Why I Am A Feminist
I’m really just formulating my thoughts on this subject, and there are many reasons I can think of, so forgive me if this piece seems incomplete. I will revisit this topic over the coming weeks.
The argument around feminism, misogyny, rape culture and equality continues to rage on the web at the moment, and I only see this as a good thing. We need to talk about this issue, and hopefully, we can come to some level of understanding, if not agreement, on the elements involved in the conversation. As disheartening as many of the comments on this topic may be, at least we are seeing the real monster, the beast that must be defeated to move the conversation forward.
While the conversation has varied from agreement to fervent disagreement on the topics of misogyny and rape, and while the tone has generally been good and receptive, I have also been accused by some of being hysterically reacting to the calls of misogyny in the skeptical and atheist community. Some have even gone so far as to say I am trying to stifle their freedom of speech and expression! Believe me I am trying to approach this with as level a head as I can muster, as I think it’s an important topic to cover.
One of the things to come from the conversation is a perceived division between people on what exactly feminism is. There are also some very large misconceptions of feminism, at least feminism in the way I approach it.
Some see feminism as an attempt to disenfranchise men from their place of privilege in society. Many men rail against feminism because they stand to lose what they perceive as their position of power in their homes, workplaces or cultures. People who perceive feminism in this way are often vocal about how female organisations like Secular Woman are an exclusive “girl’s club” and that organisations like this only stand to divide the people even more. I have seen some who oppose feminism because of this perception.
This is not how I see feminism at all.
One reason I see myself as a feminist is an aspect of humanism. Secular humanism can be described as “The philosophy or life stance secular humanism embraces human reason, ethics, social justice, philosophical naturalism, while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making.” (from Wikipedia.)
I see myself as embracing this description as a secular humanist, and within that I think each person has the right to a life free of pain inflicted by others, and will work toward this. It seems that it would be remiss of me to proclaim my secular humanism and not be acutely aware of the injustices in the world served up by governments, religions and cultures, and that the biggest victim of these injustices are women in particular. Not only are women not treated with the same degree of respect as men, but in many cultures they are treated as little more than belongings. We see a returning trend in the USA for the role of women to be pushed back to time before they introduced womens’ suffrage. In Afghanistan we see a tendency for women to not only be treated like belongings, but a tendency for the women to disappear altogether. In many areas of Africa and Asia, education is simply not offered to girls and women, especially in the poorest communities.
Studies have shown that, while women make up 50+% of the global population, they also represent a staggering 70% of the world’s poorest people. There is no doubt that educating women is the best way to bring communities up from poverty; in this article for the UN Chronicle, Hoon Eng Khoo, Acting Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the Asian University for Women, Bangladesh writes:
Education for women goes well beyond just strengthening their communities. It also has an affect on population; women who are educated are far more likely to make better choices surrounding having children, as this study shows. The education of women could be the solution to not only their own localised problems, but to global problems also. From the article:
Apart from that, a recent Bloomberg article cites a study that shows companies with female board directors do better on the stock market. From the article:
There is no doubting that the liberation of women, in the form of social and gender equality, can only have positive effects on the world. So whence comes the resistance?
From those who stand to lose the most, and those who are convinced that it’s the “wrong way to do things”; these can be religious people (whose holy books say again and again men are the masters, and that women are second-class), or members of the general public (those who stand to lose their perceived power in their jobs, communities and families), or people who see their way of life as the only way life should be (those who can’t see that any other way of life could be pleasurable, or even desirable), or people who claim it is unnatural (woman have their lot in life, and their job is to stay home and make babies and provide for families). But I ask you, how can we function as a world society when half of our minds and bodies are not allowed to work to their full potential?
I am not part of any group, though I willingly gave my money to Secular Woman. While they are a fledgling group, I have every confidence that they will be able to meet their objectives “… to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women.” This is a worthwhile pursuit, and I wish them all the success they can get. I am an independent person who realises that support of women is of the utmost importance in the world today.
One does not have to be a woman to see the problems women face in society. One does not have to be a woman to stand up for the rights of women. One does not have to be a woman to be a feminist. In this sense, my feminism IS humanism, and the only reason I make a distinction between the two is that women as a group face far more hurdles than men do in general. I’m supporting those who need the help most.