Do feminists want to keep men down?

To put it simply: no. Feminists have no interest in devaluing males in favour of females. The end goal of the feminist movement is not to invert the hierarchy so that we can live in a female dominated society. My feminism is not a personal attack on each and every man I meet, but rather on the ever-present patriarchy that is present in many countries of the world.

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Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge that some people believe that the term “feminism” is outdated, and prefer using “humanism” or “egalitarian”. Even though this article is about feminism, I don’t want you to get too caught up in the term that I (or other feminists) choose to identify with; all you need to know is that we believe in gender equality for all (including non-cis individuals!).

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Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me an article that claimed that females have more rights than males. The article was introduced rather poorly, but what I got out of it was that it was an attempt to discredit feminists and the feminist movement. For today’s #WomanCrushWednesday, I thought I would go over the arguments made by the author, Janet Bloomfield, one by one to shed my personal feminist opinion on them.

Here is the article, if you’d like to read it: http://thoughtcatalog.com/janet-bloomfield/2014/08/5-legal-rights-women-have-that-men-dont/

First things first…

Overall, I don’t agree with the author’s stance. Even if the legal rights raised were perfectly legitimate, and females had more rights than males in these categories, this argument does nothing to prove that females have more rights point blank than males (which we do not). Furthermore, in the beginning, the article starts by talking about how feminists are interested in equal rights for everyone, and then kind of drops that point and brings up issues that many feminists believe to be problematic, and want to see amended. Another thing that I think is important to mention is that my feminism does not attempt to undermine inequality that males face. I don’t like the fact that Bloomfield’s argument reads “feminism shouldn’t exist because females aren’t the only ones with problems”. Feminism is not a term that is exclusive to women – as already mentioned, many feminists fight for equality in men’s rights issues – and it can also coexist with activism for men’s rights, humanism, activism for PoC, etc. Feminism can, and should be, intersectional and address issues facing the whole population. Feminists can also identify with a whole range of other terms, including (like myself) egalitarian (etc.)

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Breaking down the arguments

“1. Women have the right to genital integrity […]

the legal fact is that infant girls are protected against any genital cutting of any kind and infant boys are not. Many feminists will argue that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a magnitude of brutality beyond male genital mutilation”

I agree. This legal truth is unfair to people with a penis. Circumcision is not medically necessary and infants should not be subjected to it. However, circumcision is actually objected by a LOT of feminists and feminist groups (see: 1, 2). At the very least, most feminists agree that circumcision should at least be a topic of debate and discussion.

Something that I think is really important to point out is that FGM is focused on much more by feminists because the magnitude of brutality and the extent to which it affects individuals’ lives is much greater than the effect that circumcision has.

“Immediate consequences of FGM include severe pain and bleeding, shock, difficulty in passing urine, infections, injury to nearby genital tissue and sometimes death.” –End FGM

While, as Bloomfield points out, this does not change the fact that circumcision is something that may have to be addressed, it is a legitimate reason as to why FGM receives more focus. FGM is still an issue in MANY places around the world, so this “legal fact” is definitely not factual in a lot of places. It is still an issue that needs to be resolved.

Let’s also not forget that circumcision is a legal right because of religious and cultural beliefs, not because of feminists’ inaction.

“2. Women have the right to vote without agreeing to die

Men may not actualize their basic rights as a citizen without first signing a Selective Service card, in which they agree that at the discretion of the democratically elected government, they will take up arms and die to defend their liberty and way of life.”

Again, this is an issue that many feminists/ feminist groups acknowledge and want to abolish. Furthermore, females had to fight for YEARS to be awarded the right to vote and to be allowed to join the army. Not to mention the fact that, once in the military, the rates of violence against women (especially sexual) is extremely high. None of this makes the draft okay, but all of these issues are interconnected.

“3. Women have the right to choose parenthood

Women cannot be forced or coerced into parenthood, but they are legally allowed to force men into financing their reproductive choices.”

First of all, abortion is still illegal or inaccessible in a lot of places, including many of the States… so… this isn’t even a valid statement… Second of all, there are legal processes in place that can help fathers to work out financial support and caregiving rights. Also, if someone does not feel comfortable getting an abortion, she may feel obligated to have a child she did not want. As sex requires two consenting adults, it is only fair that not only one person should have to deal with the consequences of this decision simply due to biological necessity. Oh, and concerning abortion…7702757094_6160704d0d

“4. Women have the right to be assumed caregivers for children

When parental relationships irretrievably break down, current custody laws assume one primary caregiver (almost always a woman) and one tertiary caregiver (almost always a man). In order to win equal or shared custody, the tertiary caregiver must litigate to prove they are worthy of equal parenting, a proposition that is not only very difficult to “prove”, it is also very expensive.”

??? This is very situational and it isn’t actually that difficult to obtain shared custody if it is deserved. Also, as my friend Emily pointed out, males are presumed to be the primary caregivers in certain cultures (under Sharia law, for example).

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“5. Women have the right to call unwanted, coerced sex rape

Penetration of any orifice must occur for rape to have happened. [U]nder the category of “other sexual assault” [is] the awkwardly named “made to penetrate” category, which includes men who were coerced, tricked or bullied into penetrative sex with women they would otherwise not have had sex with. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey similarly considers the two types of assault separately, despite the fact that occurrences are virtually identical. 1.27M women report rape (p.18)  and 1.26M men report “made to penetrate” (p.19).”

This one actually makes my head hurt. Forgive me if I’m blunt in dismantling this argument, but:

  1. Feminism deeply cares about male survivors of sexual assault and rape. Any discrimination under the law against male victims is something that feminists seek to rectify.
  2. This point isn’t even debatable: WOMEN (including trans-women) ARE SEXUALLY ASSAULTED MORE THAN MEN. This does not undermine the impact of sexual violence against men, but is the actual factual truth and it should never be ignored.
  3. Even though there are laws in place to protect female survivors of sexual violence, victims are often disregarded, undermined, treated unfairly, discriminated against, not believed, stigmatized, etc. (Just recently in Ottawa there was the case of Mélodie Morin who had to fight with the police department to take her case seriously).
  4. Do I really have to mention that females are STILL regarded as second class citizens all over the world and that their sexual assaults are disregarded in many places???

This argument minimizes the ongoing severity of sexual violence against women by saying “but men can face this too”. It isn’t okay.

Concluding thoughts

I have no problems with articles being written in order to address inequalities that males face. That is not what this article is. As a feminist, I see this article as an ignorant attack on feminist ideologies. This article does not accurately represent feminist goals and, instead, serves to pit people against one another. There is no need to look at issues of gender as an “us vs. them” situation; all of these issues are interrelated and must be addressed together in order to truly eradicate them.

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Image credits: 1, 2, 3456

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