I grew up around feminists. My mom, my sister, my sister-in-law… all very strong minded, outspoken, and ready to thrown down if you’ve crossed a line they think you shouldn’t have crossed. Oddly enough, I didn’t find out that I was a feminist until university when I was teasing my friend about taking a women’s studies course. He asked what my views on women were, so I told him that I thought men and women were equal. He said that made me a feminist. Oh? Sure, why not.
I’m now reflecting on why I didn’t understand feminism as a battle for equality when I was being raised by someone who considered herself to be a fierce feminist. My mother spent a great deal of her life angry. Angry at her father. Angry at her brother. Angry at my dad. Angry at me. There was also a lot of blame, and she placed very little of it on herself. Men were the source of all her problems. When I saw her brand of feminism, it wasn’t about raising women up, it was about putting men down. It was about being hurt, being oppressed, and making sure that others knew about it.
Now I have a sister who thinks that a man is a rapist if a girl who has consented to sex changes her mind mid-way, even if she doesn’t tell him to stop. I also have a sister-in-law who condemned John Damore’s memo on social media, but said that she had done too much emotional labor around the topic to even discuss it.
I don’t think we’re still dealing with the pursuit of equality here. This is about the empowerment of women, and those are two very different things.
I often joke around and say that men have had this coming for centuries and we’re just the unlucky bunch that have to deal with it, but sometimes it’s not a joke. I’ve had women tell me more than a few times that because of what men have done around the world, and throughout history, women deserve to be more than equal.
More than equal.
Does that not suggest that women would be superior and men would be inferior? Is that really the goal of feminism? These dynamics have been interesting to observe because as I try to have these discussions and understand the rationale, I’ve found a lot of inconsistencies that demonstrate several different perspectives within feminism. Some think that porn is the objectification and sexualization of the female body while others think that a women choosing to do porn is female empowerment. Some feminists think that Caitlyn Jenner is a strong and beautiful woman, some think that she’s a shitty person. When I see these inconsistencies, I try to focus on where everyone agrees and that usually illuminates what’s really connecting the movement.
When I think about this deeply, I see two separate movements: Female empowerment, and the pursuit of equality.
Female empowerment is defined by the collective hurt, frustration and powerlessness that women have been feeling for generations. For them, powerlessness and inequality are the same problem. To solve inequality, one must become more powerful. With power comes the ability to right wrongs and protect those you care about. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this dynamic in history and it’s probably not the last. The problem with a virtuous pursuit of power is that you start to think that any decision that makes you more powerful is a virtuous decision. At that point, right and wrong no longer have any bearing.
The pursuit of equality has been my jam for most of my life. It understands that there is a natural order to the universe and appreciates that we’ve just scratched the surface on understanding it. It accepts that we’re all unique people with unique circumstances and this leads to the unique lives which we collectively call humanity. If each of us lives a truly unique existence, then we should really only be judged on the merit of what’s in our soul. In the pursuit of equality, eventually you understand that equality already exists, it’s simply our perspective on the matter which needs to change.
Perhaps I should be concerned. There’s a lot of momentum behind female empowerment. It’s especially interesting to hear men explain their affinity for it. Unfortunately, the problem with the pursuit of power over equality is that you’re more likely to end up with power than equality. If the women of today are successful with that pursuit, what are they leaving for the next generation? There’s a pendulum effect worth observing here. If female empowerment leads to men being treated as the inferior sex, how long until male empowerment catches on? If I was a feminist of today, that is not the future I’d be looking to create for my children.
The reason why I’m not concerned is because while fear is often louder, love is almost always stronger. I suspect that while the majority of men and women today might not understand equality, they believe in it. There’s something intrinsic about equality which resonates with people and it’s probably why we’ve been fighting for it throughout history. Unfortunately, equality is the enemy of the powerful so the ruling class usually doesn’t take so well such things. Fortunately for the rest of us, they’re on borrowed time.