Editor’s Note: This Letter is in response to the Opinion piece “Con: Feminism Isn’t About Equality For All Genders,” which was originally published October 14, 2015. To submit your own letter on any topic, click here.
It was hard for me to read the argument against feminism in The Index’s Pro-Con debate about feminism. I am writing a direct response to this argument because I felt that it belittled the effect that sexism has on non-men’s lives, and it was actively persuading others to share in this belittlement. The “pro” piece was an awesome explanation of why we need feminism, but it could not directly respond to the underlying argument of the opposition.
The “con” article focused on the “hypocrisy of feminism”, claiming that feminism oppresses men, who are experiencing “reverse sexism”. Firstly, reverse sexism does not exist. Men, particularly white-cisgender men, overwhelmingly benefit more from institutional privilege than any other group of people in the United States (as the “pro” piece detailed in its argument). Feminists are working to dismantle the patriarchy, which demonizes male weakness in order to maintain male dominance and female inferiority. It is the patriarchy, not feminism, that demands men to be “emotionally strong”, demands women to be caretakers (91 percent of custody cases are settled out of the court system), ignores male victims of rape and violence, and stereotypes men as predators (e.g. “boys will be boys”). The article also stated that the problems women experience in the United States are not “actual problems” in comparison to women’s issues abroad. This actively invalidates struggles that countless non-men in the U.S. experience on an disproportionate scale, such as sexual assault and domestic violence. Invalidation is a tool that maintains male privilege because it denies sexism as a real issue.
When I read this piece, I was angry. I wrote about that anger on Facebook, and while I was welcomed by agreement, I was also met with criticism. I was told that I was overreacting and being immature. Yet, I do not regret my anger. In instances of challenging problematic opinions, my anger empowers me. I believe that the opinions expressed in this piece were coming from a place of ignorance, and while ignorance is a product of our experiences, that does not make ignorant opinions any less harmful. If we work to educate ourselves (as it is not marginalized people’s responsibility to educate others of their oppression) we can work to eradicate this ignorance. No one wins if we close ourselves off from making these moments of injustice an educational experience.