If you know me, even tangentially, you know I identify as a feminist. Why? Because despite U.S. women earning more money than ever before, holding more seats in congress, and having more egalitarian romantic relationships, we are STILL:
- 1 in 6 women are raped in their lifetimes.
- Grossly underpaid: Asian women earn 97% of what white men earn, resulting in a pay gap of just 3%. White women earn 79% of what white men do, while black women earn 67% and Hispanic women earn 58%.
-Women still do the bulk of emotional labor, which is unpaid and goes largely unnoticed. Moreover, we routinely undertake the arduous labor of convincing men that sexism does, in fact, exist.
I was recently listening to Pete Holmes's You Made It Weird podcast, in which he interviewed Bo Burnham. Burnham said something along the lines of, "If an entire group of people share the same experience, it's probably true." Meaning, that if minorities across the U.S. experience racism, who is anyone to deny its existence? If half the population experiences sexism, who can blithely deny our collective lived experience?
Because I feel so strongly about feminism, I wanted to learn why other people might not feel the same way. I interviewed two individuals (at separate times): one man and one woman. They agreed to go by their first names, Kevin and Sarah.
What do you think feminism is?
Kevin: "I think it's about women being equal with men, and having empowerment in themselves. I believe in women's rights, I just never classified myself as a feminist."
Sarah: "I believe in the core of feminism, that all people should have the same opportunities. But I think that the 3rd Wave of Feminism, that we're currently in, was supposed to be for people of color but it's lost that. Feminism has gravitated away from this and become less inclusive."
Why don't you identify as a feminist? Kevin: "Honestly, I've never really thought about it. And actually, my mom raised me and my sister by herself, and I've always thought of them as equal to or better than me."
That's interesting; you were surrounded by strong women. Do you know about emotional labor? What are your thoughts about it?
"I mean, emotional labor makes sense. In my last relationship, we would fight over household tasks. She was studying for her masters, taking care of our baby and still felt like she should be managing the household. But where I live, there are very traditional gender roles in place. For example, my grandmother owned a business and hired a woman to clean her house. But before the cleaning person came, she had all her grandchildren come and clean the house because presentation was so important to her."
Sarah: "I don't have to believe what the new wave of feminism has to offer. Women can do so many things that men can't do and vice versa. We are more nurturing by nature. I mean, we give birth. And men have more testosterone, which makes them more aggressive and more apt to take control. And, women are more privileged in certain ways in healthcare. There are clinics just for women, but none just for men. Really, I don't want to say I'm a feminist because I want to be supportive of both genders and both sexes."
Do you think that religion reinforces traditional gender roles that might be sexist? Or how do you think religion influences feminism? Kevin: "I can actually see how that might be true here. Everyone knows what people are doing behind closed doors, as far as domestic abuse, but we all go to church on Sunday and it's all widely ignored. In my line of work, one of the hardest things is going to the same household and dealing with the same domestic violence problems. I think sometimes they [women] stay because they're afraid of being alone. One woman actually said, "I'd rather be with him than be alone." And the culture here might have something to do with it, because often the men who abuse these women put on face outside the home and abuse them behind closed doors. When a couple breaks up, everyone kind of punishes the woman for cheating or something else. She gets the blame. I'm not sure if that's due to religion, but it's part of the culture here."
Sarah: "I don't support abortion from a religious standpoint, and I don't support the public funding of birth control from a religious standpoint. I feel like these beliefs sort of ostracize me from mainstream feminists. And I don't think traditional gender roles should be demonized either. I do eventually want a husband who earns more money than me, and I do want to stay home and raise my kids. And there's nothing wrong with that."
Any last thoughts about why you don't agree with modern feminism?
Kevin: In my life and profession, women are equal to us. They get paid the same, they go through the same academy. In my personal life, my mom was a teacher and my dad was a construction worker so they both provided for me and my sister. What's hard for me is categorizing myself any way. I claim the democratic ticket, but I agree with things on both sides. So it's hard for me to say that I'm either this or that, I guess that's why I don't define myself that way. I don't think I'm better than anyone else, I think we're all equal. I think there are things some women (or men) can do better than me, and vice versa. "
Sarah: "Have you heard of Goop? It targets rich white women, in the same way mainstream feminism does. Alternative medicine is targeted to them also, and it's depicted as this ideal of health. The problem is that it's expensive and not feasible for most women. And on social media, alternative health is pimped out as if those who adhere to it health warriors and it's just not true. I think Goop summarizes what's wrong with feminism right now."
P.S. Drop me a line with your thoughts about feminism!