Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading “Why I’m Not a Feminist” by Mark Manson, a manly blogging dude over at a website called Post-Masculine. He spent some time researching feminism after reading all about how feminists are crazy on other MRA (men’s rights awareness) websites. In this article, he gives a concise history of feminism and a pretty good summary of its goals and achievements, to better educate his brethren.
Then he proceeds to explain his reservations with the modern feminist movement.
No problem, Mark. You make some good points. Let me make some to you.
Reason #1 That Mark Is Not a Feminist: Men and women are fundamentally different and therefore should not be expected to behave identically.
True, there are definitely biological differences. In fact, I pretty completely agree with your reasoning that behavior is a combination of biological impulse and cultural influence. This is why feminism has expanded to explore the problems with traditional masculinity, as you definitely pointed out in your summary of the modern feminist movement.
This is not a good reason to not be an, as you call it, equity feminist. This actually ties into Reason #2 That Mark Is Not a Feminist: If we’re going to talk gender, we should talk both genders at the same time. We NEED more men in the feminist movement, because until men get on board with breaking down damaging gender roles we’re only fighting half the battle.
If you’re frustrated with the uber-feminists, then you need to be more vocal about your moderate, equity feminist views. You know how we keep referring to the Tea Party as a radical fringe, and yet they’re all we hear about? It’s because of this silent majority bullshit, and it happens in every movement. People like you and me, who are about equality and confidence and opportunity for everyone, need to speak up more and say “You know what? I believe the genders are equal. That means I’m a feminist”–at least until we come up with another word for this new approach to all genders. Equist? Genderist? I don’t know. But right now, feminism is the word in gender equality.
Reason #3 That Mark Is Not a Feminist: The concept of rape culture is offensive.
This is the one that really made me mad. You make a good point: not all guys engage in the kind of behavior that perpetuates rape culture. (Just like not all feminists hate men or ignore biological differences or anything else–yeah, I thought we were supposed to be making generalizations, but I guess not.) I also appreciate your concession that “what [rape culture] describes is generally true.”
So your problem with “rape culture” seems to be mostly semantic. Your problem with it is that it’s “a divisive term, and implicates pretty much any and every man of being an accomplice to rape and sexism for no other reason than that he’s breathing and has a penis.” Honestly, I’m not sure where you’re getting that idea. The term isn’t “men raping women culture.” It’s rape culture, and rape can happen to anyone and be perpetrated by anyone. In fact, that’s one of the things the new feminism is raising awareness of: male rape and in-between-genders rape. Women can be rapists just like men can. It’s true that the majority of rape victims are still usually women and the majority of rapists are still usually men, and that’s why the conversation is usually gendered–but there’s nothing in the term rape culture that excludes other rape situations. So really the divisiveness and misandry you’re seeing in the term are coming from your own perceptions. It’s cool, it happens. Just recognize it.
And then there’s this:
The problem here is not a culture that promotes and glorifies rape (it doesn’t, rape is universally condemned, and rarely occurs). The problem is a culture that does NOT promote clear and open sexual communication between men and women.
You’re both right and wrong. Rape is NOT universally condemned, believe it or not (Daniel Tosh even thinks it’s funny) and it happens way more than it’s reported (because of the culture we have, which doesn’t like it when women refuse sex). But the fact that our culture is afraid to talk about sex is definitely a huge factor. Again, this is something modern feminists are trying to combat. I know you know this; you mentioned it in your brief history.
Sexism still exists, and sexism + aggression is what leads to rape. Rape is not aggressive sexuality, it’s sexualized aggression. As long as we as a society see women in terms of their sexuality and as long as society sees female sexuality as something that needs to be controlled, we will have a rape culture.
Reason #4 That Mark Is Not a Feminist: Feminism accomplished all of its political and academic goals, and I’m not convinced it has a necessary reason to still exist.
I’m granting you some leeway here because I know it’s hard to really understand different people’s experiences. I catch myself forgetting that a lot. I can know and empathize with someone different than me, but when it comes to actually feeling what they feel it gets way more difficult. Mark, you are not a woman, so I can understand why you might think that feminism doesn’t need to exist anymore.
You have probably never been leered at in the street.
You have probably never had your boyfriend coerce you into giving a blowjob.
You have probably never been told that you’re overreacting, or melodramatic.
You have probably never been afraid to be home alone.
You have probably never been groped by an unwelcome hand.
You have probably never been followed.
You have probably never panicked when you’re home alone in the shower and you hear the door open.
You have probably never thought “I should get a dog so that I won’t be taken by surprise when someone breaks in.”
You have probably never been told to change your clothes before you leave.
You have probably never been accosted by the bathroom in a bar.
You have probably never had to justify your concerns to the length I’ve sometimes been forced to.
You have probably never been told that you’re only sexually attractive to your boyfriend under very specific circumstances, which involve not your actual physical beauty but rather how you dressed and did your make-up that day.
You have probably never locked your bedroom door at night out of fear.
You’ve probably never been cut off by a man on your way out of a restaurant.
Those are only my personal experiences. They might not make a whole lot of sense to you and I’d be more than happy to elaborate on my feelings with each one. So much of the battle feminism still has to fight is internal, cerebral. I shouldn’t have to be afraid to live alone on the outskirts of a city, but when I’m home by myself, my heart jumps into my throat with every noise I hear. I have been shown, again and again, just how little recourse I would have if I were raped, and that scares me. When a man leans out his car window to shout obscene sexual advances at me, I don’t want to spend the rest of my evening and the following week on the lookout for his car. I don’t want him to think it’s okay to say those things to me.
You don’t seem to think that this is reason enough to continue pushing for gender equality. You say we should “call [you] when [we] have more serious problems.” I get that it’s easy for you to minimize. You don’t experience it, you don’t perpetrate it. That’s great. Thanks for being a stand-up guy. But you are an exception to a profoundly fucked-up rule. And honestly, you may not be as pro-lady as you think you are. My ex-boyfriend talked a big game about how he thought women were equal, but enlightened sexism was so internalized in him that he didn’t even notice the ways in which he was hurting me. When I told him that it was misogynist of him to expect me to out-of-the-blue move to Philly when he did (but not move in with him, just move to the city with money I didn’t have so that I could “be near him” until he was ready for us to live together), he was confused.
The problem, Mark, is that as you admit, you’re a man of action, not of ideology; but feminism has moved on to the ideological stage. We’ve got laws in place against sexism, discrimination, etc., it’s true (nevermind that many of those laws are under attack now). We’ve merely addressed the symptoms. We’ve yet to conquer the cancer.
That’s why feminism has expanded to all gender roles, because in our decades of trying to solve the problem we’ve realized that it isn’t just about women. Men need to have choices too.
Feminism still exists because it’s personal for us.
You say you’re not a feminist, but based on what you say you agree with, you totally are. You’re just afraid to use the name.
Here are some recommended readings for you: Who Needs Feminism?, The Rise of Enlightened Sexism, Rumors of Our Progress Have Been Greatly Exaggerated.