Feminism is Not a Dirty Word

Feminist SymbolBack in the day when I was foolish and naïve (or at least more foolish and naïve than I am now), I briefly dated a guy with whom I was incompatible for many, many reasons, most of which have no bearing on this article.  Among other things, he cringed away from my description of myself as a feminist.  To him, feminism was a dirty word, synonymous not with a movement to secure equal rights and liberties for women, but with a movement whose aim was to secure something that he deemed to be “equality-plus.”  He would very happily rattle off a list of reasons why women were not systematically oppressed by modern western society as well as a list of situations in which men were discriminated against in favor of women (some of these, I have to admit, were justified, and as a feminist I am opposed to these as well).  Despite numerous efforts to inform him that his beliefs about feminism were misguided, when we parted ways I have no doubt that his beliefs had not changed one whit.  Although the relationship ended many years ago and I subsequently refused to have any contact with my ex (there was a series of only slightly inappropriate text messages involved), I suspect that his beliefs in this regard remain unaltered.  He is also not the only guy that I have ever known to hold such beliefs, to say nothing of those men who probably have similar beliefs and remain silent—at least in mixed company—for fear of condemnation.Feminist Poster--text:  I'm a Feminist, now what?, with a woman looking pensive

I was not surprised, therefore, to hear that students at Arizona State University have founded a Men’s Rights Group, complete with the core mission statement that women are not, and have never been, systematically oppressed.  (One can only hope that the students making this statement, short-sighted and incorrect as it is, are discussing only western society, as I can point them to numerous examples in both the Muslim world and Africa which would demonstrate that both sexism and systematic oppression are alive and well.)  Clearly, denying women the right to vote, founding a university system that admitted only men, and teaching countless numbers of girls and young women for generations that their place is in the home constitutes evidence that women have never been oppressed, and that men are systematically discriminated against in favor of women.  Poor guys, they had to go to Harvard or Yale while the little women got to just sit around at home learning to cook and sew.  May I remind everyone that, while universal franchise rights for men were enacted in 1870, with the approval of the 15th amendment that granted black men the right to vote (bearing in mind that white men had been able to vote for even longer), but women weren’t granted the right to vote until 1920?  Or that women were not legally permitted to own property when the U.S. was founded?  Clearly, the ability to own property, control your own wages, or vote about how this country should be run are all entirely superfluous when considering the issues of discrimination and oppression.Feminism is the Radical Notion that Women are People

The little boys in charge of the Men’s Rights Group at Arizona State University need to grow up and stop sugar-coating history in order to support their own grievances and complaints.  Yes, there are time when women are systematically favored over men in American society (custody disputes, for example), but there are many more instances in which men are systematically favored over women, and have been for decades.  Rights are not a zero-sum game—someone doesn’t have to lose in order for somebody else to win.  Educational or government programs created for groups that have faced significant discrimination or oppression in the past don’t exist in order to promote reverse discrimination—to thumb their noses at those in power, if you will—but to provide comparable levels of support to those for whom such entitlements have long been denied.  In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need Women’s Studies Departments, or the NAACP but, sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Until such a time as when systematic discrimination for all underprivileged groups has ceased to exist, affirmative action programs are necessary to artificially level the playing field so as to ensure that individuals belonging to underprivileged groups actually have a chance of competing with their non-disadvantaged peers.

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