Recently, I got into yet another debate about feminism. In that discussion I stated that I had no problem with fighting for equality between the genders. What I took issue with was the fact that more often than not, I see feminism fighting for women’s rights, while no one is working to ensure that men are not being set back in an effort to elevate women. I was informed at that time that a simple Google search would correct me of my erroneous notions about feminism.
So I took up that challenge. I googled “What do feminists fight for today?” – And, indeed, fairly quickly, I was directed to an article that listed six battles that women are struggling in. Here are those six – and my assessment of how they are more about women’s rights than equality. (For you academic types: Sources are cited below. For ease of reading I did not include individual citations within the main body)
1. Reproductive Rights: From the article sourced below, this argument is specifically termed in words to reflect women’s reproductive rights. Her right to birth control, abortion, etc. What about the man’s rights? Why aren’t men being offered birth control (outside of condoms) with the same availability that women are? OH, that’s right. Because there isn’t a convenient pill for a man and a vasectomy is often not covered by his insurance. Why is a man forced to pay child support for a baby he didn’t want, when a woman can just abort that baby? Because it takes two to make a baby. But let’s not forget that he didn’t want to make a baby. Why is a man forced to let his child die in utero during an abortion? Because it’s her body. He has no say in his reproductive rights.
2. Gender Wage Gap: Ah yes. The infamous 78 cents on the dollar argument. You know, the one that has been debunked based on a clear manipulation of statistics. From Forbes Magazine – in an article written by a woman – the issue of the hot button wage gape was addressed in this manner.
*Using the statistic that women make 78 cents on the dollar as evidence of rampant discrimination has been debunked over and over again. That statistic doesn’t take into account a lot of choices that women and men make—education, years of experience and hours worked—that influence earnings. If we want to have a fruitful discussion about a gender wage gap, we should have it after the comparison is adjusted for those factors.*
So, yes. Please let’s have the discussion about wages. But let’s not have it using statistics that reflect a median of all women in this country. Let’s look at in on a job by job basis. We are striving for equality after all. Right?
3. ENDA – The Employment Non-Discrimination Act: This one, on it’s surface does sound like it might be actually fighting for equality.
*This legislation, which would end job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, has been variously debated in both the House of Representatives and Senate for more than a decade, but to no avail*
That sounds great.Except that, ostensibly, we already have that. The EEOC already includes sexual orientation and gender identity, so this is a spurious argument.
From the EEOC website – *illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information*
4. Repeal of the Voting Rights Act – Another one that affects both men and women. Except when written about in an article discussing the battles feminists are fighting, concerns with this repeal are voiced in gender specific repercussions.
*Some worry that voter ID laws, Maya Rhodan wrote for Time, put “an unnecessary burden on women. Name changes that may have come as a result of marriage or divorce … may cause problems at the polls.”*
5. Doubled Incarceration Rates – We are all aware of the fact that more POC are incarcerated than those that are white. But in this article, the issue, while addressing the racial gap, decidedly phrased it as a woman’s problem.
*”[T]he number of women in prison has increased at nearly double the rate of men since 1985,” the Huffington Post reports.*
Maybe that is a result of fighting for equality. Women are no longer protected from imprisonment under archaic notions that the men in their life are legally responsible for their actions. Here’s a thought: Women – if you don’t want to go to jail, don’t commit a crime.
6. No Federally Mandated Maternal Leave
Really? This one barely even requires effort. Why not fight for parental leave? Yet, feminists are fighting for maternal leave. Yep, sounds like gender equality to me.
To hear it directly from the “mouths of babes”, young college women were asked three questions: What do you want? What are you fighting for? Why does it matter to you?
Here were there responses:
*I’m fighting for the rights of not only me, but future generations of girls*
*Feminism matters to me because I expect equal opportunities for all genders and will accept nothing less*
*I am fighting for myself, the women in my family– both past, present, and future– and even women on an entirely different continent*
*Women go through more than people realize and yet we are still seen as weak and feeble. People should realize that women endure more than meets the eye and most of the time we do it alone and that makes us even stronger. We do it alone because we do not want to seem even weaker than what the world has portrayed us as.*
*I am passionate for women’s rights*
*I fight so that not only can I walk outside at night without being terrified but also so that women know that they’re worth so much. And that extends towards not just women. I mean for anyone really that feels like they’re lesser than someone else. Be it male, female, or non-binary.*
*I’m fighting for women to be whatever they want to be. I don’t want my little sister or any other little girl growing up in a world where they feel stifled by everyone else’s expectations*
*Personally, I am fighting for the right of choice, and the right for all women to have choice.*
*I hope for expectations about what is “normal” for a man or woman to disappear.*
Of those nine responses, only three mentioned equality for men and women. If you polled a larger sample, it is my guess that the similar responses would be provided. So tell me: Is it really about equality, or is it about women’s rights?