In 2017, Feminism was the most Google-searched word on planet Earth. This may be because a lot of people are trying to understand the concept. It can also be because the word is gaining greater significance to many. One thing is sure though, women, all over the world are identifying with the word and riding on its wings to demand equality. They are demanding a seat on the table and that their voices be heard. They’re simply refusing to stand down. However, as admirable as this movement might sound, there are genuine concerns that have led some men and women to distance themselves from the movement. A lot of the concerns has to do with the fact that Feminism has grown and been interpreted so differently that identifying with various strains seems unacceptable.
The strains of feminism include Feminism-lite and Feminazi. The term Feminist Lite is used to describe the feminist ideology that still supports patriarchy at some level. In explaining the concept, author Chimamanda Adichie, a renowned feminist, said in her book, “Dear Ijewele”, Feminism Lite is “conditional female equality.” She goes on to advice, “Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women, or you do not.”
On the other hand, the term Feminazis was coined in the early 90s by Tom Hazlett, a good friend of Rush Limbaugh. For those who do not know, Limbaugh is an American Conservative Talk Show Host and his friend Hazlett is described as a highly regarded professor of economics at the University of California at Davis. The coinage was used to describe “any female who is intolerant of any point of view that challenges militant feminism.” In his book, “The Way Things Ought To Be” Limbaugh writes, “A feminazi is a woman to whom the most important thing in life is seeing to it that as many abortions as possible are performed…With men being precluded from the ultimate decision-making process regarding the future of life in the womb, they are reduced to their proper, inferior role. Nothing matters but me say the feminazi. My concerns prevail over all else. The foetus doesn’t matter, it’s an unviable tissue mass.”
Between the two derogatory terms, feminist lite and feminazi, perhaps ‘true feminists’ are identifiable. They are those who say that if you believe in the equality of the sexes and vow to uphold this equality in word and in deed and do not subscribe to gender roles then you are a baptized feminist.
However, this reasoning is as problematic as saying “if you believe in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior then you will make heaven”. It is simplistic. It trivializes the entire feminist movement to a few often meaningless words. There are deeper truths to be learned and understood. For example, how does feminism affect the life of a ‘believer’? What were the ideologies of the initiators? Have those ideologies changed? Even more important, what does true feminism entail? Is there an agenda that adherents need to live by? Can members create their own personal agendas? And what happens when those agendas run contrary to other agendas
When everyone is allowed to have their own definitions of what the movement should be there is confusion. When a movement lacks a manifesto, a guideline, a Bible, then there are no standards. A ship requires a captain, there has to be a hierarchy of command. When this structure is not maintained there will be a shipwreck. It is therefore not surprising, that even in its best form, feminist ideologies present issues that could be mind-boggling. Feminism tends to question biology, attack the family unit and sometimes even foster the very patriarchal leanings that it claims to be fighting against.
Feminism and Biology
What is the origin of gender roles? Whether you believe in the Genesis account of the beginning or some other evolutionary version of how life came to be, one thing we cannot argue is the fact that when we are talking about reproduction, the human species is made up of two genders – the male who provides the sperm and the female who provides the egg and is fitted with the womb to bear the baby and breasts from which the new-born will suckle and be nourished. These roles have already been cast. The weaknesses associated with pregnancy and childbirth creates a vulnerable period in a female’s life such that in an ideal situation the man is expected to step up and act as protector and provider.
It has also been scientifically proven that men, in general, are stronger than women in general. This is why we have sports competitions organised between people of the same sex. Men compete against men and women against women. This is also why men are told not to hit women. A fight between a man and a woman of equal weight and height would not be fair. This is because, at normal size, body fat content is 25% for women but 15% for men. If a man and a woman of equal weight were put side by side, the man would have more muscle mass than the woman and thus would pack a heavier punch.
There is also the advantage that testosterone gives men. Although a lot of research is still being carried out to clearly identify what advantages testosterone bequeaths on men, it has been shown that it makes men more aggressive and competitive. You can read about the new rules for track and field events where, in a bid to be fair, the athletics governing body is proposing that women with elevated testosterone levels be either medicated to reduce the levels, compete against men or give up their international careers.
