Monday, 10 July 2017

I Am Not a Feminist

For as long as I could remember, to me, something has always seemed rather off about the feminist movement. For a movement that claims to fight for gender equality, it mainly speaks of women's rights and female empowerment. Don't get me wrong! As a woman, obviously these causes are quite close to my heart. R.A. Kartini, Indonesia's most famous historical feminist, made it possible for me to work and go to school today, so I'll always be grateful to the movement. However, aside from the fact that the movement seems to be making headway in all the less urgent aspects, it somehow manages to eclipse and trample on other causes.

A little confession: Never have I ever in my life felt oppressed/held back because I'm a woman. In fact, I feel like that factor has actually helped me a lot. Not that I've never been disadvantaged just by being a woman—cat calls, physical judgment, etc.—but what I gain from it is so much more. It has allowed me to pursue whatever I want to with less pressure to succeed and become a breadwinner. It has offered me more room to explore my personal style in various directions. It makes it socially acceptable for me to lay bare all my feelings—i.e. crying in public. Sometimes my gender isn't even relevant, because I was treated as one of the boys for most of my school life. So, it's almost a given, that I've never felt like feminism was a cause that fights for my rights.

In my relationship with Firu, feminism is often a topic of debate. Usually, I bring up a topic and mentions injustices towards women in a situation. Firu often brings up similar injustices towards men that no one seems to ever talk about. And it always strikes me: men have their own woes too. They are expected to be more well educated, more successful, more capable of handiwork and physically stronger. They are prevented from showing their vulnerability and fending for themselves when attacked by women. Sometimes the expectations are disadvantageous to women too, such as the stereotype that men are more sexually active or have higher sexual drive than women—which often justifies rape. But, if injustices against women are often fought and rallied on by feminists—made up of both men and women—who fights for the injustices against men?

A few weeks ago Firu told me about The Red Pill, a documentary about the Men's Rights Movement. My mind instantly flew to the first time I heard about Men's Rights Activists from Devinne of Mox and Socks. At the time, due to the lack of desire to research, I quickly agreed to her opinions, believing her words to be true, but now, after a bit of research—and I'm not blaming/shaming Devinne here, really—Return of Kings and Roosh Valizadeh mentioned in her letter don't even identify themselves as MRAs. So, you might've guessed that I hesitated about the film—and was, ultimately, worried about Firu's mindset—but he doesn't watch documentary often, so I thought I'd give it a try.

It was one of my rare good choices!

Disclaimer: I do actually like these books, they're just ones which fit the theme

I learnt a lot about real problems men actually face—possibly as an effect of feminism, possibly of patriarchy—that are horrible and frightening, yet virtually no one has ever really discussed it, such as disposability, paternity rights and even domestic violence against men. Honestly, there were moments in the film where I almost broke down in tears—do you know what actually happened with Boko Haram in Nigeria?—and it got me thinking, especially in terms of paternity. For instance, why is it okay for women to decide the fate of a child—be it born or unborn—without the consent of the father? In the case of rape, that is understandable, but in a relationship? Tricking their partner into having a baby or aborting an unborn love child? Parenting is biologically a two-person ordeal. How come going into it or pulling the plug on it requires only the consent of one? Why is it always assumed, anyway, that men want no children and, therefore, their opinions on child-making is irrelevant? The worst part is the one who suffers most from this will be the child. That's a life, an actual human life.

What I find unfortunate is the major backlash and negative responses the film has received from radical feminists—and other prejudiced people. The Red Pill is now banned on cinemas across Australia—though you can still watch it at screenings and obtain it online—and the Australian media are completely biased against it and Cassie Jaye, the filmmaker, without having watched the film. A feminist panelist was pretty much threatened not to attend the screening of TRP in Norwich, England. And, while I'm sure not all feminists are like that, the impression the movement made on me is worsening from this situation—and it wasn't all that good to begin with. MRAs—both in the film and in the Norwich discussion panel—don't dismiss the feminist movement. They don't blame the problems women have on women. All they ask is for feminists and women to understand that men aren't necessarily the cause—they are on the same boat—and that they be given the opportunity to advocate for their rights as well.

I don't think I've ever identified myself as a feminist, but if I did, I've denounced that title. I don't believe our problems are necessarily gender-based. Women often oppress women too, it only requires a bit more power that often comes with money. For instance, as I've mentioned before, most fast fashion garment workers are women and they are often forced to work long hours for barely any wages. It may seem that they are oppressed by men—their supervisors—but, in the big picture, their suffering is due to an ignorant mass of mostly young women in the higher economical class—the consumer. Also, I think the biggest problem with feminism is that it is a movement based on the principle that all women want the same thing; that all women want to be CEOs or get into politics or spit on the idea of homemaking and being a stay-at-home mom. And, when women make a choice of being a mother, it is not rare that they get judged by feminists. There is a line from Mona Lisa Smile that I will always remember when thinking of feminism. It's from the part where Joan tells her feminist teacher Katherine that she doesn't want to be a lawyer after all, but instead, a housewife and mother. She says, "You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want."

Look, all I want to say is that if feminists are given the chance to express their opinions on women's rights and female empowerment, they should not get in the way of MRAs expressing theirs on men's rights—because these are actually two sides of the same coin. And why is it that we are so concerned and ready to rally behind women's rights, when we almost always brush aside men's rights like they don't deserve compassion? When we hear of women who are pressured to bear children, protests would echo through the halls, but when we hear of men who are pressured to become a breadwinner, we don't even bat an eyelash. When women confess to being a victim of domestic violence, people would listen and empathise, but when men do the same, why are they still treated like the culprit?

Why don't we think about this for a moment?

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