You cannot be a Leftist and not a feminist, no more than you can be Liberal and think racism is just.
Hating Israel's genocide of Palestinians does not make me an anti-semite. Hating the US's hegemony and Military Industrial Complex does not mean I hate all Americans. Advocating for the undocumented children needing refuge in this country does not mean I hate the white race and want to see it overcome by volume. (though the last one does have some merit - heh)
Standing against any systemically inherent injustice to any group of people doesn't make you a hater or anti-anything but injustice.
Being a feminist does not mean I hate men.
My late husband was a feminist, and the last person you could call self-loathing. Au contraire, he was as manly as they came, and quite full of himself.
Feminism is simple. It is not man-hating, hairy arm-pitted Amazons coming to make war on males, leaving them castrated or dead.
All it is, is the belief that the female of our species have a right to be treated as equals to men and not have to have decisions made "for us" by men.
This is both kind of a letter to my son, and a reaction to the anti-feminist movement. My son, who still loves purple and pink, and wishes they made comfy fuzzy socks for guys, and learns to fix cars from me. My son, who plays FPS games and target shoots at the range. My son, who has always rejected gender restrictions, up to and including accepting his cousin when he "came out" as gay at 10.
This is for my kid, and yours.
There is a huge and growing backlash to women who still see the inherent misogyny in the system and stand against it in the form of the vile "Men's Rights Activists" that have leadership that advocates Paul Elam's "Beat a Bitch Month" and worse, the page he removed that called for shooting all women. "I really wouldn’t mind shooting a bitch dead in the face. ... They are evil. ALL OF THEM!!! ... This is a gender war, and women, ALL WOMEN! are the enemies, there is no compromising."
This violent call to put women back in our place - remember it was not that long ago, we were considered possessions of men, with no right to own land, or vote, and could be legally beaten - is sick and stunning. It needs to be rejected on every level.
So, in this atmosphere, it is hard to raise a male child without society trying to tell him that supporting women's rights emasculates him. To any one raising a child they would like to see support the women in their lives, I have a few pointers.
It is not personal.
* When a feminist points out that men make more money, we are not trying to take money out of your pocket and bring you down.
We are asking the richest 1% to pay us more, and as someone with women in your life, to support us on this. It would make life better for your family and you!
* When a feminist speaks about rape culture, we are not accusing all men of being rapists. While 99% of rapists are male, they are a small fraction of the population, soo we don't mean YOU personally. 90% of rape victims are female. Male on male rape does occur to 1% of rape victims, primarily in prisons where it goes up to one in thirty three chance. Female on male rape is exceedingly rare. All rape is heinous. It doesn't mean you are a rapist honey, or even a suspect. It means we are scared, and want your help in being rape-free!
As females we have a 1 in 6 chance of being raped, or having an attempt made to rape us. Think about a gathering of a dozen women. 2 have likely lived through rape. We are scared by this fact, terrified if we have been one of that statistic.
Without even a huge effort, you can help us feel safe. Don't crowd us in parking lots, especially at night. Understand that no means no. Never pressure a girl for sex. Sex should be mutual and enthusiastic on both party's parts.
If you see something that looks like rape, do your best to stop it and assist the woman in danger. Do not excuse it as a college prank, or "boys will be boys" attitude.
Never, ever victim-blame. Women are NOT responsible for the actions of men. If it rains, and we get wet because we didn't dress for the weather, that may be idiocy on our part. But rain is out of human control. Rape is a choice someone makes to commit a crime. Dressing fashionable does not mean we have no choice, like the rain, and will get raped or deserve to be raped. It means a man has made a choice to commit a crime against us.
Rape is never funny. Don't joke about it, use it as an insult or threat, ever.
Its that simple. You are one of the good guys, and to be a good guys means helping those most at risk!
* There is an unfair bias in this country about sex and who has it.
Women who enjoy sex are "sluts" and men who enjoy sex are "studs." Often, the pressure on young men to "get laid" and be able to brag to their friends of their conquest is horrible. Women who give in to this pressure often are rejected by the very guys they are trying to please, for being too "easy."
Don't name call or judge girls for having sex. Don't applaud boys who claim to have had lots of sex. Stop the stereotypes of both males and females by sexual activity altogether.
People make their own choices, and no consensual sex is wrong. Choosing not to have sex is fine, too!
* Appearance, body shaming and fuckability
This is a tough one at High School age. Our culture is obsessed with appearances! Often, even the best people are over-looked because they don't meet some standard of "sex appeal" put on us by the media.
I'm not going to lie to you and say guys don't have it as bad as girls at your age. They do. The only difference is, you can go out and not expect to have a perfect stranger comment OUT LOUD about how you look. Even grown ups do it to girls your age. We get comments like "Nice tits!" "Fine ass!" "Jail bait!" and it makes us feel like we aren't even people, just parts to serve the sexual needs of strangers. That? And remember the 1 in 6 of us will be raped thing? Kiddo, comments like this scare us from strangers.
