for simply being men. Given the phrasing of the question, it’s also important to note that feminists and other gender justice activists often challenge the gender binary, that is, “the classification of sex and gender into two distinct and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. It is one general type of a gender system. It can describe a social boundary that discourages people from crossing or mixing gender roles, or from creating other third (or more) forms of gender expression altogether.”(…)

Regarding the stigma that all feminists are out to attack men, here’s a favorite quote from activist Melissa McEwan:

Implicit in feminism is not only the belief, but the expectation, that men are not animals—nor infantile, stupid, useless, inept, emotionally stunted, or any other negative stereotype feminists have been accused of promoting—but instead our equals just as much as we are theirs, capable not only of understanding feminism (and feminists), but of actively and rigorously engaging challenges to their socialization, too. Feminists, of course, have the terrible reputation, but it isn’t we who consider all men babies, dopes, dogs, and rapists. The holders of those views, inevitably, are aggressive purveyors and defenders of the patriarchy—which itself, after all, takes a rather unpleasantly dim view of most people.


All that said, I’m sure there are women out there who call themselves feminists, and simply take that to mean that men are the enemy. That doesn’t really get us anywhere useful – we coexist on the same planet, after all. Personally, I’d like to get to a place where we can agree that distinct genders are complementary, rather than competing in a zero-sum game.

Full link.

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