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Is the constant misinterpretation of Feminism ignorance or wilful misunderstanding?

(185 Posts)
messyisthenewtidy Wed 19-Nov-14 18:58:15

The other day at work I had a book about feminism on my desk and my colleague jokingly said "oh gawd, you're not going all feminist on us are you messy?!" I replied that I'd always been a feminist and proud of it and they looked at me all hmm like I was a bit odd.

It made me think that all my life feminism has been understood in our common language as a bad thing. Everywhere: in popular films to newspapers etc. From women saying "I'm not a feminist but..." to the common phrase "I believe in equality but feminism has gone too far" to the instances in my life where men, upon finding out I was a feminist, have gone out of their way to bait me and tell me why feminism is really a form of female supremacy.

I suppose my question is: How did this happen? And the people who misunderstand feminism - are they just being ignorant of what it really is or are they wilfully misunderstanding in a conscious attempt to dismiss it?

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cailindana Wed 19-Nov-14 19:49:46

A mixture I think. It is very much in the interests of the dominant group (men) to belittle and besmirch any movement that threatens their dominance. Men have done a very successful job of letting women know that they are not interested in addressing their own privilege by using that same privilege to silence feminism.
Also, women reject feminism as it is too scary and mind-bending to think the people who claimed to love and protect them have been benefitting in various ways from their oppression. It's easier to reject it and say it's "gone too far" than to accept that sexism is everywhere.
Feminism also rejects the restrictions and requirements placed on women in the pursuit of men's approval. When women don't play the game they're punished.

Snow1 Wed 19-Nov-14 20:15:10

I think that the main problem with feminism now (yes, I'm a guy) is that it has got very close to males in terms of equal rights. That said, I'm in Norway which is one of the best countries in the world for it. So rather than being feminism I think it's more about equal opportunities, and that these will benefit both sexes. An example:

I know female colleagues who have been on maternity leave and have got bigger salary increases than males who have worked the whole year. I guess it's a question of is it fair? I certainly don't want females to lose out on having babies, but it is somewhat strange when a company is paying more for a years less experience? To balance this, I think if guys had mostly similar rights to paternity leave it would mean this isn't an issue, as both would lose the same amount of experience. The same goes for looking after kids in a divorce, default always tends to be the female being the carer. So females could be benefited by giving guys more rights in regards to salary. Obviously time for the mum's body to heal should be considered in paternity leave though.

I guess where guys can get frustrated with it is in situations like a few below.

- Highlighting the stupid amount of photoshopping for girls in magazines. Often this seems to be blamed on guys, and yet often guys aren't the target audience/ ones doing it. For example gossip magazines and so on - guys don't care if so and so got a bit fatter/ slimmer etc etc. Also we have similar pressure put on us too - needing a 6 pack, "have" to work out all the time etc. So for us it's got nothing to do with sex and everything to do with making money, despite it often being used as a feminist issue.

- Girl's nights. A shop in the area arranged a "guys" night recently. Previously it has had "girls" nights. Yet for the guy one a few girls were complaining about it being sexist, yet no one (guy or girl) had complained about the girl ones. Technically it is sexist, but then a lot of girls themselves have girlie nights with wine etc. So a lot of guys feel they can't do anything that highlights it as being a "guy" thing, but that females can.

However, there are many parts of the world that really need feminism to balance out massive inequality, I don't think many (normal) guys would complain about that at all. I think it comes down to guys thinking most of the issues in the west are more related to consumerism etc, rather than being a female only issue. And that girls can celebrate being girls a lot more than guys can celebrate being guys (at least in an official way). There are a lot of stupid guys who are sexist though, but that goes for both sexes. So yes, there is also willful misunderstanding from both "sides".

zzzzz Wed 19-Nov-14 20:20:02

They disagree with you.

Thinking everyone who doesn't subscribe to the same beliefs as you is wilfully lacking in understanding or ignorant is very blinkered.

SevenZarkSeven Wed 19-Nov-14 20:57:39

Interesting zazzle

Her colleague looked at a book title and said "oh gawd, you're not going all feminist on us are you messy?". He wasn't disagreeing with anything she had said at all.

