Feminism's other side
Last issue’s article “The feminism schism” [Dec. 1] was deeply problematic. Not only are there issues with the truth and logic, but the author is also perpetuating inaccurate and damaging ideas about feminism.
The author, Nour Afara, begins by incorrectly arguing that feminists believe that men and women are “the same.” Men and women are, of course, different, physical differences being the most obvious, and feminists openly acknowledge this. But she twists logic to fabricate an argument against feminism. She uses the premise that men and women are different to argue that the two sexes are not, should not and cannot be equal. She says, “the idea that males and females in our society can be equal is just a fairytale, an impossible notion, and quite frankly something that should not happen.”
Afara seems to be confusing differences between males and females with grounds for equal rights. Just because men and women are different does not mean that they should be given unequal treatment, opportunities and rights. I am not arguing that men and women can or will do all of the same things, but rather that institutional, legal, social and normative frameworks in our society should treat both men and women fairly.
A problem throughout Afara’s article is that she takes obscure (and some invented) notions in radical feminism and uses them to dismiss feminism in one fell swoop. She fails to acknowledge that feminism includes a collection of movements that works toward equal political, economic and social rights and opportunities. Feminist views range from liberal feminism to Marxist feminism, post-modern feminism and Islamic feminism. She picks on radical feminism instead of recognizing the spectrum of feminist views. Moreover, she does not acknowledge some powerful aspects of radical feminism like consciousness-raising practices, which allow women to discuss the implications of patriarchy in their lives. Not everyone agrees with every tenet in radical feminism, but Afara’s interpretation is inaccurate and, in some instances, just plain false.
The author tries to support her argument against feminism by referring to “bra burning” in the 1960s. First of all, bra burning never actually happened. It is an urban legend, and one that is used by opponents of the feminist movement to create an image of feminists as eager to shock the public by using their sexuality. Anti-feminist regularly use “bra burning” to trivialize and discredit feminist movements.
She goes on to say, “Too bad they didn’t know a fellow woman invented the bra.” It’s a debateable statement at best. Some trace the origins of the bra to Henry S. Lesher in 1859, who preceded prototypes developed by women. But more significantly, the author is missing the point. Even if a woman invented the bra, it does not mean that all women want to wear one.
What is important is that women have the agency to make their own decisions, from what to wear, to what career to pursue. It is not the act of wearing or not wearing a bra that makes a woman liberated. It is having the social and legal freedom to make this decision. What is significant is whether the woman is acting on her own agency, dressing the way she deems appropriate and the way she feels comfortable. A man’s perspective is not the standard here. Liberation means that a woman is deciding her actions based on her own values.
While arguing that women’s liberation should not be judged based on male standards, I do not reject the role of men in feminism. Afara says that “men [a]re seen as awful beings who think only of sex and rape, and decide on a woman’s behalf if she’s allowed to have an abortion or not.”
This is not my sense of feminism, nor is it prevailing perspective among many. Men have been among the strongest feminists, from John Stewart Mill to a large number of males on our campus who identify as feminists.
This was published in the same week as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. When the author propagates misleading information about feminism, she is complicit in spreading such harmful, anti-feminist ideas.