The more I read and hear about the war on women, the more I actively seek out additional information. The more I seek, the more I find, and the more I realize that once seen I cannot unsee the vast tentacles of patriarchy that are underlying so much of the society in which we live.
Now, there are a LOT of things I could talk about when I talk about feminism, but I want to specifically discuss the idea that “boys will be boys” and “men can’t help themselves”…particularly when it comes to degrading, assaulting, harassing, or otherwise abusing women. Men can help it. Their “animal” nature can be “trained” and curbed. You can train a dog to drop a juicy steak and leave it, untouched. You can train a dog to sit still and stay put while an in-heat dog is nearby. The dog may not like that command or that training, but they will do it. AND, if those dogs do not response properly to that training, they are castrated and kept in a cage, away from other dogs. So, don’t tell me that men cannot keep their thoughts and hands to themselves. Don’t tell me that it’s impossible for them to overcome their base instincts. Don’t tell me that they “can’t help it.” If a German Shepherd can “leave it alone”, any dude can. And frankly, men who are unable to keep their ego and penis in check should be castrated and kept far from society, to reduce their opportunities for harm. Oh, that doesn’t seem fair? THEN STOP COMPARING YOURSELVES TO ANIMALS! I know, I am preaching to a mostly female choir of fellow feminists here, the two or three men who read my blog are–from what I can tell–already feminists in their own right. Or at least they are well on their way.
I think there is a lot of fear and misinformation about what it means to be a feminist. I do not hate men. I do not think women are better than men. I do not think one must put men down in order to champion women. If you think feminism means any of those things, you don’t understand the point of feminism. Feminism as a social movement benefits women as much as it benefits men. The super-macho manliness that is advocated for across the media, advertising, and throughout society would be eliminated if feminism was more prominent. That “macho-man” bullshit is actually misogyny, relabeled, most of the time, and it is dangerous for men and women.
We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie (4 stars). “Gender matters everywhere in the world…we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how we start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.” This is a very quick read, or you can listen to the Ted Talk, and I think every American should hear what Adichie has to say.
The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir (4 stars). This book took me forever to read, it is super dense and the sentences and paragraphs are all packed with information and psychology and history and science. I’d read a little, think a lot, read some more, think some more. I kept a pen and highlighter with me and will probably go back and review some of my notes on the regular. de Beauvoir has so much insight and history and thought on key issues to being human, man or woman, and to being a feminist, fighting for equal rights for all humans.
My Life On The Road, by Gloria Steinem (3 stars). More than a feminist treatise, this book reads as an autobiographical travelogue. Granted, Steinem’s travels were mostly centered around politics and rallies for equality for women and equal rights, so it does have a lot of typical Steinem in it, but I didn’t really feel hit over the head with her particular brand of feminism. I do appreciate that she covered feminist issues for more than a middle-class or upper-middle-class white American woman; she focuses a lot of women of color, tribal women, poor women, lesbian and transgender women and the particular issues they face are all covered. Steinem highlights other groups with little vignettes and chapters that almost read like independent essays or short stories. You can read the New York Times review here.
Bad Feminist, by Roxanne Gay (3 stars). An essay collection, a few of these absolutely hit home for me, and a large chunk (mostly in the first half) were a lot harder for me to get in to. When Gay is writing what feels like a blog-post response to a piece of media she read or watched I lost interest pretty quickly, I want to read the original thing she read first, I felt like she didn’t explain enough about it for her critique or review of it to be successful for me as a reader. When she writes as a response to a major event covered by the news it was a lot easier for me to get through the piece because I had enough background to understand her jumps and lines of thought. The last half of this book is FAR better than the first (for me, except for the introduction, the first half was maybe 2.5 stars, the second half was easily 4, hence a 3-star rating).
Other feminist titles I would recommend, in no particular order:
A Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft
The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan
Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks
Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn
This year I decided to write my book reviews a little differently instead of focusing on what I read chronologically, I want to group similar books together by topic and write about them that way. I have a hefty shelf on Goodreads devoted to feminist writings, you should check it out.
I need to read some more books on this topic. I agree with you on everything. If men say they can’t control their instincts, then they are nothing more than animals and should be treated as such.
Exactly. I think it’s such a cop out for men to do that, and for women to ascribe to men the “they can’t help it!” mentality. Wrong, wrong, wrong. That is both sexes buying into this patriarchal bullshit and it drives me nuts. Ugh.
^^^ That was a pretty generalized statement.
I don’t consider myself a feminist. I struggle to define what that even means. I’m not entirely sure there is an encompassing definition for it, even among feminists.
For me it’s all about one simple thing: Respect.
I feel women should be treated with equal respect to men. It’s really that simple. I don’t think that makes me a feminist, it just means I’m not bound to silly cultural ideologies or historical perspectives. I judge the world and its people on my personal perception of its merits, and in my experience, there is no reason to treat women any differently.
Just don’t define all men as dogs that need to be trained. It’s not any better than saying all women should find their rightful place in the kitchen. Feminism shouldn’t be about tearing men down, it should be about educating people to understand that women and men are on the same level.
Note: I really didn’t want to comment on this post, but I did anyway. I don’t want you to misunderstand me or give you any bad vibes. You know I respect the hell out of you, right? I just felt I had to say something is all. And I have an uncontrollable duty to be honest.
I feel like you have completely misunderstood what I was trying to say. My WHOLE point is that men ARE NOT animals, they are humans, and have full control of their actions. San’s comment was basic feminist shorthand supporting the same idea. The Patriarchy (definition: the society in which we live) often claims “boys will be boys” and “men can’t help it” and “women need to do X, Y, and Z because men can’t control their thoughts/actions otherwise.” Putting the onus on women for men’s actions is Patriarchal Bullshit in it’s finest form. I am vehemently opposed to that VERY REAL practice. I think men are humans and have the ability to act as such, and if they CANNOT, they should have to pay the full extent of consequences, whether that is criminal prosecution & jail time because of sexual assault, or being fired because of work-place sexual harassment, or whatever. Patriarchy is dangerous and damaging to men AND women because it does not place both genders on equal footing. And THAT is what I am saying needs to go away.
I also don’t think it’s enough to just “respect” women. Those “silly cultural ideologies or historical perspective” are hurting women–myself included–every single day. EVERY DAY! You can say that you “respect women” until are blue in the face, but if you don’t support actions, policies, and a general change of society it’s just words. Respect is not enough.