Response to "The Future is not Female"
By Marina Traylor
In Fall 2017, The Matthew published the article, “The Future Is Female: Here’s Why,” which articulated the feminist opinions of a former JCU student. This past November, an article was published in response, titled “The Future Is NOT Female,” which I believe presented a series of fallacious arguments that I would like to break down for the sake of setting the record straight on feminism, and its meanings and nuances.
Briefly, the article argued that feminism was sometimes misguided, and because I won’t be able to address all of the arguments in the article, I will limit myself to address these three statements:
a. Despite the pay gap, there is a higher percentage of homeless men than women.
b. Men are especially expected to oppress their feelings.
c. Men are often held to unfair standards compared to women, when it comes to parenthood or domestic violence.
The reason I took it to heart to reply to this article is because I recognized all of these arguments from conversations I had both online and in person, and because I find that they are so widespread, I would like to take this opportunity to think about what feminism means.
The word “feminism” is often brought up in public discourse; unfortunately, in many instances, references to feminism are based on uninformed opinions, and confused and inaccurate definitions. So let’s start from the beginning. What is feminism? I believe Bell Hooks answered this question in her book Feminism Is For Everybody:
“Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression … Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism.”
Feminism is not therefore a victimization of women and contempt for men; it is rather the struggle to shatter the painful relations and expectations that burden each and every one of us, independent of our gender. What is the purpose of feminism? In simple terms: to identify and fight to correct the injustices that are posed by the issue of inequality. When are you a feminist? When you believe in equality between genders. It is surprising to me that a movement with such simple premises could be misinterpreted in so many ways. The article was very confusing to me because it addressed issues that are commonly mistaken to be feminist concepts. Based on this premise, I try to show how the arguments displayed in the article are the result of a misguided and confused assumption of what feminism stands for, and a partial and maneuvered use of information.
Firstly, the article understands its predecessor as accusing all men of being perpetrators of oppression. No feminist scholar has ever made such a claim. But all men (especially cisgender, white, and heterosexual), do not have to go through many struggles that are definitely more likely to be experienced as a woman. But how do we know there is an acute issue of inequality, even in regions such as Europe? If you have not had a chance to notice in your day-to-day lives, here are some interesting statistics: according to Amnesty International, 23% percent of women have been victims of harassment and abuse online; 60% of working women do not have the right to maternity leave; and 23 out of 31 European countries do not recognize non-consensual sex as rape.
It is true that there is a higher percentage of homelessness amongst men, as the article claims; the point of feminism is not to say that men don’t have it hard as well. However, I do not see the logical connection in the claim that the high percentage of male homeless population is suggestive of discriminatory treatment against men. There are many studies that have been done regarding this issue, as there are many social factors behind homelessness (extreme poverty, drug abuse, lack of a permit to stay); one very relevant factor is that many homeless women are single mothers, and therefore have precedence in welfare and in shelters. Part of it is also linked to the patriarchy’s reassurance of women’s dependence on men; and the man being responsible of the household is more likely not to have a place to go to in case of failure. This statement brings us to the article’s analysis of how fatherhood is treated as opposed to motherhood. The article explains that “a woman who decides to abort is usually understood (“usually” does not mean “always,” I know there is still a long way to go). But why is it, that when a man decides to give up on his fatherhood, he is considered irresponsible and immature?
Also, the idea of “her body, her choice” gives little or no say of the father in the matter. This is also a very nuanced debate, but I really do not understand the logic of this opinion. Who says this? It’s really hard to pinpoint how society distributes responsibilities. Moreover, it doesn’t seem to me like men have had that much trouble renouncing fatherhood. Certainly, governments are not coercively forcing them to stick around. In the United States, there are 23% single mothers as opposed to 3-4% of single fathers, while in Italy, there are 893,000 single mothers as opposed to 141 single fathers (source needed here). It has always been easier for a man to walk away from an unwanted pregnancy than for a woman, for obvious reasons. The stigma and the shame women who choose to abort have to live through often scars them for life. They have to perform a surgery on their own body. In many countries they have no choice but to do it illegally, which means that they also risk getting seriously damaged by the procedure, and sometimes even die. This issue is heavily debated and does not have a single answer, but I believe that the reason “her body, her choice” prioritizes women over men is simply because a man does not have to take a parental leave from work that might cost him his job, nor does he have to carry a growing fetus in his own body and give birth, amidst pain, and often vaginal laceration. Because if he did, he would rightfully only undertake it if the pregnancy was wanted, at least as much as their partner might want it.
Finally, on that line, I would like to point out that society does have toxic expectations of men, including the belief that since childhood, men should hide their feelings and be detached and “cool.” The implications of masculinity were hardly part of the conversation before feminist scholar Raewin Connell wrote the book “Masculinities” (1993), which encompasses the meaning, history and implication of masculinity. So feminists do acknowledge how toxic masculinity has played a decisive role in denouncing it.
My priority in replying to this article was to address these complex and disputed topics, but I also would like to spark thoughts and further conversation. As I said, feminism is continuously accused of claiming absurdities and being unfair against men. It seems to me that the internet has made this conversation especially dispersive. Many times all it takes is just one post or comment for thousands of people to say “feminists say that the sky should be a more gender neutral color!” or “feminists believe all men are trash and should be extinct!” Please be aware that I am not arguing that the internet cannot be trusted to spread feminist thought, but I do recommend that before taking something seriously, make sure it is firsthand information, preferably from an academic or journalistic source, or that the user posting the material is informed and thoughtful.
Moreover, locating feminist beliefs becomes even more complex when we recognize that there are various currents and subgroups to feminism. For instance, I tend to identify with black feminism (the belief that racism, sexism, and homophobia are inextricably linked), and socialist feminism (the belief that capitalism creates and enforces the grounds for gender discrimination). So, claims that liberal feminists might find completely legitimate, I will find disagreeable. I believe the best way to understand feminism and its nuances would be to back the notions you find on the internet with academic readings.
Response to: The Future is Not Female by Sheryl Ragnetti and Joseph Fontana and The Future is Female -- Here’s Why by Federica Bocco