Are We Even Now?
It makes me laugh when the uninformed insist that feminism is now irrelevant (and therefore feminists are …deceptive and malicious?) because in the U.S. (as though that’s the only nation that matters), men and women are now “equal.” Now, if we define “equal” as both having access to jobs, credits, and the right to vote, then yes, I suppose that’s true. But whenever people toss out this reason for their hatred of feminism, I know immediately that that hatred stems from misunderstanding.
I don’t think anyone meant to move the goalposts, but as society grew yet more complex, the true nature of inequality became more apparent. Superficial markers such as access to a line of credit just didn’t cut it. Now, we realize that inequality among the sexes is deeply connected to other forms of inequality, such as class, disability, and race. This concept is called intersectionality, but it’s been woefully absent from many criticisms of (and frankly, many applications of) feminism.
“Equal” was an original goal of feminism, but now, we’re not sure what “equal” looks like. It doesn’t mean equivalent experience or identical pay for everyone; that will never happen. Usually, feminists are talking about equal opportunity and lack of discrimination; no one is saying that anyone should be paid more for a job based on their gender—we’re saying no one should be paid less based on their gender. No one is advocating for men and women to be able to hit each other equally—we’re saying that domestic violence is never okay. (In fact, situational couple violence is equally likely to affect men and women—in that case, we want it to be equally unlikely!) We realize that domestic violence is near impossible to eradicate, but we can stop making excuses for it or laughing at men who experience it.
Feminists aren’t perfect, and the “movement” is hardly monolithic. In fact, the word “feminism” can barely even describe one type of activism. Among some people, it’s not even a form of activism; it’s an outlook. (That is, not all feminists take to the streets, and that’s okay.) Increasingly, there is a rift between mainstream, or white, feminism, and emerging forms of feminism. (A topic for another essay).