I wrote a post yesterday declaring myself a no-foolin’ sure-shootin’ make-mistakes-but-gonna-keep-on-trying-anyway feminist. It received a kind response, so thanks for that.
One of the responses to that comes mostly from men and that response is, roughly:
“I don’t believe in equality for just women, so I cannot call myself ‘feminist.'”
And sometimes this is followed up with them preferring the term humanist or equalist.
Or calling the idea ‘egalitarianism,’ instead.
Women and men and everybody: all equal. Good. Sure. Yes.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting us all to be equal. I get it. I agree with that. And I think this idea comes from a good place, for the most part — a noble place, one without rancor or venom.
But, just the same, I see a problem.
A few problems, actually.
Instead of looking at this like a scale that needs balancing, let’s pretend that it’s about money (and at least a part of this really is about money). I say this because balancing a scale can involve taking away from the heavier side to balance scales, and I think some men look at feminism as exactly that: “You’re going to take from me to give to them.”
So, instead, let’s assume it’s about money.
Let’s say that a man has a dollar. One hundred pennies.
Let’s say a woman has — this number floats a bit, but let’s just settle on 80 cents.
Again, we could say that to make things equal that we must take money out of the man’s pocket, but that’s silly. We want a gain, here. Instead, the goal is to ensure that conditions are met where more money enters the woman’s pocket.
(And again, here ‘money’ is a placeholder for all the vagaries of equality.)
It would be easy to say, as a man with a full dollar in your pocket, that everyone should have the same amount of money. But that’s ambiguous. Generic. It has no goal, no task, no specific channel of action. We need to be specific — we need to be able to point to that woman sitting right there and say, “Godfuckingdamnit, how do we put more money in her pocket?” It’s like being in a room with a locked door. Someone needs to pick the lock to escape, so it’s worthless to say, “Well, I think all doors should be open.” Yeah, that’s super-fucking great as a theory, but seriously, we need to deal with the door standing in our way first.
Now, add to the fact that, really, men are already more equal than equal.
The door is open to us. We have the key. Again, it’s really nice to say, I think all people should have this key, except there you are, still holding onto it. You’re not handing it off. You’re not sharing it.
Another metaphor: bullying in school.
It’s bullshit when one kid bullies another, and then the victim either fights back or “tattles” (one of the most corrupted terms we can lend to our children, how dare you speak out against a wrong-doer, you little shit), that victim shares in the punishment. It’s crap. One side had the power, and used it, and now everybody pays, which means ultimately the victim pays twice.
This, is like that, at least a little bit.
Men already have the power and the privilege.
We already have All The Things. Or, at least, Most Of The Things.
So, it sounds galling to be the ones who have the lion’s share and say, “I think all people should share in the spoils, not just women.” In other words, you’ve included yourself in that generic, unfocused “everybody” group. And this is where equalism / humanism / egalitarianism feels wifty, wonky, lazy, weak — it’s a pie’s eye view, a gesture with a limp noodle fingers, “Sure, sure, yes, we should all be equal, and we should all have ponies, and let them eat cake. The ponies and the people. Let the ponies and the people eat cake, in case I wasn’t clear.”
Feminism is there to address a very specific set of deficits. But it’s not exclusive. You can be feminist while being for the correction of other imbalances, too. You can be an EQUALITY FOR ALL person while still being someone who supports the particular cause of correcting these deficits.
If you want to right these specific wrongs — then you’re a feminist.
If you don’t want to correct them — then you’re not.
And if you’re not a feminist…
…then you’re really not much of an equalist, or a humanist, or an egalitarian. Meaning, it’s hard to say you’re for all SHAPES if you won’t be there for SQUARES in particular, you see what I mean? Being a feminist is part of it. As I see it, being a feminist isn’t taking anything away from anybody. It’s there to give, not remove — it’s all additive, not subtractive. And that, gents, is why I’m #HeForShe, and not just #WeForWe. I don’t need to confirm a world where you share with me, because the flow of power has already gone the other way. We need to learn to share.