Written by Ginger Felberg (President 2040)
Why can’t we hate men, a question posed by editorialist and professor Suzanna Danuta Walters in an article published in the Washington Post. Frankly, I’m not sure. We’re told that “man-hating feminism” is counterproductive and insensitive. But in a world of incels, misogynists, and a surprising denial of the female plight, I am finding it harder and harder to maintain respect for the opposite gender.
“Seen in this indisputably true context, it seems logical to hate men. I can’t lie, I’ve always had a soft spot for the radical feminist smackdown, for naming the problem in no uncertain terms,” Walters said.
As I get older, I have come to realize the extreme discrimination the world holds against women, and the more I realize this, the more radical my feminist beliefs become. However, as much as I find myself agreeing with radical feminism, I wish I didn’t. In this article, I hope to unpack my current thought process and uncover how other feminists, like Danuta Walters, have grappled with this same dilemma, with the hope that my mind will change for the better.
As politics swings right, conformity with gender roles, patriarchy, and more accurately, a male-centered society becomes more evident in the way I see the world on a daily basis. It’s become extremely disheartening to know that this issue has progressed the most in the nation where I live. Across the globe, laws oppressing women lead to legalizing rape, murder, and torture aimed towards the female gender. Yet, the #metoo movement is often labeled as a whiney witch hunt.
Recently, actor Liam Neeson expressed his concerns about the #metoo movement saying, “There is a bit of a witch hunt happenin. There are some people, famous people, being suddenly accused of touching some girl’s knee or something, and suddenly they’re being dropped from their program,”
Barely two years after the #metoo movement grabbed the spotlight, it has been memed and mocked into destruction. Public figures like Neeson are painting a picture, saying women are irrational and should be dismissed. Are we surprised though? Honestly, and unfortunately, we have bigger fish to fry. Feminists are offered a choose your own adventure book of misrepresentation, sexual assault, and structural violence. There is no arguing that we live in a male-centered world. If the majority of men were for equal gender rights, 120 million women, according to a report by the United Nations, wouldn’t have experienced forced sex or sexual acts.
This isn’t a minority oppression. This is half the world universally treated as second class citizens. While the world may be sick of hearing from “whiny radical feminists,” in reality, women are sick of being belittled and objectified and made worthless in the eyes of the world.
I have, at age 17, become numb to my friends, telling me they were sexually assaulted. I’m not talking about cat-called, or groped; I’m talking about them being pinned down and forced. When did I become numb to this? Maybe after the fourth friend came crying to me in the middle of third period. Or when I almost believed the people who victim blame, or when a man told me to calm down for the tenth time. Maybe that’s when my norm became assuming my friends have been raped and harassed.
The worst part is that, while women are dismissed and being assaulted on a daily basis, people are now claiming that the patriarchy is hard on men, using the systemic oppression of women to explain the existence of toxic masculinity. Can we not forget that men were the ones that created toxic masculinity.
My solution, and hold onto your seats because this might be my most radical view yet, hand the power over to the women. If men in power create too much of a struggle for men, then maybe a woman would do a better job.
In order for that to happen though, we need to address the fact that women are still drastically underrepresented in government and continuously belittled in the corporate workplace.
But it’s 2020, you argue, things have changed. Yet in a corporate training program delivered to 30 Ernest and Young executive woman in 2018, women were told things like, “Women’s brains absorb information like pancakes soak up syrup, so it’s hard for them to focus. [Since] men’s brains are more like waffles, they’re better able to focus because of the information collected in each little waffle square,” and, “Don’t flaunt your body – sexuality scrambles the mind (for men and women), good haircut, manicured nails, well-cut attire that complements your body type.”
Women are told they are stupid and incompetent and worthless, yet somehow the patriarchy is now oppressive to men? Misandry is a real word that means “a dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men.” This word is in contrast to misogyny, a term used to represent the discrimination against women. The similarity in these words suggests that these two struggles are comparable? I’m not saying that men aren’t affected by the patriarchy, but this term is flat out insulting and should be abolished.
