Without the ability to make good on its promises of social upheaval and redistribution of power, feminism is a mouth without teeth – all gums and no bite.
Another “Why I Need Feminism” video popped up today in my Facebook newsfeed. This one, like many of the others in the past, attempted to show men why they too need feminism! In fact, four of the nine reasons the young woman listed were addressing so-called “men issues” such as “men get raped too” and child custody. The video was obviously meant to appeal to men and, in the process, centered feminism around them and their experiences.
I, for one, am sick and tired of a feminism that caters to men. A feminism that tiptoes around discussions of oppressors and oppressees in favor of “we’re all in this together” he-for-she bullshit. A feminism more concerned with acceptance and consumability than challenging the status-quo.
“But we don’t want to alienate the men!” “We don’t want to come across as threatening!”
I got news for you: Feminism is threatening. And the reason it is threatening is the reason it is powerful. Without the ability to make good on its promises of social upheaval and redistribution of power, feminism is a mouth without teeth – all gums and no bite.
Of course, most men would like a feminism that doesn’t upset them. One that is digestible and pairs nicely with their everyday casual sexism and ego stroking. One that doesn’t challenge their media consumption, sexual habits, and interactions with other men. One that doesn’t require them to examine the role they play in perpetuating the oppression of women/femmes or the countless benefits and privileges they receive because of their gender.
I’ve grown tired of the exhaustive Facebook threads full of women extolling the “benefits” of feminism to men. Of watching women twist themselves in knots trying to appease men while not scaring them away: “Patriarchy hurts men too!” “Men get raped too!” “Gender norms affect men too!” they assure.
But feminism isn’t about men. It has never been about men. It is about women and the ways in which we are systemically oppressed in a world of patriarchal values and beliefs that devalue everything we are and that which has been assigned to us. And, just as importantly, the ways in which maleness and men are preferred and privileged over women and femaleness.
This is why feminism is threatening: not because of leg hair or lesbianism, but because it challenges the narratives and foundations upon which individual men’s egos and understandings of self worth have been built. It shakes the socialized belief of superiority that men desperately cling to – one that tells them that they, as a result of birth and biology (and often divinity), are the natural born leaders and movers and shakers. That women are special – to be loved and adored—but that we have a special place and unique “strengths” (i.e. weaknesses):
Men act, women are acted upon.
Men protect, women are protected.
Men chase, women are pursued.
Men fuck, women get fucked.
Men are dominant, women are submissive.
This lists goes on …
Whether or not individual men consciously subscribe to such beliefs about inherent gender differences and roles is besides the point because all men are socialized to internalize and benefit from them. Men are not, cannot be, oppressed in the way that women are. They are in fact both the benefactors and beneficiaries in a system that values masculinity and maleness while devaluing and degrading femininity and femaleness.
Feminism aims to uproot and overturn this system. That’s its goal and a threat.
Jessica Schreindl is a campaign director and freelance writer in Seattle, Washington. She is a contributing writer for Mic.com and has been published on Feministing.com. She graduated with her M.A. from Syracuse University where she studied film history and documentary filmmaking.