By Vanessa Copeland
Society is in a time that when a social movement arises there inevitably is a group of people who are compelled to defend the “other side”. For every #metoo there is a #notallmen. For every #blacklivesmatter there is a #bluelivesmatter. As if advocating for one automatically means you are denouncing the other. Now for every Feminist post you can find posts like the one below being shared.
Post like this are ignoring two important facts:
1. Feminism is not the opposite of Femininity
2. Equal does not mean same.
Feminism is not the opposite of Femininity. It is the antithesis of Patriarchy and Toxic Masculinity. The Patriarchy is a set of ideals in which men and masculinity are seen as superior to women, nonbinary persons and femininity. Although patriarchy is set up to benefit men, it is actually very harmful to men by fabricating norms of “real male” behavior and can directly result in Toxic Masculinity. Toxic Masculinity describes violent behavior that results when a man’s idea of what “being a man” actually means takes a terrible turn. Just in the U.S. alone, a woman is assaulted or beaten by a man every nine seconds. Every single day, 600 women are raped. Every single day, three women are murdered by their current or former partner. From 2001-2012, 6,488 American Troops lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. In that same amount of time, 11,766 American women were killed by their partners. Feminism seeks to destroy the Patriarchy and therefore Toxic Masculinity. Posts like the one shown above actually help perpetuate patriarchal values by upholding the archaic ideas if what it means to be a “real” man or a “real” woman. What feminism is truly trying to do is create a world where neither gender nor your anatomy dictate how you should or should not behave.
The other important distinction that is completely missed by posts like the one above is that Equal and Same are not equivalent terms. I was a math minor in college, so I feel like it’s easiest to explain what I mean mathematically. Most people would agree that 2+2 = 3+1. This equation is not saying that these numbers are the same. It is saying that their values are equal. Our nation was founded on a notion of equality and was one of the central themes in the Declaration of Independence. There are few Americans who have never heard the phrase “all men are created equal.” Thomas Jefferson was using the mathematical equal which equivocates to things being equal in value. He did not mean that all men are the same. He meant that all men were equal in the eyes of the law, equal in their values as human beings and had an equal right to the pursuit of happiness. These are the same ideals that Feminism seeks to uphold. Feminist are not trying to claim that men and women are the same; we are saying our values are equal. Many people use the ideal that equal is synonymous with same as an excuse to denounce feminism. Posts, like the one above, perpetuate the idea that there can never be equality because women are physically weaker than men. Let’s look at this argument in another way. If you had two sons and one was smaller and physically weaker than the other, would you keep him from having access to meals, to a safe place to sleep, to fulfilling necessities, or even to your love? I’m betting most of you think that is a ridiculous scenario. However, that is exactly the type of mentality countless numbers of women face every single day in the workplace, in society and even in their private lives.
I hope that we continue to evolve and grow as a society. I hope that we continue to fight for equality for men, women, nonbinary persons, people of color, people with disabilities, and more. I hope that we can stop valuating each other based on fabricated norms. I hope that we can discover our own unconscious biases and work to diminish them. I hope to stop seeing posts like the one above in my social media feeds. I hope that my simple, yet heartfelt, words reach even just one person and makes them stop and think. Like so many other feminists, I hope.