Written by Jessica Eaton
04 August 2018
We need to stop saying that women want to be equal to men – or that we are striving for women to be seen as the ‘same as men in society’.
After many a frustrating conversation with people who have somehow managed to mix up egalitarianism, equalism and feminism, this blog feels timely.
There’s only so many times we should have to explain that feminism is NOT a movement to make women equal to men. Feminism undoubtedly means different things to different people, but can we stop watering it down now? The dumbing down of feminism has gone too far in the third wave. I have heard feminism defined as everything from ‘the belief that all people are equal’ to ‘feminists believe that women should be the same as men in society.’ What? Nah.
Feminism is not ‘for the equality of all people’. Feminism is not ‘the belief that women should be treated the same as men.’ Feminism is not ‘the movement to make women equal to men in society.’ Feminism is not equalism.
Feminism is the liberation of women and girls all over the world from the patriarchy and misogyny that continues to harm and oppress them as a class of people. Feminism centres women unflinchingly and unapologetically. Feminism is the conversation about women’s issues in the world; without having to add some tokenistic sentence at the end acknowledging that men also experience some things too. Yah, we know. But we are talking about women right now, so hush.
The problem with saying that we are working towards women becoming equal to men is that it frames men and male cultures as being the optimum culture or the ideal goal that women should reach to become equal.
I’m here to say: what a crock of shit.
For women to be valid, whole human beings in society – feminism has got to move beyond this notion that women are striving for what men already have. I don’t want anything men already have. None of it. It’s a mess.
If we take modern men and male experiences as the ‘goal’ level for women to achieve in personal life and society, what would success look like?
- Would success mean that women’s suicide rates rise to the same levels as the male suicide rate because as women reach ‘equality’ they must follow the patriarchal value of eradicating ‘feminine’ emotions and expressions, including talking about their feelings and seeking help?
- Would success mean that women’s cancer mortality rates rise to the same rates as men because as women finally reach the almighty peak of maleness, they also stop seeking help for medical issues because of embarrassment, and just like men do now; they begin waiting until a health problem has become unbearable before they seek help, meaning cancer has usually spread and is more complex to treat?
- Would success mean that women significantly increase their rates of violent crime and interpersonal violence to match that of men around the world?
- Would success mean that women increase their murders of their partners and ex partners by at least 200% to match the rates of women killed by male partners and ex partners each year?
- Would success mean that women increase their rates of sexual violence, trafficking and exploitation of men and boys at an unprecedented rate never before seen in history to achieve ‘equality with men’?
- Would success mean that women become the most likely group to die in gun and knife violence with other women all over the world?
- Would success mean that women working in aid roles begin abusing, sexually assaulting and sexually exploiting boys in deprived areas to match the male role model we currently have?
- Would success mean women in power developing regimes in which baby boys were murdered or aborted because no one wanted a son?
- Would success mean that women must begin carrying out many more terrorist acts and mass murders all over the world, especially school shootings – to claim equality with the men?
Is this what we mean by ‘feminism is the movement to make women equal to men’? Or when we say this, do we just mean the ‘good’ bits like higher salaries and more power in society?
It’s not. This is the stuff of nightmares. No one wants this. Even people who claim to hate feminism and claim that women should be equal to men in all arenas don’t REALLY want to see this level of sex equality. No one wants this in the world. No one wants women to step up to match what men already have.
I don’t think we’ve thought through this whole ‘we want women to be equal to men’ thing. I don’t think we have realised that we have framed male issues and experiences as the goal we are all supposedly striving for, and what that would actually mean for us all. All sorts of people hark on about how women finally being ‘the same as men’ in society would mean that we were respected, paid higher wages and would be safer. It’s bollocks.
The reality is, we cannot assume that what men in have society is the standard we should be striving for as women. Men are miserable and harmed daily by the patriarchy – they just haven’t figured it out yet. Men’s rights activists kick off on twitter about male suicide rates but don’t look into the way male gender role stereotypes they support; are harming them every day. Campaigns argue that men and boys are also victims of rape and that is absolutely true – but do not admit that the vast majority of perpetrators of those crimes are men. Activists argue that men are significantly more likely to be killed in violence than women which is also correct – but the fact that more than 97% of violence and murders are committed by men seems to escape them. I’ve even seen campaigns from men’s rights activists arguing that family courts are biased against fathers and men – and there is some truth in that claim – but to them I say this:
The laws about family court weren’t written by women. The legislation about children remaining with their mothers was not signed off by women. The majority of all judges are men. Legislators were men. Policymakers were men. The research that the majority of family court attachment and bonding theory was based on came from JOHN Bowlby. A man. A lot of the legislation and policies were developed in a time where men were the breadwinners and women were the childrearers. It made sense to the men in power that women should take care of the babies and men should go out and do important man things. Nowadays, MRAs are positioning that as ‘reverse sexism’ – but actually, its a legacy from the patriarchy. The assumption that you wouldn’t want to play an active part in your kids’ lives, dreamt up, supported by, signed off by and judged by your fellow patriarchal family court judge. Think about it. Women were not in influential positions at the time these systems were being developed. Women did not orchestrate these patriarchal systems. Men did.
