Something I often hear is that in order for feminism to truly be a movement for all genders, it has to change its name. People suggest that the ‘fem’ in feminism shows it is inherently a movement for women’s progress only. As a quick aside - given the amount of hurdles women are still up against, I don’t see anything wrong with a movement that is just for women’s progress. But I’m not going to be arguing that in this article. Rather, I’m going to discuss how feminism benefits everyone, and at the same time, why the fem in feminism is absolutely necessary.
Feminism is often defined as “A movement for the the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”. This is true, but as with any large movement there are many different takes and approaches. For me, the main work of feminism is dismantling the patriarchy. The patriarchy is: the social system in which masculine people hold more power and control in society, and where feminine people are devalued.
When you look at feminism from the perspective of dismantling the patriarchy, you can easily see how the “fem” is critical for the movement. Feminism is literally fighting for society to value the feminine identity as much as the masculine. This will help men, women, and all other genders, because all genders have both feminine and masculine traits.
Men often complain that feminism isn’t for them because they also suffer from sexism, and feminism doesn’t fight for their rights. Again I would argue that this is not the case. The ways in which men experience sexism is when the patriarchy (a system which almost always benefits them) turns against them. For example, men are less likely to gain parental rights in custody disputes - this is due in large part to the assumption that women are nurturers and men are not. This is an assumption that patriarchy upholds to keep women in their serving and care taking roles. But when it comes to custody disputes, it ends up affecting men negatively.
Another example is the pressure men face to “man up” and contain their emotions. This too is the patriarchy saying: don’t be weak, don’t be like women. The system of patriarchy says that nothing is worse than being a woman, so any personality traits that have been deemed feminine are shameful for men to exhibit. If we do the work as a society to value women and traditionally feminine traits than these traits will no longer be shameful for anyone to exhibit - including men. This links in with homophobia as well, as much of the homophobia we see is against men who “act girly”. People are disgusted that a man would exhibit traditionally feminine qualities, because as the patriarchy teaches us, there is nothing lower than being a woman.
What feminism fights for is the breaking down of the patriarchal system. It fights for us to value the feminine traits in all of us. This means that everyone benefits from feminism, because all of us have traditionally feminine traits within us. The breaking down of the patriarchal system will give men permission to cry, it will give women the same inherent value as men, it will give gender non-binary people the space to express all sides of themselves safely. The term feminism is incredibly important, because in the end, what we are fighting for is for feminine traits to be treated as valuable, important, and valid in all humans.
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