The other day, I got into an argument with a friend about feminism. It’s one of those charged topics that you just know isn’t going to end well, but I got into that argument anyway. You know why? Because that friend of mine said that in this day and age, feminism is no longer needed, and is in fact harmful to women. I was, of course, aghast. “What do you mean, ‘harmful to women’?” I demanded.
My friend shrugged. “You know, teaching women to hate men, that sort of thing. There’s a lot of misandry in the feminism movement,” he said.
That argument got me thinking. Feminism is not a perfect movement. No advocacy is. But that shouldn’t mean that those who subscribe to it can just sit back and allow everything problematic about said advocacy to stagnate. Improvement of beliefs and advocacies is necessary in order to truly achieve the end-goals of social justice. So I came up with this list, based on my own previous behavior and things I also see from other friends of mine, who are feminists, and are not in line with feminist thinking.
1. Shaming modest women.
Being a feminist means that you believe all women have the inherent right to bodily autonomy, and that includes women who want to cover up. As the saying goes, nudity empowers some, modesty empowers some. And it is no one else’s place to judge. Some women may decide to reclaim shorts and crop tops and take pride in her body. Others may decide to deny the male gaze by covering themselves head to toe. Both of them are correct.
2. Shaming women who do stereotypically girly things like wear heels, makeup, wax their legs, etc.
A sort of corollary to #1. You’re not special just because you don’t wear heels, put on makeup, and shave. Similarly, a woman who does all these things is not less of a feminist just because she does. Mascara doesn’t glue a woman’s eyes shut so that she’s blind to all the important issues of the world. Subscribing to the dichotomy that you’re either a feminist or feminine makes you a bad feminist.
3. Slut-shaming women who sleep around, take nudes, or date a lot.
I’m talking to you, Chloë Grace Moretz.
Honestly, I was so disgusted with her tweet slut-shaming Kim Kardashian. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Kardashian fan. In fact, no one could be happier if all of them, starting with Kylie and her overpriced, overrated lip kits, completely fell off the face of the earth. But the thing that all feminists agree on, no matter what school of thought of feminism you subscribe to, is that judging a woman for taking pride in her body and sexuality is wrong. And yet here we have Chloë Grace Moretz, who has already proclaimed herself a feminist, breaking one of the movement’s most fundamental pillars. Shame on you, Chloë. Shame.
4. Not believing that men can be assaulted.
The myth that men cannot be raped or assaulted is unfortunately one that is institutionalized. Here in the Philippines, the Revised Penal Code basically states that a man can only be raped by a penis or object being inserted into his anus or mouth. Therefore, a woman cannot, by legal definition, rape a man.
Men suffering from domestic abuse are similarly left out in the cold. While we have the Violence Against Women and Children Act, which protects women and their children who suffer abuse at the hands of a man they’re in a romantic relationship with, there is no similar remedy for men who have been abused by women they’re in a romantic relationship with.
Domestic abuse and rape are crimes that affect people of any gender, not just women. There is no available data on male domestic abuse and male rape in the Philippines since we’re still a pretty patriarchal society, where the idea of a “henpecked” husband is still laughed at. The idea that men should be strong all the time and should be able to defend themselves against female attackers contributes to the idea of women being inherently weaker, as well as denies men the chance to acknowledge and recover from their suffering.
5. Looking down on Middle Eastern or Muslim women.
Not all Middle Eastern or Muslim women (notice the ‘or’? Because Middle Eastern doesn’t automatically equate to Muslim and vice versa!) are ‘oppressed’ and need your brand of ‘freedom’. Some women choose to wear the hijab or burqa! Yes, that’s right, choose. You know, the cornerstone of the movement you claim to be supporting?
To automatically assume that Middle Eastern or Muslim women are oppressed and behind the times is highly racist. For example, Tunisian women could divorce their husbands and had access to safe abortions since the 1950s and 60s – things we here in the Philippines still don’t have, and which the UN Human Rights Committee has affirmed as a basic human right.
6.Blaming only the ‘other woman’ when your partner cheats on you.
Look, I know the bitch was a homewrecker. But she wouldn’t have been able to homewreck if someone hadn’t opened the door in the first place. It takes two to tango. Spread the blame game around.
Conversely, if the ‘other woman’ had no idea that she was indeed an other woman and then found the guts to come clean to you, girl, close ranks.
7.Failing to recognize other issues that affect women.
There’s more to being a feminist than getting mad at catcallers and unnecessarily restrictive dress codes. Yes, those things are bad, but it’s hardly the only bad thing happening to women. The RH Law budget cut of nearly 1 billion pesos, the closure of the Fabella Memorial Hospital (a maternity hospital thousands upon thousands of poor women and mothers rely on), sexism in Philippine media, the kanser ng lipunan that is Tito Sotto, the Maria Clara vs. Maria Ozawa dichotomy. I could go on and on. You don’t get to call yourself a feminist when you pick and choose which issues affecting women to address. You have to address all of them.
8. Not recognizing the rights of and issues that affect trans women.
Trans women are women. They don’t ‘identify’ as women, they’re not ‘a woman born in a man’s body’. They’re women, plain and simple, and they’re as entitled to the ideals of feminism as any cis woman. Moreover, there are issues that affect them as trans women that don’t affect us cis women. Trans women and cis women are different and need different things, but acknowledging that difference doesn’t mean that trans women are less than cis women. Trans women deserve to be protected from employment and housing discrimination, from transphobic workplace harassment, from street harassment and violence. They deserve safe spaces just like cis women do.
If your feminism excludes trans women, if your feminism doesn’t acknowledge trans women, if your feminism hates trans women, if your feminism thinks trans women don’t have the right to participate in safe spaces and discussions for women, your feminism is wrong. (Looking at you, TERFs. You disgust me.)
9. Failing to acknowledge the racism in the history of the feminist movement.
I could write a whole new blog post on white feminism (and it would probably springboard off of Taylor Swift) but that’s a story for another time.
When women speak out on how they feel excluded by the feminist movement, or that the feminist movement needs to be more inclusive, they are silenced and told to focus on the ‘real enemy’. Case in point: Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift’s feud. Instead of talking about racism in the music industry, all of that became about how Nicki, the “angry black woman”, was attacking sweet innocent white woman Taylor Swift.
Okay I’m gonna stop now before one item on white feminism becomes an entire rant about Taylor Swift.
10. Thinking that feminism means supporting your fellow women no matter what.
No, ‘chicks before dicks’ doesn’t mean you have to cover up for your BFF who’s cheating on her partner. Accepting and supporting your fellow women can mean being there for them when they do stupid, fucked-up shit, but more than that, it means helping them realize when they’re wrong, and then sticking them like glue as they try to fix it. It doesn’t mean making excuses, it doesn’t mean being friends with any and all women, it certainly doesn’t mean never ever criticizing women (contrary to popular belief, aka Taylor Swift’s, calling out a fellow woman who does something wrong or problematic isn’t “pitting women against each other”, it’s being a decent human being). Feminism is caring enough about women as a whole that you stand up and call out racist, sexist, derogatory things people say, even if and especially if it’s another woman saying it.
(Of course, do it in a respectful way that engenders discussion, instead of firing off inflammatory statements. Like Tina Fey says, “…you’ve all got to stop calling each other sluts and whores, it just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores.”)