How do you achieve equality where ‘nature’ has already placed you at a disadvantage, when you are handed a knife for a gunfight? How for instance, do you ensure that women are less vulnerable during pregnancy? It would be assumed that absolute equality would require that men get pregnant too, that men and women have equal distributions of oestrogen and testosterone, that men and women compete in the same sports and that if the best male and best female were pitted against each other, there would be nothing stopping the woman from coming off better in every respect.
How do you fight nature?
Let us also not forget that all men are not born equal, nor do they live equal or die equal. Neither are all women equal in strength and character. Not even before God are all men equal. Is a righteous and a wicked man or woman before God? Will they get equal treatment from him?
Here is the reason why the gender pay gap conversation may remain only a conversation. If two men with equal qualifications for a job were asked to negotiate their pay, would the two men negotiate the same amount? What if they were two women? We all consider ourselves unique in some way. When you attend a job interview your goal is to eliminate the competition by showing you are bringing something others do not have. Do you then think it is fair for legislation to be created forcing you to be paid exactly what the other person is?
Unless and until feminism finds a way of recreating humans and endowing every single human on earth with the same types and level of hormones then there cannot be equality either between the reproductive sexes or within the sexes. Individuals will use their natural instincts endowed by biology and learning derived from the environment to get ahead of others. The argument by some strains of feminism that biology is not a huge factor in achieving equality falls in the face of these realities.
Feminism and the Attack on the Family Unit
Core feminist ideology is anti-family. The definition of family in this write-up will be limited to a unit which consists a male father, a female mother and maybe children, a heterosexual relationship if you please. True, many feminist women will say this is untrue. But, an examination of what feminist values are will reveal that when all is considered, a married feminist will either have to subscribe to the derogatory ‘feminist lite’ version of the movement. The alternative would be to or choose a more ‘loose’ relationship which involves remaining single.
Jill Filipovic, author of “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness” has a great take on this. Yiu can read her book to learn how she struggled with the idea of marriage because of her feminist values. After talking about how a feminist may have to give up some of her ideals when she decides to marry, she proposes, “a feminism and a politics that reorient themselves away from simple equality and toward happiness and pleasure.” In other words, equality may not be the route to happiness. So each person should be allowed to find their own happiness however they deem fit.
In considering how feminism is incompatible with family life, one question will suffice: Who makes the final decision in the family?
Consider these scenarios:
A man does not want to have children. He decides to get a vasectomy. Is he obligated to tell his wife? You probably would answer. ‘yes’. He has a moral obligation to tell her. But what if she says ‘no’ to his vasectomy. She wants children by him. Who should have the final say? It is his body, isn’t it?
A wife gets pregnant, she does not want the baby so, she is thinking of having an abortion. She has the financial capacity to carry it out. Should she tell her husband? You probably will answer ‘yes’. She and her husband are one flesh. They made the baby together. It would be maybe morally wrong for her to keep him in the dark. But what if she tells him and he says ‘no’ to the abortion. Who should have the final say? It is her body, isn’t it?
Wouldn’t it be much easier if the woman was put in a position where she would have a moral obligation based on marriage to have a man make a decision over her body? How many men opt for vasectomies as opposed to women who want abortions?
Enter, the loose union.
What if the woman does not even need to marry the man? She can have sex with him and then have him get her pregnant (if she wants it) and if by the failure of contraceptives she gets pregnant or changes her mind somewhere along the line then she does not need to ask him. They are not married, not one flesh.
The loose union is a direct affront to the family unit as we know it. So with feminism, we need to redefine marriage. In an interview Jill Filipovic granted, she said “I don’t think marriage in itself is a feminist institution. I am entering into it anyway.” She adds, “I also don’t think high heels are feminist but I wear those. We all have to live our lives and do things that are gonna bring us some sort of contentment, and satisfaction, and happiness even if they do not fall in line with our political ideals.”
The issue of headship and submission remains a knotty one among feminists. Yet, humans are naturally inclined to want some direction. In the family unit, the man by virtue of testosterone is stronger and more competitive and so will take charge, and lead. Feminist ideology counters this. Something has to give.