So how does that fit in with your response? I'm not sure I get where you're coming from.

SevenZarkSeven Wed 19-Nov-14 20:57:58

zzzzz not zazzle autocorrect sorry

GoodboyBindleFeatherstone Wed 19-Nov-14 21:02:29

Seven - why have you assumed that the colleague is male?

zzzzz Wed 19-Nov-14 21:04:06

Arf at zazzle grin

In answer to the OPs title I assumed the "constant" referred to attitudes beyond that particular incident.

SevenZarkSeven Wed 19-Nov-14 21:10:07

True goodboy.

I guess it was automatic because people who I have heard make that sort of scathing comment have been male. You are right though it could have been a woman.

zzzz I see.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

YonicScrewdriver Wed 19-Nov-14 21:45:32

"I think that the main problem with feminism now (yes, I'm a guy) is that it has got very close to males in terms of equal rights. "

Woot woot!

Hang on, you said this was a problem?

messyisthenewtidy Wed 19-Nov-14 21:55:15

"Thinking everyone who doesn't subscribe to the same beliefs as you is wilfully lacking in understanding or ignorant is very blinkered."

But you see my colleague DOES subscribe to the same beliefs as me. She is a female who works for a living in a male dominated job and would be horrified to be paid less than her male colleagues.

Likewise when I have (had the bravery to) challenged the baiters on their beliefs it seems that whilst not being paragons of progressive thinking they certainly subscribe to principles of Feminism. They just don't know it and they don't call it feminism.

But where do they think it comes from? Do they think that women just woke up one day and got the vote?

So I guess I should address my question to you Zazzle seeing as you display the lack of understanding of which I speak. I am of course assuming that you believe in equal opportunities for all smile

ExtraVolume Wed 19-Nov-14 22:02:22

Buffy those postcards are brilliant, thank you for linking to them.

I think there is another aspect to it as well, some people feel that feminism has got too big and that they appear to be oh so smart for going against the grain. The same as people who say they hate e.g. Stephen Fry or someone else that most other people like, just to appear original.

messyisthenewtidy Wed 19-Nov-14 22:05:13

Yes that's true Extra. Linked to that is the desire to be cool and ironic and to not want to appear to care too much.

zzzzz Wed 19-Nov-14 22:13:28

So your stance is that everyone is a feminist they are just to ignorant to self identify as such?

And you think this based on the fact that they share some of your beliefs?

vesuvia Wed 19-Nov-14 22:13:50

Snow1 wrote - "The main problem with feminism now (yes, I'm a guy) is that it has got very close to males in terms of equal rights. That said, I'm in Norway which is one of the best countries in the world for it."

For women, Norway may be a better place than many others, but things may not be as rosy for women in Norway as you may like to think. For example, in a recent rape survey in Norway, 9% of the women questioned reported that they had been raped. Feminism still has some way to go to end sexual violence against women, even in Norway.

Snow1 wrote - "it comes down to guys thinking most of the issues in the west are more related to consumerism etc, rather than being a female only issue."

Most of the issues that most men think are important are the ones that affect men. Nothing new there.

In the western world, major issues for feminists include rape, sexual harassment, abortion, contraception, and the disconnect between legal rights on paper and legal rights in practice. There is enough there to keep many feminists busy with these issues for quite a while. These problems will not be reduced or eliminated if feminists shift their focus away from women.

zzzzz Wed 19-Nov-14 22:15:10

Sorry "too" ignorant.

messyisthenewtidy Wed 19-Nov-14 22:15:12

Thanks Buffy. I really do think it has political significance. Feminism as a movement has been phenomenally successful* but it's as if in return for that success it has to keep schtum and declare itself dead and no longer necessary.

*still lots more to achieve of coursesmile

Snow1 Wed 19-Nov-14 22:20:31

Bold:"I think that the main problem with feminism now (yes, I'm a guy) is that it has got very close to males in terms of equal rights. "

Woot woot!

Hang on, you said this was a problem?

