A little while ago N. Finsternis told that she would like to read more about what I have to say about feminism. This post is inspired by her and answers the question what I think about feminism, especially as a term and why it is still relevant. On Sunday it is Gothic Art in Spotlight time!
Many people I've talked with ask why I or somebody else insists on using the terms feminism and feminist instead of talking about wanting equality between sexes. There are a couple of reasons.
First of all a word in itself has no meaning. People make that meaning in different contexts. Feminism is a term created in a place and time where a woman had no right to vote, she could not work or if she was allowed to do that, she would have to give the money she earned to her husband or male relative. This was less than 200 years ago. I think it should not be forgotten and a term feminism reminds how new a thing equality among sexes is and that in many cultures the gender equality is not in a good state. Even in Finland, which is one of the most gender equal countries in the world, a woman could not go to a restaurant by herself in the 1960’s! Some restaurants would not even allow them to come and have lunch and this was just 60 years ago! It was not against the law to rape your wife in Finland till 1994. There had to be signs of physical violence so that the raping spouse could be prosecuted of something.
It worries me that the word feminism always has and still gets negative connotations attached to it. During this term's short existence it has been marginalized and filled with negative connotations instead of pointing out why this word was used in the first place and calmly reflect why it is still used. If you google “anti-suffrage posters”, you are going to see some disturbing propaganda made by some men to keep women from equal rights. Nowadays some people I know have told me, that they think feminism is trying to rise women to a better position than men. Well, that has never been on any agenda of any big or significant group of feminists. Of course there are extremists in every field of human existence, but those are usually a very small minority. Let’s compare this to other things: most Christians are quite normal but then there are small cults and branches of religion that have this need to convert everyone else to their own religion and babble that the others are going to eternal damnation unless they succumb. Terrorist attacks in a name of a god by a group of extremist individuals damages the whole population that peacefully practices their religion. But nobody is insisting that Muslims or Christians should start to call themselves with some other name because their current name is contaminated! Why are they then insisting that on feminists? I am repeating but I want to emphasize this: people make the meanings of a word.
Feminism is about equality and that means no one is better than the other one just because they might have been born with certain genitalia. Studies show that better equality between sexes improves the economy of a country, because then 50% of the population is not forced to stay home and be baby machines and instead they can work. The same thing when both women and men have the access to education. Feminism was a boosting power for gender studies and those have revealed injustice and violence men encounter but are by this day forced to not talk about it. The amount of men who are victims of sexual violence has been a taboo, because “oh, but a man is strong, he can’t be violated like that”. An individual never benefits, if the social structures and gender roles are strict. Nobody fits into narrow categories 100%.
I was watching The Munsters again because I visited the starring actor’s grave last week with Goth Gardener and in the fort episode of the first season Herman Munster eavesdrops and misunderstands that he and his wife are going to have a baby. He gets excited and asks from Grandpa, the other eavesdropper, “What do you think, is it a boy or a girl?” Grandpa answers; “Probably.” I think it is sad that that is the first question every time. That the sex of an infant is the most important thing, before asking is it healthy for example. I love Grandpa’s answer, it is a really sensible one.
Have you noticed that even today things that are labeled as “masculine” are somehow more approved than things that are “feminine”? A simple example of this is that in a Western society a female can wear pants but if a male wears a mid-length or even a short skirt, most people feel the need to comment on that or they get disturbed by it. Also it seems that a boy who is interested of cars is more acceptable than a boy who likes to play with Bratz dolls. The other reason I want to use the terms feminism and feminist is because I want to question this bizarre idea that “feminine” and “female” things are things that are not suitable for men and are somehow of lesser value. As if only masculine things can be neutral and feminine is always the Other (see Freud for example). I believe that a word that is derived from a word female instead of the word man is just as ok to be used when talking about all humans and equality. The italics probably show you how twisted English is when it comes to deriving words…
In conclusion; my personal opinion is that for some reason people are unnecessarily fixated with what may or may not hang in the groins of other people and themselves. And I think it is a high time we get over it.
Thanks for reading!