It is said that men are placed in a world that expects them to be strong and emotionless. However, when women show emotion in the corporate workplace, they are highly ridiculed. The term hysteria was born from the belief that women are inherently emotional and crazy. The word hysterical, meaning “affected by uncontrolled extreme emotion,” derives from the Greek root word hystera, meaning womb. So yes. Women are “allowed” to have emotion, but only because we are considered ridiculous and crazy. It’s not that the world has a problem with emotional men; the world has a problem with emotions. This has nothing to do with discrimination against men; it is a whole other problem stemming from hatred of what are considered to be feminine qualities.
So knowing all of this, how are we as women able to maintain respect for the male gender? Sure, It sounds harsh, but if the world hates women, why can’t we, as woman resent the gender that made and maintains this hatred? The answer to this question varies based on life experience and opinions. That’s why I have decided to reach out to three strong women in the Wilson and Portland community to learn and hopefully grow from their experiences.
Ninth grade English teacher, Nabilah Mohammad, opened up about her journey with feminism, what the word means to her, and how she faces gender inequalities.
“The world in which we live should have equal rules and social protocol in terms of dealing with people of different genders or people who don’t identify with a specific gender,” Mohammad said, “and I don’t believe that’s the case in the world we live in right now, so, I would label myself a feminist,”
Mohammad has experienced patriarchy in her life in many different ways. For a woman, the simple act of buying a car can become a perfect example of how women are often patronized and demeaned.
“When I went to purchase my first car, under my name, the person who was selling the car didn’t speak to me once. He sold the car to my husband instead, and my husband mansplained his way into me purchasing that car,” Mohammad said. “That incident is just one drop in the bucket of different situations in which the patriarchy has influenced my life.”
While day to day life can be a frustrating experience alone, gender inequalities have made religion a complicated journey for many women. Mohammad explained that being a Muslim woman comes with a whole other layer of stigmas and discrimination. Often, she feels excluded from the feminist movement due to her religion.
“Being a Muslim person, I know that my religion is rooted in some very rigid gender roles,” Mohmmad said, “but the way those things are framed in religious text versus the way they are enacted in real life do not gel well together, and don’t resonate well with the ideas of being equal and fair.”
Mohammad says she has struggled with identity and religion in the past, but learned to feel secure as a Muslim woman and a feminist. Due to strict, and in some cases oppressive rules targeting women in religious texts, the Muslim religion is often placed in direct contrast to feminism.
“I can choose the best of both worlds, because part of religion is also questioning, and experiencing that journey,” Mohammad said.
Beyond religion, gender equality and sexism has come up many times for Mohammad. In ninth grade, Mohammad had a traumatic experience that would affect her to this day. While traumatic, she also explains that this event was what led her to want to become a teacher.
“When I went to one administrator, she asked me, ‘Are you emotional? Are you on your period?'” Mohmmad said. “[After] listing all these things that this boy has done to me, that was her response. And the only person that helped me out of that experience was a teacher, so it really pushed me into teaching. Because I wanted to be that for someone else.”
Many women have stories of how the patriarchy has impacted their lives. Mohammad took an awful experience and used it to alter her life for the better. It takes a strong woman to recognize inequalities and work to diminish them. Teaching is a way that Mohammad can make sure that fewer women experience sexism and harassment, and feel safe and heard in school.
“My staying positive is educating people. That’s where I go when I’m really angry and not getting what I want out of a situation. My duty is educating people and making them aware,” Mohammad said.
Mohammad agrees that it can be challenging to maintain a positive outlook for the future of gender equality, but she has seen improvements since she started teaching.
“I have a positive outlook because in the short time I’ve been teaching, young women have been more open, mothers have been educating their young sons about feminism and equality, and celebrities have been inclusive and honest about what feminism means,” Mohammad said.
Next, I looked to Feminist Union club advisor, and ninth and twelfth grade English teacher Ellen Whatmore, to hear her take on this subject.
Whatmore didn’t initially identify as a feminist. She remembers first hearing the term in the 90s.
“I was in high school. I probably thought of it as being radical,” Whatmore said. “I mostly heard of it as a negative. Along the lines of the ‘feminazi’ stereotype.”
Feminism is often presented with a negative connotation attached to it. Whatmore tells me that her views on feminism only started to shift after learning about 1960s feminism. The 1960’s feminists are referred to as second-wave feminists. While gender equality has made progress, since then, the label of feminist has remained negative.
“Once women were accepted into colleges at the same rate as men, and hired into the workforce, people thought we were all good, but there are more insidious ways that the inequalities manifest,” Whatmore said.