Sorry, I didn't mean it in that way, hopefully obviously! I was more looking at it in guys struggling to see it being very relevant in the western world as a "separate" topic, rather than equal rights for both sexes.

Obviously there is things like the pay gap, but I do think that can be helped a lot by giving guys more responsibility for paternity leave/ more time looking after kids when divorced etc. If we assume 2-3 years of "lost" worktime used to look after the kids when they're young, then that is 2-3 years of less work experience. And if the majority of the time females are doing these tasks then when it comes to a job interview/ promotion then all else being equal the extra experience will count for more. If parental time off work is split 50/50 between mum and dad then less experience isn't a factor for pay/ managerial jobs. The other option is just giving people equal pay despite the one who is at home/ taking time off work having less direct work experience over time. But this is probably going off topic.

messyisthenewtidy Wed 19-Nov-14 22:25:19

"So your stance is that everyone is a feminist they are just to ignorant to self identify as such?"

Swas "everyone" for "most people" and interpret "ignorant" in the "unaware" (not stupid) sense and yes pretty much, that is my optimistic opinion.

My pessimistic opinion is that some people are deliberately obtuse because in their hearts they are opposed to equality and are painting feminism as a campaign for female privilege / supremacy in order to dismiss it. Because they know that in this day and age they can't actually just come out and argue against equality so painting feminism as a force for inequality is a cleverer tactic.

messyisthenewtidy Wed 19-Nov-14 22:26:20

Sorry! And now swap "swas" for "swap"!

messyisthenewtidy Wed 19-Nov-14 22:31:42

Snow1 yes I agree. Feminism benefits men in that sense because everyone will be happier. Why the hell do most people not get that?

It's not as if this idea is new. I remember reading a 19th century piece by a campaigner for women's rights who argued that they would loosen up the burdensome pressure on men to be the provider. So why has feminism been interpreted as hating men?

Snow1 Wed 19-Nov-14 22:35:30

Bold: vesuvia The research results also show that as many men as women also have been victims of serious physical violence and domestic violence.

However in one of the other topics here female against male violence didn't seem to matter (in the UK at least), since it was such a small proportion? I'm not wanting this to become an argument of guys versus girls, but just an example of how things can be viewed as being equally applicable.

You say that "Most of the issues that most men think are important are the ones that affect men. Nothing new there." Is that not exactly the same for feminism - it's highlighting important issues for men. Therefore our equivalent as it were? I guess if you have a similar list for guys you could suggest things like: domestic violence, access to children at divorce, contraception (in that it is very hard to guys to stop a long term girlfriend getting pregnant if she wants to - not saying it's common, but is the reverse of contraception for females), abortion is an issue for both, guys also have legal stuff like having no rights if not named the father on the birth certificate which can sometimes happen...

It's not meant as an argumentative list, more that a lot of these issues apply to both sexes, not just one. Or there are equally valid ones for both. We then like to highlight the ones that apply to us. For guys there is not really a name widely used, but for females there is feminism. So guys tend to get frustrated as it seems their issues are being downplayed. That said, as mentioned feminism generally has a bad name so it's not really better on the other side of the fence.

Snow1 Wed 19-Nov-14 22:45:27

bold: messyisthenewtidy

It obviously benefits both sexes, I think for guys the question is then raised why call it feminism then, when it's for both? This is perhaps for younger people though.

When generalizing there is probably still quite a lot of sexism/ bitterness from older guys who have seen things massively change in their lifetime, and feel they have been getting the blame/ have to change. A lot of this is right, but you're getting told you're wrong and need to change all the time then it's going to be hard to look positively at it. For younger people potentially some of the more obvious issues have been helped quite a lot, so it becomes a bit more blurred (see my post above about things like abortion etc). So then it becomes more of a "why do females get priority over us". Also as a younger generation we are generally more self obsessed (selfies etc), and so it's easier to go into the me versus them view when you're being told you need to change.

An example on a personal level is being at work. Females are under represented higher up/ have lower pay on average. Yet on a personal level I haven't ever considered putting a guy above a girl, so it does become a bit difficult when you get "blamed" because you're a guy. Hope that makes sense? It can be a bit difficult with text sometimes.

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