Very few people in the Western culture hold the opinion that women shouldn’t have the same rights as men. It is not of common discourse to oppose women’s right to vote, drive, or own property. In this way, a large majority of the Western population should, in theory, call themselves feminists. But, more and more, people reject the label of feminist. In a Huffington Post poll, more than 80% of respondents said that both sexes should have the same rights. Yet, only 20% said they identified as feminists. Fewer than one fourth of women said they were feminists.
Those who don’t identify as feminists do not, in most cases, reject the idea that the sexes are morally equal. What they oppose is that the pursuit of equality goes beyond equal rights and opportunities, and that there needs to be government thought policing. Too often, these policies are based on the view that women must, as a group, be competitive with men in the labor market, and any deviation from that ideal justifies government intervention.
The government’s thought control
The initial goals of women’s suffrage have been met. Women have the rights to work, own property, and vote. As such, they are entirely capable of being independent and autonomous. Yet, the feminist movements seems more active than ever.
While men and women have the same rights, the remaining feminist activists perceive that beliefs about gender prevent them from using the full potential of their equal rights. Therefore, the form of equality that seems to be the most pursued nowadays is the complete abolition of beliefs about men and women. The stance of the political elite is on par with this perspective.
In a public service announcement, Justin Trudeau, Canada’s openly feminist Prime Minister, declared the following:
Gendered discrimination is present in our everyday lives, too. Misogyny can creep into words, jokes and the media. We need to be conscientious and vigilant to stop it in all aspects of our society. We, men and women, need to be willing to stand up against sexism when it crosses our path in any form.
Barack Obama, also an outspoken feminist, had a similar standpoint in an article he wrote for Glamour:
In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all—and that’s changing ourselves. All too often we are still boxed in by stereotypes about how men and women should behave. We know that these stereotypes affect how girls see themselves starting at a very young age, making them feel that if they don’t look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy. In fact, gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. […] You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. […] We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear, […] that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs, […] that permits the routine harassment of women, […] that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.
These quotes reveal the underlying ambitions of modern feminism. Trudeau and Obama implicitly state that all citizens should embark on a journey of thought reform, to change the ways in which people think about women. As such, the government is actively campaigning to change the way people think. Current year feminism isn’t about equal rights and opportunities, it’s about thought control.
Beliefs about men and women are unlikely to ever disappear, however. All humans and animals are divided in two groups, male and female. This division is the greatest difference between humans. Men have a lot more in common with other men across the world, compared to women of their own group, in terms of personality, emotionality, and appearance. I cannot fathom a foreseeable future in which universal sex differences do not result in beliefs about men and women.
An interesting example demonstrating the magnitude of the cultural reform is Trudeau’s speech style. In the french language, nouns have a gender, and occupations have therefore different names for men and women. When talking about both men and women, the masculine prevails, or is mentioned before if using both forms is absolutely necessary. Trudeau strategically alternates between orders and styles to challenge oppressive grammatical rules. He uses expressions such as women and men, politiciennes et politiciens (politician), or uses feminine pronouns instead of the grammatically correct and neutral masculine form. Modern feminism hasn’t stopped at equal rights, and is now attempting to radically redefine the role of gender in society, up until grammatical rules.
Reshaping the concept of femininity
The political agenda to revolutionize the way we think about women assumes that group beliefs, or stereotypes, are inaccurate. As a result, governmental policies aim to re-program us to view women as the exact opposite of what they have historically been seen. They try to reshape women to embody the masculinity stereotype: independent, strong, determined, and tenacious.
The beliefs about women that political feminism is trying to deconstruct is the nurturing, caring, and delicate girl stereotype. Such an image of women can make them appear unfit for strenuous work. Thus, modern feminism attempts to promote an image of tough, independent, and ambitious businesswomen… which isn’t exactly accurate. Most women have priorities that they don’t want to sacrifice for minimal financial gain. This can be seen by women’s career choices, the high prevalence of women working part-time, or women interrupting their career for their children. Because they have the liberty to do so.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being caring, nurturing, or compassionate. But, modern feminists don’t want women to be seen as such. Reinforcing this perspective would be incompatible with the definition of equality that they have established, usually perfectly equalized financial statistics. Yet, most women don’t necessarily agree that their well-being is accurately operationalized by their financial outcomes, nor that they should be encouraged to pursue careers with little to no social contact for the sake of equality.
While most people in Western democracies support equal rights for men and women, much fewer label themselves feminists. Most of it is due to the fact that most are satisfied by the current equal rights, and that extensive governmental thought policing is unwarranted. There is no doubt that everyone acknowledges that certain issues disproportionately affect one sex. But the solutions to these issues do not reside in the current government supported feminist efforts to change how we think.
Most women judge that the equal rights they have had for generations grant them sufficient autonomy to prosper. They can make the balance between family, independence, and self-growth, without having an omnipresent government telling them that their sense of priority has been conspired away from an additional 23¢.Follow @nkgervais
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