What holds the present day women’s movement or equality back overall? Could it be feminists themselves? Could it also be men? But not men in the way we would typically consider their role, or how men exclude us, but about how men are excluded as well? What about how men are mocked when they try to join or even understand us? And, just as race has been a crucial part of feminist critiques, I also believe that the exclusion of transgender women must also be addressed in order for us to move forward. Because the bottom line is, how can feminism be truly inclusive and also seek to fight oppression if we still conform to the same paradigms we seek to fight?
Identifying myself as a feminist came with my understanding and realization of the existence of the patriarchy. This may seem basic but the concept of a patrilineal, or importance of a father’s lineage in his bloodline and then the patriarchy itself is importance. A patriarchy pretty much means that our society and the systems within it (family, career, government, and so on) are controlled and dominated by men. While I do not question that this patriarchy exists and is damn hard to tear apart, I believe my next point is important here. How can we challenge and change this system without also educating and including men, as well as acknowledging their existence and their honest efforts to understand this? We cannot simply blame men without also truly working with them and allowing them to work with us.
For the man who may open the door for you as you enter a store, there may be another who does not because he may be too scared to know what to do. He may fear that if he does open the door, he will also be criticized for not letting you as a woman do things for yourself. And that same man who does not open it may still get flack for not showing respect by doing that same action. That same man may also not know whether to tell a woman he is interested or if he feels a woman should take every initiative and action with him.
Men are constantly deemed unemotional or insensitive. Yet, they are conditioned to fight and to hold their emotions in, while also being blamed for that very same thing. They are called superficial or judgmental. And while there are definitely men who are cruel about us, for our weight, for our not having enough curves, for our sexual actions or what they consider to be a lack of, that is not every man. If women turn men down or even get mean or bash men when men ask them on a date, then who is really being superficial here? The same goes for that ridiculous rule some women have not to date men based upon the approval of the shoes they wear or if women will turn men down for being shorter or younger than they are. And, if men are considered such jerks, are they really that bad if they are often the ones who propose to women?
My point is not to criticize a woman’s type or who she is attracted to or if the man gives her a ring and asks for her hand in marriage though. My main problem here is that we keep giving men a bad name (and I do not just mean within feminism but society itself). And we keep treating them like they are dirt and somehow expect them to be any different. Yet, the problem is not so much just about men but our paradigm or our mind frame and how we see and also shape these things. And, while there are definitely open minded feminists, there are also those who will fully and outwardly exclude men. There people who identify as feminists yet dismiss transgender women as well.
Contemporary Feminism and Male Rights Activism
While I cannot, and should not, state that the internet can speak for feminists or people in general, sometimes it can give some insight. A feminism group on Facebook was where I became exposed to another extreme. I noticed that almost any man who even gave their voice, even asked a question and even stated they were not there to judge or criticize and wanted a female view, were dismissed. They were called an M.R.A. and even told they had no place here. An M.R.A. denotes being a male right’s activist and often implies being misogynistic and sexist as well as having an agenda to insult women and deteriorate feminism. Yet, I also see this label as a way to shrug men off and continue leaving them out. I see the same flaw here that I do when people go so far to the extreme with religion that they reject any man interested in learning their spiritual path and even omit the male aspect of spirituality and divinity (which would be another essay itself). When you fully remove the male side and viewpoint, how are you being any different? Furthermore, how can you claim ownership of the concepts of injustice or oppression when you become oppressive yourself?
The Exclusion of Transgender Women
What also stood out, and also surprised me, on that same website was the way people spoke down to and about transgender women. I am rarely stunned, but I truly was as I witnessed people considering themselves as feminists saying what they did. I saw people repeatedly state that transgender women also have no place here because they were not born as men and therefore do not share the same experiences, or again oppression, that women have. Excuse you?! And, while I often say we should not state someone should or should not call themselves a term or a part of a cause, I will say I felt this was just wrong. I will not state the names of the festivals in this article, but I also learned about the exclusion of transgender women from festivals not just about music but also gender and equality. I have already witnessed enough statements and memes on social media the past few years about how “real women” have curves and things about what men look for in a woman. So again, we find another framework that states people, in this instance transgender women, are not truly “real” women.
Perhaps people could learn from the L.G.B.Q.T. (usually meaning Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Queer, and Transgender) community. When I trained to become a S.A.F.E. (Students, Administrators and Faculty for Equality) Ally a few years ago as an undergraduate student at my last university, I was not excluded due to not personally identifying with either of the listed sexual orientations. What mattered was that I sought to understand people and their struggles and help their causes. What mattered was not about just me or things about myself being seen in a negative way.
Again, I cannot do justice to feminism by generalizing it based upon one website or my own limited knowledge of this situation. I also hope to do further research on this and post another essay this spring or summer after looking more into these things. However, my overall point is one I feel must be addressed within contemporary feminism (and society itself).
How can we continue to say how wrong it is that men dismiss our views when we still leave them out? Just as we have fought for far too long against being put in “our place,” how can we justify telling men and transgender women that they have no place here? Shouldn’t we have men working with us if we hope to stop having the patriarchy work against us! How can we fight oppression if we perpetuate it by leaving out men and transgender women? How can this be a unified movement when we remain so divided? Wouldn’t it do more to help our cause if we made it more encompassing of everybody?