I have a rather depressing confession to make. I don’t really consider myself a feminist.
Now, before you start, I have a very good reason, and it’s as follows:
I’m not REALLY a feminist because I don’t like the term “feminism.” I prefer the term “equalist.” “Feminism,” to me at least, and please feel free to disagree with me, just evokes the image that we as women are trying to raise our station above men. I’m not downplaying the incredible injustice and imbalance in the status of women versus men, but that’s also exactly my point. The problem with gender dichotomy isn’t JUST that we paint women and men as deserving dependent on their sex, but ALSO because we, as a society, love to pit men and women against each other. Historically, not awesome. So, in other news, I like the idea of feminism, I just don’t care much for the label. I worry that we get so caught up in making our own voices heard that we may forget that men, too, are victims of misogyny and violence, both by other men and by women as well. And if we forget that fact, we as a society will never achieve equality.
But anyway, getting to the point of all of this. I know everyone is aware of the horrific tragedy at UCSB two weeks ago, so I’ll spare you the details. The act itself was a terrible atrocity, but the reaction I’ve seen since then has been almost as bad – namely the sheer amount of misogynistic douchebaggery of the internet proclaiming that if some gutterslut had just done her job and slept with poor, deserving, permavirgin Elliot Rodgers, then those six people would still be alive. If that doesn’t highlight exactly what’s wrong with society, then I quit the internet.
Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club” had it right when it came to women and sex:
“It’s a double-edged sword. If you haven’t, you’re a prude. But if you have, you’re a slut. It’s a trap.”
It’s unfortunately a mantra that has withstood the test of time, from the days when cavemen dragged their wives by the hair to copulate, to the fifties, when a woman would be fined for having a bathing suit cut too high above the knee, to now, when women who don’t give up sex to anything with a third leg are hateful prudes who are just out to ruin lives of poor, deserving gentlemen like Elliot Rodgers and the MRA movement. It’s a reminder that sex does not belong to women, but to men, and no matter what we do, women will be scorned for ever having anything to do or not to do with it. Sounds illogical? Well, you’re right. Because it’s a trap. Either way, we can’t win.
I’m of the personal belief that women should guard their own sexuality more carefully because sex is a dangerous game to play – STDS, unwanted pregnancies, all sorts of things that are badges of honor for men, but stigmata for women. But that’s just me. I don’t give it up to just anyone, but that is my choice. I’m not going to demonize or put down the woman who decides she does, in fact, want to go out and get anonymously laid, any more than I will eschew a woman in a figurative chastity belt. I believe in sex before marriage, but I respect those who don’t agree with me. I often pay them very little mind because their religious rhetoric about sex often bores me to tears, but people, men and women, have the right to their own personal sexuality.
But what about men and sexuality? It’s true that it’s a terrible shame that we’re equating women who do or don’t have sex with some kind of negative connotation, but we’re also doing it with men in a way that is really the biggest underlying issue to the whole thing, when you think about it. We teach boys that if they’re not having sex, then they’re failures. We’re equating sex with machismo, virility with male worth, and success with whether or not a man can manage to get sex. Just as it’s a horrible shame that we only associate women’s accomplishments with whether or not they’ve successfully landed a man, we only associate a man’s value, or at least within the male strata they do, with a guy’s ability to get laid. Is it any small wonder then, that groups like the MRA exist? We’re teaching boys that sex is what makes them men, and not getting it makes them less so. We’re telling them that it’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the ultimate goal in life to accomplish – not love, not respect, not personal success, but sex. Sex equals happiness, and if you’re not getting laid, then obviously, you won’t be getting any happiness.
So in a way, and please feel free to flame me, but think about it for a second, I do feel a certain degree of pity for Elliot Rodgers. Not because he wasn’t getting laid, but because he was so indoctrinated into this notion that he was only going to be happy if he was having sex, and that women owed him sex so that he was somehow a failure for not getting it, that it drove him to mass murder. I’m not saying he was in any way justified, and what he did remains, regardless of motive, a horrible, senseless act. I’m just saying look at the monster we’ve created. Sexuality is a double-edged sword, not just for women, but for men as well, and Elliot Rodgers is the poster child of that idea.
This is part of the reason I prefer the term “equalist” to “feminist.” The detriment of misogyny and the skewed perspective of sexuality may be significantly more applicable to women, but we also need to stop and think of what it’s doing to our men. It’s creating a legion of men who rape because they feel entitled to sex, and a legion of men who have to be feared by women because of the actions of their rapist peers. We teach men that being emotionally open is feminine, and therefore weak, and in one fell swoop, we equate women with weakness and create men who are emotionally repressed – and then wonder why they are more prone to emotional outbursts, or seem to lack any sort of empathy. We teach men that if they’re physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused by women or other men that they need to “man up” and deal with it or ignore it, even though it creates even MORE double standards.
So can we stop splitting ourselves into two camps based solely on what our genitals look like? All it does is create a society of double-standards that end up creating boys like Elliot Rodgers and the assholes that support him. There should be unity, not disparagement. Gender roles, sexuality, and misogyny -it’s all a double-edged sword.