Thank You, Next: Why I’m not a Feminist

Thank You, Next: Why I'm not a Feminist

Jaeeun Park, Staff Writer

   This summer I visited a museum in bustling NYC and, after a few minutes of mindless wandering, ended up in their gift shop. There I saw some tastelessly designed merchandise that practically screamed about how amazing women were, and that we should fight for equal rights as men. After cringing at all of the paraphernalia, I was prompted to write this story.

   I know that the initial responses I’m going to get for this story are probably less than ideal. Some will throw stones, saying that people with mindsets like mine are what society has been struggling to change for the last few centuries. I understand. For sure, women have been held at a shockingly lower level of society for most of human history. That was not fair, and needed to change, promising everyone a life with equal rights.

  In the records of every civilization, there has been a long-held belief by many that men were superior to women. For every action, there was also an opposite and equal reaction as women and feminists of the eras asserted their thoughts. Plato argued that women had equal capacities as men; Abigail Adams spoke of possible revolutions if women were not given their due respect; Frederick Douglass would not accept black rights without women’s rights. 

   These voices were heard, and changes were made.

   In our country, women were granted the right to vote with the 19th amendment in 1920. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963. But still females were expected to be homemakers: care for the children, keep the house tidy. Lately, the #MeToo movement recently sent many big-name sexual offenders to face the law.

   For more recent generations that have grown up in the golden ages of female empowerment, and never experienced discrimination for their gender, what do they know about the ages-old struggle faced by the women before them?

  Bold, colorful slogans are printed on t-shirts and socks in museum gift shops. Children’s books hold images of cartoon girls screaming, “We can do it too!” and litter the shelves of libraries: These are how my peers and I see the effects of feminism around me. 

   The message of millions is lost within layers of slogans and advertising. One cannot see the reason why there are feminists still fighting all over the world from just looking at a tote bag.

   I appreciate knowing the outdated societal norms of the patriarchy are slowly dying, but sometimes I wonder if it’s a bit much.

   In a time where most have an outlet for their thoughts and have a chance to have their voices heard, I think that feminists don’t need to work for female equality anymore by plastering their ideas over fabric and souvenirs.

   The self-labeled feminists engage in a variety of activities, all supporting female rights. Some march for gender equality in society and the workforce, others march against oppression by males. There are even people who have to fight for basic human rights. 

   In some religious groups and less developed countries, women still struggle against genital mutilation, baseless religious taboos and assault. A violation of girls and women, the mutilation does not have any benefits and is only inhumane, cruel torture inflicted upon helpless children.

   But these terrible acts of violence I consider not to be an issue pertaining to gender only. The cultural factors that support those acts are what need to change. Outdated customs affect people of all races or gender in the world. 

   On the other side of the spectrum, some females in bustling cities ask for equal pay and justice against big-name sexual offenders and refrain from pertaining to the physical standards women are held to. Some walk about bare-faced, live life without shaving body hair, and urge others to do the same, saying that beauty is another facet men have had too big of an opinion in for too long.

   These ladies do not want to look more attractive for men, be objectified, or catcalled by strangers in the streets. They also do this form of passive boycotting to find confidence in their natural selves, without relying on society-imposed standards to feel good about themselves.

   I can’t join these protesters, since I myself feel pretty comfortable in my own skin, and consider makeup to be a fun pastime. Decisions on how one looks are purely up to them. I find these activities therapeutic, a form of self-care, as well as a source of confidence, which could of course apply to the women who forgo them.

   Dressed up or not, I believe that everyone has a choice as to what they look like. With or without makeup, it doesn’t really matter the amount as the mentality behind it. People just need to find the balance that makes them feel the best about themselves.

   I also don’t agree with the term “feminist.” From the start, it emphasizes the word female, and reads with a somewhat aggressive connotation over the diverse range of people who classify as male. Gender roles are imposed, leaving less room for people who identify as other. It implies that there’s no room for others in their fight. 

   Another “if” I worry about: if one gender is fighting so hard for their rights which were, in fact, denied, what’s to say the other won’t do the same later? What happens when the balance between genders is skewed once again? When will we stop fighting about the topic of gender at all? Will there be a revolution for males to one day stop being oppressed? 

   I believe that there will be no end to the vicious cycle if humans can’t agree that we are all the same species, capable of so much, yet incapable of equally as much. Everybody needs to take a step back and fight for basic human rights for all, not compartmentalize them by gender.

   I don’t think I live in a society where females are mistreated. I feel that I shouldn’t be victimized when indeed there are also males who go through struggles that are not voiced. We shed light on anorexia and other eating disorders as things many young girls go through, but what about the boys? 

   Self-consciousness is not limited to gender, but as females were expected to be damsels in distress throughout history, there was an imposed belief of masculinity: that boys don’t cry, or starve themselves, or hate how they look.  As people have began embracing the falsehood of these ideas more readily, they embraced feminism and the shaky set of exclusive beliefs it stands for. 

   Males can also face sexual abuse, bullying and have depression. 15% of domestic violence victims are male. In 1998, it was reported that 2.78 million men were victims of attempted or completed rape. Cases of abuse with male victims are drastically underreported, leading to a skew in statistics. Transgender individuals are at a higher risk for sexual violence than both males and females. It doesn’t seem right to assert safety and “equality” for only females.

   The movement is now overimposing itself in places it seemingly doesn’t belong. Socks and tote bags probably weren’t the most effective ways to spread their beliefs. I think nowadays people have a sort of hyper-awareness about women’s rights that, jokingly or not, develop resentment in the masses and result in people like me to shy away from joining their cause.

Being too sensitive about miniscule issues like not being put first is not relevant to the cause feminists support and should be labeled accordingly.

   Throughout history, women have been treated unfairly, and it was much-needed for the brave people during those times to fight for basic human rights. However, I feel that in today’s times, the term “feminist” is unnecessary. 

   Females are not the only group of people who have problems in life, and those so-called problems usually are not a result of what gender one identifies as. Outdated customs, bigoted views, stereotypes and narrow minds are the toxic factors to blame.

   Times have changed from when Susan B. Anthony led suffragist movements in the 1800s. I don’t see around me blatant imbalance in rights for girls. Living in today’s society means that I have not experienced why women before me have suffered, and have fixed for future generations like mine. Thanks to them, unfair gender disparities have been almost completely reduced, and people no longer have to fight for equality between groups of the same beings.

   I will support the effort to stop workplace injustice and sexual harassment in society, but not as a feminist. I will fight for all people, from young to old, no matter what race or gender.