Seeking equality – Is feminism a help or a hindrance?

Publisher’s note: Most AVFM readers will find nothing especially new in this article by Yasmine Grey. It is nonetheless remarkable in that it was originally published in an online magazine for teen readers, the Teen Gazette.

We all know that hateful feminist ideologues are now targeting children and teens with their caustic message. It is much appreciated to see that Grey has fired some balanced counter-theory in to the mix. PE

Feminism is the foremost movement in our society claiming to seek equality. We’ve heard actors1 and actresses2 come out as feminists; we’ve seen politicians wearing ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirts3; we’ve seen Emma Watson get up and speak at the UN about how feminism just seeks equality at the launch of #HeForShe4.

But for all its popularity, is feminism actually making us more equal? Do feminists really seek equality? Polls of the public show that nearly everybody favours equality of the sexes, but only a minority – less than a fifth – identify themselves as feminists5. So it seems there’s more to our perception of feminism than the mere definition would imply. Let’s take a look at some of the areas where feminism departs from its stated goal of seeking equality.

Consider violence. The issue of violence against women has been prominent in the media for years, with daily articles across the globe addressing the topic6. It can be broken down into many areas – domestic violence, sexual violence, street violence, FGM – and feminists claim primacy in the fight against all of them. But reducing violence against women specifically can only be part of a fight for equality if women are at particular risk of violence. Let’s break it down.

The term ‘domestic violence’ is often used to denote a subsection of violence against women, the definition of which is legally informed by the feminist-created Duluth model in most countries7. This model considers violence a consequence of patriarchy, directed always at women, by men. But this doesn’t hold up to the statistics. Most domestic violence is reciprocal, with both partners hurting each other. When the violence is unilateral, it is women who are aggressing 70% of the time8. Let me put it clearly: women abuse their partners more than men do, at least in the west (a fact that holds true for homosexual couples too9). Given this, is focusing solely on female victims likely to end domestic violence? Is the Duluth model likely to be useful for the police and courts when the theory doesn’t match up to reality?

Sexual violence is again considered to be a realm where women are the victims of men, and feminists campaign to stop rape via the education of boys and young men, teaching them about consent and ‘male entitlement’. But the evidence for this approach is built on fatally faulty assumptions. Women are only the primary victims of rape when rape is defined as non-consensual penetration of the victim, as it is in many legal jurisdictions. When we instead consider the layman’s use of the word rape to mean someone who is made to have sex that they didn’t consent to (thus including cases where a woman forces a man to penetrate her), the balance shifts. In the USA, the rates of rape by this definition are nearly identical, with 1,270,000 women experiencing attempted or completed rape every year, and 1,267,000 men being ‘made to penetrate’ in the same time span10. That’s less than a 1% difference in the rate of rape of men and women in America. And in the rest of the world? Well, among a large international study of heterosexual couples, 2.8% of men and 2.2% of women reported being forced to have sex with their partner11. Is ignorance about consent and patriarchal entitlement to women’s bodies causing women to rape men? Or is the feminist model wrong, once again?

Genital cutting of girls is illegal in most countries12, and feminists rightly campaign to stop female genital mutilation happening anywhere in the world, as it violates their right to bodily integrity. But girls are not the only ones getting cut. Boys frequently experience genital cutting, and male circumcision of underage boys is not outlawed anywhere in the world. This hardly needs explanation: in an equal society, cutting infants’ genitals should be equally legal or illegal. The feminist rhetoric of ‘my body, my choice’ should apply to men just as much as women, and it is shameful that many feminists refuse to condemn male genital mutilation as they do FGM.

In fact, it is worth noting that violence in general – in homes, in the street, and most especially in war13 – is directed mainly at men. Women famously fear walking alone more than men do, despite being around half as likely as a man to be the victim of a violent crime at the hands of a stranger (or non-stranger, for that matter)14. Why encourage this fear? Feminist campaigns such as ‘take back the night’ ignore the fact that women are not in particular danger. Would it not be more productive to warn men of the dangers they face, and treat violence as everybody’s problem, not just women’s?

Moving on from outright brutality, there are other, softer issues. ‘We need more women in STEM’ is another feminist call which is over simplified. It is true that women tend not to study or work in ‘nerdy’ fields. However, the feminist claim that this is due to sexism and that it should be fixed with aggressive promotion of girls into STEM subjects, quotas in higher education, or female-biased hiring policies needs closer scrutiny. For one thing, school education currently favours girls hugely, with girls outperforming boys in every subject, all around the world15. For the first time, boys are performing poorly, and in fact even young boys now believe themselves to be less intelligent than girls, with corresponding impacts on their grades16. This trend continues on into higher education as well, with more women attending university worldwide17. So why are women still less common in STEM? Put bluntly, it’s because they don’t like the subjects as much. There’s an interesting trend where more developed, ‘equal’ countries exhibit greater gendering in choice of university subjects and careers.18

Feminists have succeeded in convincing people we need more women in STEM, to the point that there’s now a 2-to-1 hiring bias in favour of women in such fields in the west19. And still, in the freest countries on earth, with cash incentives in place, women are choosing not to go into STEM. Is it perhaps time we considered whether the disparity is down to something other than oppression, and start putting our resources towards the broader issue of male underachievement in education generally?

There certainly are issues facing women in some countries, and these need addressing in the name of equality. However, women’s issues are far from the only issues, and western feminism’s focus on ladies alone has leeched energy and funding away from finding actual equality. By diverting attention to issues which don’t exist, or are sometimes the opposite of what is claimed, feminism is no longer fighting for equality in many of the areas we assume it is. Far from redressing a balance, it may even be tipping the scales to leave men and boys behind. As lovers of equality, we should consider very carefully the messages we’re given, and take care not to be pulled in by a feminist narrative which appears to have an underlying bias towards seeing only those problems which affect women.

References:

1 http://www.ellentv.com/2014/01/09/joseph-gordon-levitt-on-being-a-feminist/

2 http://www.wonderlandmagazine.com/2015/02/kristen-stewart-cover-story/

3 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11203718/Feminist-t-shirts-worn-by-Ed-Miliband-and-Nick-Clegg-allegedly-made-by-women-in-poverty.html

4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6XTx2Rg04g

5 http://www.vox.com/2015/4/8/8372417/feminist-gender-equality-poll

6 https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=violence+against+women&tbm=nws

7 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duluth_model

8 http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2005.079020

9 http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_SOfindings.pdf

10 http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

11 http://pubpages.unh.edu/~mas2/ID45-PR45.pdf

12 http://www.ebmcdn.net/prb/html/prb-fgmc-012909/index.html

13 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10752232/Our-attitude-to-violence-against-men-is-out-of-date.html

14 http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv03.pdf

15 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/11364130/Girls-do-better-than-boys-at-school-despite-inequality.html

16 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.12079/abstract

17 http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/unesco-world-atlas-gender-education-2012.pdf

18 https://youtu.be/l3JuaIg99X0

19 http://www.pnas.org/content/112/17/5360.abstract

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