According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the definition of feminism is, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” This concept is reasonable, fair, and simple enough. Please note that it states “equality of the sexes,” not making the sexes the same.
However, the concept of equality between the sexes does not play out so serenely in the real world. In fact, we have lost much civility and understanding between the sexes as we have continued to push forward as women. After all, the French say, “vive la difference.” Men and women are not the same and some feminists, at times, want to ignore that fact. Science has verified that we are physically, emotionally, and brain-functionally very different.
That being said, I have always considered myself a feminist. I am very passionate about women’s rights, even in the face of ugly and false rhetoric about who and what feminism looks like. The stereotype that we all want to be men is unsophisticated and false.
Historically, women have never been given the same opportunities as men. Women are still, in 2018, not paid a salary comparable to that paid to men for performing the same work. More troubling, due to our celebrity-obsessed culture, body shaming of women and the sexual objectification of women is at an all-time high. Backlash towards feminism is part of that culture, with some believing that if women want to play like the boys, drink like the boys, and have sexual relations like the boys, then they deserve what they get.
Hostility towards women is no longer just taking place on some street corner, which was bad enough, but it is now plastered all over the internet. Not to mention, it’s staring you in the face at every check-out counter in America, with tabloids posing questions such as, “Whose bad beach body is this?” and, “Whose post-baby body (a term that should be banned) is not up to snuff?” This type of anti-female barrage, mixed in with the belief that a Kardashian posing half-naked every other week is empowering women, seems daunting. Selling oneself is an old profession, however gussied up.
This is of course sublime compared to how some women and girls around the globe suffer. Their plight goes to the heart of what is troubling about women trying to progress in every culture and being met with backlash.
The cultural misconception has become that if females want to be paid equally, gain the same research for health issues as men (which is direly lacking for women in the deadliest diseases), have the same educational opportunities, socialize freely, and even acknowledge themselves as sexual beings without shame, it means that they are trying to be men. Quite frankly, some feminists do have that agenda and ignore the differences between men and women. On the flip side, some men think all feminists have that agenda, and they could not be more wrong.
This is where the message, even among feminists, goes awry and is not agreed upon. The real life expectation that all of us have is that we want to achieve strong independent lives, something women were denied for some time. That fact does not alleviate the reality that men and women are also very different. It seems that men of all ages are confused about the expectations and rules, and rightly so. Do I pay for the date? Do I hold the door? Do I help her with her coat? At some point, these men may get a tongue lashing from some misguided female who somehow gets irritated by this polite and kind behavior. Oh, and by the way boys: Ignore those women. We know that you know we are capable of opening a door or putting on a coat. But if you would like to be polite and kind, keep it up. Anyone who truly understands what being a feminist is would never care if a door is held for them or if a man invites you on a date and, shock of all horrors, pays for it.
There is certainly a backlash against the independent female, no matter her behavior. The reality is, the biggest, strongest female on this campus is probably a lot smaller than the biggest male on this campus. That makes females, however brilliant, more physically vulnerable than their male counterparts. That alone calls for some recognition of the differences between girls and boys.
Here is my message to any man, young or old: You should hold the door for me as I would for you. If you invite me out, you should pay, as I was always taught that the invitee pays (just good etiquette). This also works the other way around. The point is, being a chivalrous guy does not mean you are disrespecting me as a feminist. You can be chivalrous and still understand that we, as females, are intelligent and capable individuals who should be considered your equals.
As much of a feminist as I am, I still want to know that there are strong males about who will deck the guy who attempts to put something in my drink, or who will hold a door for me, or who would eviscerate another male who says something about my body. In short, I don’t want men to stop being men, but I am a feminist woman nonetheless, and that will never change. We are equal but different. So, as the French would say, vive la difference.