Appearance pressure becomes less on men as they get older. Then it is more performance rated... like how well you do your job, how smart you are, and how much money you make as a result. That isn't true for women. We often get "traded in" for a younger, hotter wife as we age. We don't get to be judged on our smarts, efficiency and income - because those things are less valued - not by YOU, but by the system. Remember when I said not to take it personally? We are coming to that.
These are but 3 examples of gender bias against women and why you shouldn't take it personally. Let me explain further, past the bullet points.
Its the System Itself
I don't know a single man who has ever said, "I think I deserve more rights than women, and haha - I hope you get less!" So, when we talk about sexism and feminism, we aren't attacking all men. We do, occasionally attack individuals. Individuals who say mean or hateful things, like Paul Elam does. But we certainly don't use our movement as a hateful thing to attack all men. In fact, most men stand with us!
Lets say John and I are both IT systems analysts for a high tech firm, hired on the same date, from the same college, with the same grades. We both hire on for $22,000 a year, the starting salary. Within a year, he is making $50,000 dollars, and I am making $38,500.Is that fair? Did John do that to me? No on both counts. It is not John's fault, but it is also not fair.
Companies want profit, period. They want to pay as little as possible for the best help they can get. Companies know that women make on the average 77 cents on the dollar a man makes, so they can get away with it. They know, John can leave their company and get more money, but no other company is paying women that much, so likely I will put up with it.
Now, in a fair world, all workers would be compensated fairly. If either John or I make too much noise about it, we would be fired, and likely a black mark on our record that would give future employers pause.
What are our options, if we are friends and care about one another? It is to push for legislation to make pay equitable and fair with NO gender bias. Good laws would protect us from all that unfairness.
Despite increasing education and greater professional success, women in the aggregate still make less than men: on average, 77 cents on the dollar, and even less if you are black or Latina. This persistent pay gap has real implications for women and their families, especially when 40% of our nation's households with children rely on women as a primary or sole source of income.Its not about men-bad or women-good! Its about making it fair for everyone.
That 23-cent disparity means a yearly wage gap for women of more than $11,000. And what does that translate into? On average, working women in the United States can afford 91 fewer weeks of food for their families, 13 fewer months of rent, and more than 3,000 fewer gallons of gas per year as compared to men.
Lets revisit the sex issue I addressed in terms of you as a young person, and talk about what happens when unwanted pregnancies occur.
All the laws feminist fought for before me that protected a woman's right over their own health are being eroded. It started as a result of fundamentalist Christians bullying our Secular Nation to obey the rules of their faith. Law makers, afraid of being targeted as not "Christian" enough to be elected, started to fold. But what really made the betrayal complete is that female reproductive care is expensive, and insurance companies would rather we pay the full amount, then have it covered by them.
For years, women were forced to be human incubators whether or not we were ready, capable, or financially secure enough to raise a child... even if we were raped, we had to carry the rapist's baby. We had to resort to "back alley" abortions not done in clean medical facilities with doctors and nurses... and so many women died, my son. So. Many. Women. Died.
The religious objection is easily solved. If you think its a "sin" to end a pregnancy, do not end yours.
The system is making laws about our bodies, telling us what we can and cannot do with them in a way it does not to men. Obamacare covers Viagra in most cases, but will not cover the contraceptive devise called and IUD... let alone the morning after pill.
The most obvious fact is, people who don't want kids - men or women - make shitty parents. Our reproductive choices are our business and the government should make no laws restricting our choices in the matter. Both men and women should agree with this, and push against any laws telling us what we may or may not do. Feminists, male and female agree with this principle. The state, for religious reasons, or pure idiocy like Todd Akin, who thinks that women have a magic barrier to not get pregnant from rape, should not get to dictate our choice whether or not to carry a child for 9 months and be forced to give birth, whether or not we want to. We are not brood mares owned by the system.
I realize, my son, you know well that the system is primarily run by rich white men. You do NOT carry inherent guilt for their actions. The key word, I would say is rich.
I am not, nor is anyone else holding you to a standard of "Guilty until proven innocent." Perish that thought from your brain!
But, like white privilege, we have a duty to be aware of it and reject it when we can. You have seen me do it, when the woman at the deli tried to ignore a black customer who she saw waiting, and tried to wait on me first and ignore her. "I'm sorry," I said loudly, "She was here first! Do I need to get a manager here and file a complaint that you always ignore your black customers?" I didn't give anyone what was mine, I only did what was fair.
Its the same thing with male privilege. As a male, you generally have the "system" upper hand. So speak out when men treat women badly, because we women cannot do it alone. It takes UNITY to fight INJUSTICE!
Its the simple things really. Vote well. Treat people with respect. Speak up against the bad people. Protect the weak if someone is bullying them.
In conversations at school, don't let your buddies talk over the one girl in your group project. Mansplaining and girls being treated like idiots with nothing to offer is one of the ways that people continue making it "okay" for women to be treated like less than equals.
Men are awesome. Women are awesome.
The system is fucked.
It is not hate that drives us, but years of oppression that we once almost climbed out of being torn asunder. It is love of ourselves, our Mothers, our sisters, our daughters that drives feminism. And all the best men stand with us.
My son is a good man, like his Father was. He gets it.
Feminism is about LOVE.