Redefining Our Priorities in Feminism

Feminism is the doctrine, movement, idea – or whatever we might call it – that advocates equal rights for women, as of men. We will come back to what is wrong with this definition. While the movement, or the idea should have been going on for much longer than we may think, the definition is rather new, to be exact, of the nineteenth century. The problems arise with the definition in theory and practice, under these main issues: relativity, application, and guilt based assumptions.

First of all, the definition, which is proudly accepted by most of the feminists in the world is relative to the patriarchal society. We will not go deep into the subconscious implications to this issue, however, it would be plain wrong to try to understand a movement without breaking its definition apart. There are many definitions of feminism, however, most definitions include phrases used above like “for women, as of men”, and even most of the feminists who initially knew and supported definitions that do not have that phrase (or another version –even implied- of such a phrase) support the definition we are taking as a basis. By defining feminism with such a phrase automatically assumes that feminism is nothing natural, and is “only” another alternative to an all natural patriarchal society. So, even with feminist thinking in the contemporary sense, the rights are defined by comparing them to men’s rights. We should not restrict ourselves with the word “rights” while discussing feminism, this is why the reader should assume the word “rights” in this context can mean anything that requires, defines, or can be a basis of equality. As an example, with this relative definition, in a society, women should have the same level of rights, opportunities and freedoms to be a cab driver, which by the almost-globally accepted norms of human rights and freedoms is “right”, or “true” if you may. However, contemporary feminism defines this concept relative to men’s rights, observing that cab drivers are mostly men. It is mostly rigorous scientific reasoning to have a basis, however, should this basis be something that already exists, something solid, or something out of the box, that can be used to reason for further understanding of the concept of equality, without the danger of specification and relativism?

Moreover, the application of a concept, an idea or a policy might not be necessary for scientific reasoning, but is useful to pursue further understanding and for predictions of the future state of these issues. The most challenging aspect of feminism might be its application, considering its followers, like a famous saying: “I have no problems with the God, it is his fan club I cannot stand”, which of course should be considered as “only an example”, and has nothing to do with this article. Feminism in the contemporary sense is observed as a “staring contest” by the politest definition, by many opposers, neutrals and mostly the uninterested, and the main reason for this issue is its followers. When a man says “I will drive a car”, the correct feminist response by definition cannot, and should not be “I can, and will drive a car better than you”. In fact, it is not even logical to create a response for a gender neutral initiation of conversation. Anything other than this attitude will bring us back to the first main issue: relativity.

Another sub-topic under the issue of application is discrimination, which also stems from the wrong-by-definition understanding of feminism as a tool to carry women one step ahead of men. It is just not how it works. There are two reasons for feminist organizations, gatherings or anything one might think about feminism to involve mostly women. The first reason is that it is clear that women are the ones mostly experiencing problems about equality, so, it is only natural for women to populate the greater part of such areas of discourse. The second reason is discrimination, which is mostly the result of the understanding that there is “us and them” in this issue, which eventually brings many people to thinking that this is an issue about women only, and it can only be solved by women. We will discuss this issue in the third part. For now, let us not forget that many men who are feminists or are interested in feminism in any sense are discriminated against by the so-called feminist women, are not invited to or even get kicked out of feminist organizations. This issue is not specific to feminism. We can witness the same behavior with LGBTT rights, freedom of belief, etc. Any party that is not directly connected to the “currently losing” side of the issue is mostly discriminated against, or at least not considered as “siblings” of that particular movement, or sub-society. For example, when someone heterosexual tries to help the LGBTT movement by getting involved, even if they might see smiles on people’s faces, and they are sincerely welcomed to the organization, they will be reminded that they are not the part of the group, they are good people who are helping them. This is true if we are taking things into account with the basis as the organization, that is, one will not become a refugee by helping refugees’ living conditions, and will clearly not be understanding what they experience in the particular issue, however, being directly in the middle of the issue, or personal experiences/definitions has nothing to do with the concept of ideas and movements.

Moreover, most of the wrong approaches include guilt based, “us versus them” aspects to themselves. Let us first assume that there actually is guilt in issues concerning feminism. We might automatically assume the current state of affairs is a result of conscious behavior and purposeful actions. Did some men in the past thousands of years sit down and say “Okay, we should be superior in these issues”? Probably. But! But, did some women sit down and say the same things? Again, probably. If we assume there actually are two completely separate sides to this story over the last thousands of years, and there actually is guilt, both sides are guilty on many accounts and it is again meaningless to solve this problem by concentrating on one side as victims, the other side as culprits. The man who thinks he is, and he should superior to any woman is guilty, but, the women who thinks she is, and she should be superior is also guilty. The man acting as the leader of the relationship is guilty, however, the woman who lets him get the check at a restaurant, or expects the first move in most situations is also guilty, especially guilty when she advocates such behaviors in the name of “acts of chivalry”.