She stresses the importance of actively including women of color in the movement. Historically and currently, women of color are given less of a voice in the feminist movement, and Whatmore thinks this needs to change in order to achieve equitable gender equality.
While women now make up 47% of the American workforce (according to the US department of labor), the fight for equal and fair treatment of women in the workplace is far from over and, according to Whatmore, can still be found in the education world.
“What we see among high school teachers is that more men are given better assignments. Men get to teach the advanced course work, or [are] given roles of leadership in administration,” Whatmore said.
Not only has Whatmore noticed a difference in the way the administration treats men, but she also sees a difference in the way students treat their male teachers.
“When we see the way that students treat their male teachers, versus their female teachers, there’s more genuine respect for the male authority, and [an] undermining of authority from female teachers,” Whatmore said.
Sadly, Whatmore says this behavior has only increased in the past few years.
“I think that we’re seeing things shift, unfortunately. I would say that I see more misogyny among my students now than before,” Whatmore said. ¨You can’t say that there’s going to be any consequence for that if there’s no consequence for the president.”
Whatmore sees a correlation between the increase of misogyny in her classroom and the behavior of political leaders in the US. Sexist behaviors can be reinforced by the acceptance of this behavior from our political leaders, thus reinforcing systemic discrimination against women.
Walking me through her journey with feminism, Whatmore tells me when she first began to identify as a feminist.
“I first started embracing feminism for myself, when I learned a little bit more of my family history,” Whatmore said.
Whatmore was born into a family of strong women. As a girl, her mother was not allowed to go to college, despite a full-ride scholarship, and was forced to stay home and help with the family. Whatmore’s mother and grandmother were the primary supporters of the family since her grandfather was an alcoholic who couldn’t hold down a job. The two women were able to bring home a dependable paycheck while caring for the family. Later in life, Whatmore’s mother went back to college while working full time and graduated with high academic achievements.
“She rocked it, and she owned it, and it was so impressive to me,” Whatmore said. “Here are these amazingly strong women doing these things despite all of these odds being against them, and when I saw how they were redefining what opportunities they would have, it was eye-opening.”
Whatmore began to learn how to make her own opportunities, including traveling the world on her own. This boosted her confidence, and she became more assertive and less concerned with how others perceived her.
“Putting myself out there geographically made it so that I felt more confident putting myself out there in terms of my roles in my life,” Whatmore said.
Whatmore is married with two children, one daughter and one son, and motherhood has only strengthened her feminism.
“We have to keep fighting. Now I have a seven-year-old daughter who is facing a world where there are things that are still unjust,” Whatmore said.
One thing that Whatmore wants to make sure her daughter knows growing up in this world is that she is not defined by what people think of her.
“Girls navigate the world in a way that is constantly undermined by other people’s opinions of them, and we’re always trying to make sure that we’re pleasing people, and that’s not as important as self-confidence,” Whatmore said. “Be a good person, [but know that] good doesn’t always mean nice.”
Whatmore is concerned for the future of feminism. Right now, we are living in a time of rising misogyny, and this won’t end unless everyone fights for equal rights. White women need to support women of color in having an equal voice, and men need to support women in gaining equal authority and respect.
“I do feel hopeful, but I think there are some things that need to be changed. I think I was more hopeful four years ago than I am now.” Whatmore said. “I am optimistic, but I am hoping that people are enlightened to the fact that things are not equal,”
After talking to strong female teachers in our school, I looked to a woman in the Portland community to provide additional insight. Janna Lopez is a local publicist, former owner of Oregon Family Media magazine, and author of “Me My Selfie and Eye”. Janna has spent most of her professional life working for herself. She loved owning a magazine and spent ten years working hard to make it great.
“I loved connecting people through stories. I always thought that was super important work; it was always very mission-driven,” Lopez said.
Lopez, like Whatmore, was first introduced to the concept of feminism with a negative connotation. It was when she went back to college at age 32 that this changed.
“Feminism has always had a socially negative connotation; it’s one of those things that has been branded as angry, bitchy. Just the mere idea of feminism implies radical,” Lopez said. “I was first introduced to the idea of feminism as an academic application at PSU while studying feminist writers.”
These days, Lopez identifies as a feminist. Through her experiences and education, Lopez feels she has finally grasped the concept enough to understand how she fits into the movement.
