I recently wrote a post on “The Neon Demon”, a 2016 horror film that I watched on my movie pay-channel. My main thought was that Nicolas Refn, who directed the film, had cast the female characters with such masculine bias, that they were literally transgendered into men. I got the following Facebook response that really intrigued me:
I got half way through the article, and it went into full feminist mode
“Wow”, I thought, “I don’t know whether I should take this comment as an insult, or as a compliment.” Judging from the general level of Facebook posts, I rather think that the comment belongs to the former category, rather than the latter.
The reason why I didn’t relate to my post being described as “feminist”, is that – as a man – although I am fully supportive of the feminist movement (as long as it is not exaggerated out of all proportion), I cannot put myself in the shoes of feminists, so to speak. I do truly believe that it is impossible for any man to do this, for the simple reason that we are men, and not women.
This is certainly no grounds to either ignore or oppose the feminist movement, but the fact remains that we men need a lot of explanations from you women. We need to know the inner feelings that you harbour, and what can be done to put things right. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that most men who act inappropriately, don’t have the slightest idea that they are doing something wrong. This doesn’t, of course, give them an excuse, but does explain why some men react by saying “I didn’t mean any harm” or, “I couldn’t help it”.
I don’t really like words that end in “-ism”. A large number these words – sexism, populism, anti-Semitism, extremism, terrorism, to name but a few – denote something acutely wrong with society. They remind me of my visits to the doctor, wishing he won’t say that I’m suffering from an annoying something, ending in “-itis”.
The Merriam-Webster’s definition of feminism is, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes,” and, ” organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests“. Unfortunately, for many men, the term fills them with a sense of being threatened, and is closely correlated with a sense of direct challenge to the very way our present-day patriarchal society is being run. In particular, women’s sexual liberation, in which they can freely decide to have relationships with men, without the fear of becoming pregnant, has led to a deep schism in men’s interpretation of the desires expressed by women.
For French philosopher and feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, sexual abuse directed against women is directly related to men’s erroneous interpretation of the entire women liberation movement. Some men think that women who crave for, and obtain, individual freedom and financial independence, are obliged to accept their sexual advances. The very sexual freedom, that women are fighting for, compels them to subordination. For some, women have obtained the right to practice promiscuity and are, more often than not, punished for not practising what they fought for.
Although women must continue in their quest to obtain equal rights and opportunities, their combat must not be a violent one. Certain feminists consciously undermine the importance of men, by shouting that they can live and survive, by themselves. Whilst it is undeniable that women’s role in society must not only be limited to having children and cleaning their homes, extreme feminism is not helping the hard struggle of seriously oppressed women. It is only throwing oil onto an ongoing fire, that risks getting out of hand. This certainly applies to the multiple accusations of sexual harassments and abuse, that are surfacing on an almost daily basis. Whilst it is high time that these women openly express what has happened to them, these events should make men think, and not humiliate them.
Feminism has never killed anybody, but the same cannot be said about men who wrongly feel humiliated and threatened by its consequences. On 6th december 1989, Marc Lépine, 25, burst into a classroom at Montréal’s École Polytechnique. He was not carrying school textbooks, but a semi-automatic weapon and a hunting knife. The male students were ordered out of the class, and the gunman began shooting, killing six female students. He then made is way to another classroom, and the school cafeteria, killing a further eight female students, before turning the gun on himself. A note was found in the gunman’s pocket, saying that,
I have decided to send to death the feminists who have always ruined my life…… Being rather backward-looking by nature, except for science, the feminists always have a talent to enrage me. They want to keep the advantages of women, cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventive retreat, while trying to grab those of the men. They are so opportunistic they neglect to profit from the knowledge accumulated by men through the ages…. Will we hear of Caesar’s female legions and female galley slaves who of course took up 50% of the ranks of history, though they never existed?? A real Causus Belli.
For Simone de Beauvoir, “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman…”. In order to achieve equality between men and women, not only must feminists keep on fighting for their rights, but the very nature of society – dictated by men – must change. The feminists must write their own script. However, changing the wording of a script that they never wrote, in the first place, may prove more to be of a problem than they bargained for.
It is clear that feminism is not only a personal quest for all oppressed women to acquire the dignity and freedom that men owe them, but must also harbour a political agenda. It is the latter, more threatening to the patriarchal status quo of most societies, that will be very difficult and dangerous to implement.
On 22nd July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian extremist, perpetrated a terrorist attack, in Oslo, killing eight people. He then shot dead 69 participants of a Workers’ Youth League summer camp, on the island of Utøya. He believes that male dominated European culture is being “feminised” by giving in to a “radical feminist assault on our value”, under the guise of “political correctness”. For Breivik, this amounts to nothing less than a ‘war against the European man’.
The fate of European civilisation depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism – Anders Breivik
Although isolated incidents, the events of 1989 and 2011 should warn women around the world, of the sort of resistance they are encountering. Far too many men believe that the world of women should limit itself to the raising of a family, and the cleaning of a home. Whilst a large number of women find this a rewarding task, many do not. Women should be allowed to freely choose one over the other, and men should help them to be able to choose both. The present situation means that far too many women are financially dependent on their husbands or companions, and are facing the possibility of being completely abandonned if the relationship breaks down, for whatever reason.
Is feminism getting too complicated for its own good? Probably, because in my own, rather naive view, women are women – end of story. Whether they are black, white, or pink with yellow spots, doesn’t change that fact. How many of you know what intersectional feminism is?
The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity. – Kimberlé Crenshaw, 1989
Well, please forgive me for my ignorance on this matter, and now that I’ve learned what intersectional feminism is, will that change my attitude towards women? Probably not.
Maybe you remember learning all about “the lowest common denominator”, in your school maths curriculum. The lowest common denominator of a set of fractions is the lowest number that is a multiple of all the denominators: their lowest common multiple. It’s a concept that simplifies sums involving fractions. The same concept can be applied to your attitude towards women. If some men find it normal to oppress black women and not white women, it can be argued that they are intrinsically racist and not anti-feminist. Put another way, black women face two problems – the first is related to their gender, and the second, to their race.
I came across a website preaching the merits of intersectional feminism,
A place where intersectional feminism is not a trend, but a lifestyle. And how I’m using my experience and journey of self love to help all women on their own journey of feeling empowered, celebrated, uplifted, and supported on a daily basis. As self-love is not a destination, but an everyday practice.
Beautiful words, I admit – just help me understand what they mean in relation to intersectional feminism. She should love herself as she is, and probably does. Others should love her for what she is, and some men don’t.
I’m probably an intersectional feminist, without even knowing it. I feel rather like Monsieur Jourdain, in Molière’s “The Bourgeois Gentleman “, who spoke prose all day long, without realising it.
Well, what do you know about that! These forty years now I’ve been speaking in prose without knowing it! – Molière, The Bourgeois Gentleman, 1670
Let us simplify the concept of feminism, so that those of us men, who are prepared to defend it, actually understand what we are supposed to defend. Simple answers will only arise from simple questions. In the meantime, I’ll quickly finish this post, and get out the vacuum cleaner.