All of the things wrong with society at present (and all of the things that even MRAs hate about society), were created by, funded by, legislated by, demanded by, invented by and sold by men. Therefore, why should feminism support a movement of women ‘becoming equal to men’? In fact, why should we be using male experience and cultures around the world as a blueprint at all?
There is something important to be said here. Feminism is the movement towards liberation of women and girls from the oppression and control of the patriarchy – but actually, the real change will come for the world when we rise up and dismantle the patriarchy together. The destruction of patriarchal and misogynistic values benefits everyone.
As a woman who is proudly radical feminist, is a specialist in the psychology of sexual violence against women and girls – but is also the Chair and Founder of the first male mental health and wellbeing centre in the UK, serving around 150 men per month – I can see that the patriarchy is killing all of us.
Men come into our centre having been abused, neglected, sexually exploited, having suffered with mental health issues and lived in misery for decades and they sit in front of us and say ‘I thought I should just shut up and put up – be a real man and not ask for help.’ Men so harmed by gender role stereotypes that they cry in therapy and then apologise for crying because it means they are not a ‘real man’.
The best way I have found to explain it to people is that the patriarchy harms men, but oppresses women. Often times, men hear us talk about the patriarchy oppressing, killing and dehumanising women – and when we say ‘patriarchy’ they hear ‘all men’. Hence the annoying phrase NAMALT (not all men are like that!).
My view, is that if men could detach themselves from the patriarchy and see how it harms them and makes them miserable, they would stop fighting against feminism as a movement. However, and this is important, it does mean that we have to actively challenge the warped current wave of liberal feminism which oftentimes completely contradicts itself and props up the patriarchy in a number of concerning ways. Not least by claiming that these gender role stereotypes are real, innate qualities and not social constructs that harm us all.
To explain how the patriarchal values of our world harm men and women, I’ve made this handy table:
(You can zoom in on this image if it displays too small)
The point is this:
Men are not the blueprint.
The current epidemic of male violence cannot be the standard we all strive for. Men are coerced into, are propping up and are being harmed by patriarchal values. They don’t have it right. We should not be trying to emulate that. We should not be striving to become equal with men in their patriarchal misery – we should be challenging and dismantling the patriarchy and its global values until we can revolt.
True change in the world will only come with revolution. Revolution is not possible if we perceive male privilege and male experience as the ‘goal’ women should be working towards in the world. We don’t want to be the ‘same as men’. Why would be want to replicate a broken system? Why would we work towards total misery and increased violence?
I don’t know about you, but my vision for women is not that we become more violent, more misogynistic, more miserable, less able to speak about our emotions, less able to seek help, more likely to bully each other for ‘feminine traits’ and so confused that we begin celebrating the same toxic masculinity that is harming us every day.
That’s not my feminism. That’s not my vision for us all.
Imagine for a second, if we did dismantle the patriarchal beliefs and cultures centuries of male power have created for us. A world where men can show their emotions without worrying that someone will call them the ultimate insult: a woman. A society where women are not objectified as sex toys to be used up and thrown away when they get older or imperfect. A world in which teenage boys are not having to visit therapists and doctors about their erectile dysfunction and addiction to porn. A society in which rape isn’t a constant threat to women and girls all over the world – and a joke told about men in prison. A life in which men can participate and enjoy parenthood in equality with the mothers of their children because they believe their role is just as important. A workplace where a pregnant woman isn’t managed out of her job because she is perceived as unreliable – but where a man whose wife is pregnant is promoted for becoming a ‘responsible family man’. A world where women can become the main breadwinners and not make men feel insecure about it. A community where men can stay at home with the kids admiring the tenacity of the mother of his kids who rakes in the cash in a job she loves.
A world where the patriarchy no longer controls women, kills female babies because they were unwanted, hacks off vulva and clitoris of women, revels in porn, excuses everything with rape myths, positions ‘woman’ as the ultimate insult to men, sells women’s bodies and denies women the right to healthcare and advice about their own reproductive systems.
True feminism is revolution. Feminism is the liberation of women from the values and systems of the patriarchy. Feminism is the movement to challenge and dismantle the patriarchy, raising new generations of humans that do not fall into the same tropes we have. Feminism is not about centring men in our discussions or our events – but feminism will inevitably support men to be healthier and happier.
I don’t want to be ‘equal to men’. I want to rip up the blueprint and smash up the patriarchy and start again with our new generations. I want us all to take a step back, breathe and realise that the patriarchy harms all of us, and claiming that feminism is about women working towards being ‘the same as men’ in society is us moving in the wrong direction. And yet, the patriarchy in power are scared of women becoming more networked and more influential – because they know it will dilute the power of the patriarch.
With all the harm done to men by the patriarchy, I find myself asking men – what are you clinging on to it for? What is it about feminism that scares you? What is it about femininity that makes you feel so insecure? What do you stand to lose if we one day break down the patriarchal powers in the world?
Once we can answer those questions honestly and with integrity, we can take the first steps to breaking down the patriarchy and the patriarchal values, myths and messages being communicated all over the world.
Written by Jessica Eaton
Founder of VictimFocus http://www.victimfocus.org.uk