I believe in equality of the sexes. I know some people who don’t. What I can’t believe is when I scroll through Twitter and see something like this:
“With your logic, women can’t be sexist towards men,” wrote one user.
“We literally can’t,” came the reply. Perhaps it’s no wonder feminism sparks such heated debate.
To argue that women can’t be sexist towards men is not only factually wrong (sexism being “typically against women“, not “only” against women) but also a clear indication of why so many people have lost faith in feminism.
Feminism, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”.
In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave women over the age of 30 (who met the conditions) the right to vote. In 1928, the Equal Franchise Act granted voting rights to all women over the age of 21 – the same age as men (at the time). Even now, feminism has a positive impact, with the tampon tax finally starting to be abandoned.
So why is feminism often seen in such a harsh light? It’s people who misunderstand, trivialise or earn profit from it.
Buzzfeed posted a video to Youtube in which it manages to achieve all three at once. Entitled “Women Try Manspreading For A Week“, the video shows a group of women who ‘manspread’ in public and gauge the reaction. ‘Manspreading’ is when a man sits with his legs so wide apart (usually on public transport) that he “encroaches on other seats“. During the video, one woman describes that on the first day, a group of people travelling to a game couldn’t get a seat because she was taking up three. The most obvious question would be: how did she take up three seats?
The answer, in a brilliantly ironic way, is that for half of the time, they weren’t manspreading, but lying across seats – sometimes with their legs crossed (the total opposite of manspreading).
Taking up too much space on public transport is an annoyance for other people, but Buzzfeed seriously suggesting that it has sexist undertones is far-fetched. The fact that women may be treated differently if they sit with their legs apart is also an issue, but it’s deluded to imply that women are being oppressed due to manspreading.
If you’re wondering why many people don’t take feminism seriously anymore, read the Buzzfeed article titled “11 Simple Things Men Can Do For Feminism“, in which one tip is “shut up” and another is “understand that you’re not the center of the universe.” It’s this aggressive, small-minded attitude that perpetuates the negative stigma. Treating all men as oppressors does nothing but alienate them from feminism.
But it isn’t just Buzzfeed. The internet seems to be full of websites that target a young female audience, use words like “slay” and embed GIFs as much as possible. Take an article on the Huffington Post, for example. “12 Issues All Feminists Have When Dating Men” says one issue is “wanting your outfit to be sexy [but] feeling guilty for caring.” Here, it’s implied that somewhat caring about your appearance is wrong if you’re a feminist – why? Surely, especially when dating, it’s normal?
At the centre of it, these articles don’t make any headway for equality of the sexes. Instead, they do nothing but further the mistaken notion that feminism is extreme, stupid and pointless.
Modern feminism is so controversial because a lot of people don’t even know where they stand anymore. If opening a door for someone and smiling is considered sexist, it’s no wonder a lot of men have grown tired of it all.