Feminism and Tacit Support of Patriarchy
Feminism is losing the battle on egalitarian marriages. This is because, after marriage the reality of everyday living makes people take a hard look at their finances. When the children begin to come there is greater pressure not only on the finances of both partners but the responsibility of caring for the child puts emotional and psychological pressure on the couple. So, who gets to give up their careers and dreams so that the family is happier?
Most times, the women get to give up their dreams so that their husbands can remain in the workforce. This is a practical decision, though anti-feminist, and one that most women willingly make. Their reasoning may border around the fact that men earn more but it can also be because women have the nurturing instincts. They are also biologically equipped as nurturers. Based on this, a strain of feminism is of the opinion that women who have to give up their careers for family deserve to be compensated. Recently, the question was raised on Twitter, “Should housewives be paid salaries by their working husbands?”
Pause for a second and consider the meaning of the word patriarchy. The London Feminist Network defines patriarchy as, “the term used to describe the society in which we live today, characterized by current and historic unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed.”
When a man pays his wife a salary, does that not put him in a position of power over her? Can he not then tell her what to do with her ‘work hours’? Also, does this not change the entire dynamics of the relationship to a transactional one?
More questions: Is the salary to be deducted before or after general expenditure? The idea of feeling entitled to one’s husband’s money to the extent of asking to be paid for being wife, mother, and homemaker just completely goes against the spirit of sacrifice. Mind you, the man is also making a sacrifice by working. So what of his wife’s should he be entitled to? Food? Sex? Because in the spirit of equality, one compensation for equality, deserves another.
Is the entire idea of husbands paying their wives not further entrenching patriarchy?
Then there is another strain of feminists who say that men should cut down or give up their own careers to encourage their wives to pursue theirs’. According to them, if there is a need for more time to be spent on domestics, the man should be more willing to cut back on his work hours in order to spend time with the children and allow his wife to keep working. Placing the onus of that decision on men simply means granting the men the power to say yes or no.
But, isn’t it the spirit of patriarchy that teaches that it is a man’s decision to ‘allow’ his wife keep working. That the decision of what happens or does not happen within the household ultimately rests on the man? Are feminists trying to use patriarchy to achieve their goals? If this is the case, then is patriarchy actually as bad as feminists want us to believe?
The Future of Feminism
Many persons have long figured out that feminism, as it is presently structured, will burn itself out. It leads to unnecessary conflicts with culture and established working institutions. Instead of a fight for “full equality of men and women”, should the focus not be on achieving equal access to opportunities? All men and women are not and cannot be equal. But like God, they can all have free access to salvation. As the First Century Christian Peter wrote, “Now I fully understand that God is not partial, but in every nation, the [person] who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
Women’s rights should be seen as human rights and laws should not be created simply from a ‘women’s issues’ perspective but from a human and humane perspective. For instance, when a law says women cannot work in mines, it should not be adjusted to read, ‘women can now work in mines’. It should read, “Anyone who wants to work in mines should…” and the criteria should be set. The two groups of people who should enjoy free passes are older people and children – age being the acceptable factor. (There may, of course, be good reason to adopt some principles of affirmative action relative to women issues.)
This calls for a total rebranding of Feminism. Any marketer will tell you for free that a tarnished brand needs to first of all change its name (Ask Cambridge Analytica). The term Feminism has become so synonymous with divisiveness and misandry that it is due for a rebirth. It has happened before. The Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s is often regarded as Second Wave Feminism. It had a different name then, it can assume a new name now. The new wave needs a new acronym and a new agenda.
Following up on an earlier symbolism, you do not take a knife to a gun fight, they say. But nature has handed women knives. Two things, we can either keep arguing that this should not be a gunfight but a knife fight, so that we can say men are not fighting fair or we can make peace with the fact that all we have are knives and choose our battles wisely. There is a third option, though, one that does not have to involve any fighting. It is the option of working together, using our guns and knives to attack real enemies – the murderers, the rapists, the sexual assaulters, the emotional abusers, the people (male and female) who cause others pain. Because at the end of the day, all men are not scum and all women are not false accusers. People hurt people and only people can set them straight.