Inequality surely begins with early childhood where children are brought up according to the widely accepted gender roles created by societies over thousands of years. As the assumed “side” that is experiencing problem is women, the example will be about women. Women are mostly brought up as little princesses of their fathers (we can see the relative understanding here, too. Why not princesses of their mothers?) or sacred beings that should be understood very differently than men. Most of the women about this example carry both of these cursed titles in their childhood, so, they are basically sacred princesses. They are princesses that have certain duties to the society in behavior, and they must be protected. They are sacred, so, they are not human, they cannot make mistakes, hence, when they make mistakes, they are treated differently, which basically restricts their lives in favor of ladyhood, i.e., inequality. As long as gender roles exist (which seems to be going to be the case for at least thousands of years into the future), there is no correct way to settle a guilt based argument, and as we are by assumption social beings and we do not want to be alienated from the society, an argument that is not guilt based will also be unsolvable in the short run, because even if we educate a child by trying to exclude all social gender roles, the child will need to have friends. Even if (s)he does not have friends, (s)he will need to satisfy primary needs like food, shelter, reproduction, etc. from the society, the society that has all the things we excluded from his/her education. Sooner or later, the child will be faced with a dilemma to choose between loneliness and assimilation. Gradually eliminating gender roles in this sense seems to be the only solution, a solution that will require a very, very long time, considering that most of us have no problems with most of the existing gender roles. This creates a problem for even the ideal adult with no unnatural (out of their biological structure) motivations, an adult with perfect reasoning and freedoms. This adult will either choose to follow their lives with no gender roles, or will have to adapt, to reproduce, because currently this adult, if (s)he exists is strictly marginal, and his/her mate will “probably” have already accepted millions of different social gender roles.

Finally, getting out of the two sided, guilt based assumptions, let us make other assumptions about the existence of guilt and sides in general. At what point does the issue of gender require separate sides? The answer is simple: biology. However, this aspect only affects differences in using our biological functions, and cannot be used in feminism in terms of what is natural, and what is not. Professionally speaking, pushing a button at work can have nothing to do with having a penis or a vagina, or interactions of these body parts. In the contemporary sense, our biological aspects are fundamentally separate from our social, professional lives. Men are on average stronger than women as a biological fact, and let us say they carry boxes. There is nothing preventing a woman from carrying a box. Maybe she will be carrying a smaller box, but biology is not a “fundamental” problem here. Biology, including the case of hormones that shape our behavior to some extent, is the only thing that separates men from women, if we are talking about “nature”, but humanity is even beyond that. Women bear children, they breastfeed their children, but this does not mean they are “built for being mothers”. Two problems: they can choose to be mothers or not, and they might not need this biological “difference” with the advancements in technology in the future. So, even hormones or basic physiological differences can be evaded in this era, especially in the following era. Again, “so”, we are talking about the probability that even the only thing separating genders will vanish in the future, why not start acting now? In “my” opinion, it is safe to assume that are no “sides” in this argument. For the issue of guilt, we will keep it short. We are investigating the issues around us with strict logic based on rationalism, at least we are trying to. Are we, as a species, perfectly accurate and rational in our decisions? Can we say that we are all “perfectly” separate from each other, therefore the society in our behaviors? So, can we actually be perfectly guilty or perfectly innocent in any matter?

Hence, we are faced with many different definitions of feminism. These definitions change according to each person, each era, etc. Most importantly, we define feminism not only as individuals, but also as separate societies, or a whole, collective one. So, there cannot be a right or a wrong answer here considering the understanding. We are just trying to take a single assumption that men and women are, and should be, or at least will be equal in all aspects as a basis, and reach conclusions. For all the above matters, there is, or there cannot be any sides or guilt in this argument, and even if we assume there are sides for just the argument’s sake, all sides are equally responsible for the problem, it such a problem exists, and such a problem cannot be solved by focusing on just one side or party, or “by” just one side or party in this matter. Consequently, feminism by definition can only be understood if it is not relative to any other value than equality, its application is not discriminative (which is against equality) and is free of guilt or sides based assumptions.


Yusuf Salman


This article was published on the aKDemia website on 17.08.2012. Here is a link to the original document:

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