“In the last five years, I have started to look at [feminism]. Once you’re awakened to certain ideas, it’s startling to see how ignorant people are about what it means,” Lopez said.
When looking to understand what it means to be a feminist, Lopez looks to her grandmother.
“I look at my grandmother, who in the 1930s, went to college and bought real estate. She did things that women of her time didn’t do. She was a perfect blend of head and heart. That, to me, is what a feminist is,” Lopez said.
Lopez explains that to get to the root of feminism, you have to ignore its social and political connotations. These connotations are hard to ignore because they are so embedded in our culture and society.
She tells me a story of the first time she began to notice significant power divisions between men and women.
“I was seventeen and working at a law firm as a file clerk. The lawyers were all middle-aged men. The people in the office that worked for them were all young women.” Lopez said. “After hours, they would break out bags of blow (cocaine) and some of the girls would party with them. I couldn’t believe the way they took advantage of their positions of power,”
Lopez said that most of the girls thought they would lose their jobs if they didn’t party with men.
“I got a sense that the men knew what they were doing and they were ok with it. It was an unspoken understanding, [and it] was really weird to see it all play out,” Lopez said.
In retrospect, Lopez felt more sad than angry. There is a sense of hopelessness in situations like these. However, She felt hope for the future when she says Emma Gonzales, a school shooting survivor and activist, led a pro-gun control rally.
“The most powerful confident expression of being comfortable in her own skin as a young leader was when she held six minutes of silence. That was so powerful, that was strong, that was a woman. That is what I would define as feminism,” Lopez said.
Lopez unfortunately has a hard time staying positive about the future of gender equality.
“Things feel so volatile being a woman. Abortion and your choices with your own body, it is all a patriarchy. All the bullshit in politics, all the things that are up for discussion that we never thought we would have to revisit,” Lopez said.
Lopez believes that the future of feminism is hard to predict, and may look very different from how gender equality looks today.
“It’s hard to gauge what a positive future might be because so much is changing. People are identifying as being gender fluid now more than ever.” Lopez said. “I don’t know if it’s us versus them. I think it will be more about the integration of qualities,”
Lopez sees a future where gender equality might look like the abolition of all gender. Regardless, we need to show younger generations how to treat others with equal respect.
“I don’t think you can teach values. I think you can expose ideas through examples,” Lopez said.
It is hard not to resent the male gender, and Lopez even says that resentment is often justified; however, she believes it’s essential to think about the repercussions of that resentment.
“I’m angry at men, disgusted at them, and have compassion for them all at the same time. The ego is so hardwired, the ego that’s been embedded for so long. They have so much work to do.” Lopez said. “We have to look at ourselves and our responsibilities and how we communicate and connect about the issues because men don’t know, and it requires patience. Resentment isn’t going to move the needle any further. Although there is a place for it, it’s not productive,” Lopez said.
So, it turns out; I’m not the only one worried about the state of female equality. It seems as though the more woman that speak out against misogyny, the more hate the feminist movement gets. All three women I talked too struggled with their identity as a feminist, as well as social, and workplace discrimination. This was sadly expected, though I gained some insight from these three interviews that I will hold close to my heart as I continue to grow into a young adult.
While these three interviews did not immediately steer me away from radical feminism, I do feel more hopeful about becoming a part of the solution. The conversations I had helped me understand how to do just that. The most influential women in most people’s lives are members of their family. I have learned the importance of discovering and passing down stories of strong women in my family and becoming a strong example for future generations.
Every woman I spoke to took a leap of faith that led them to success both personally and professionally. They have taught me to live life unapologetically and genuinely. To be successful and a woman, you have to be forceful and stand up for what you believe in, even if you represent the minority opinion. As Whatmore said, being good isn’t always being nice. Women are still expected to be nice even when that isn’t what’s best for us. The best way to reverse gender stereotypes is to reverse the narrative by becoming successful and assisting other women in reaching success as well.
About the whole resentment of the male gender thing, I think it takes time to get over that. Every woman has a story that seems to justify hating the male gender, but when it comes down to it, the hatred is just not worth my time and energy. As Lopez pointed out, any harbored hatred isn’t productive. While my hatred can’t flip a switch and turn off, I think I’m beginning to learn how to move past hatred into a place of pure motivation to succeed.