So, Feminism

Why is the idea that women and men should be treated equally and have access to the same opportunities so controversial?

I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately. Here is a powerful idea that is far from being realized, especially in male-dominated fields such as astronomy. Maybe it is a simple misunderstanding. Some folks define “feminism” quite differently than I did above, with some kind of vindictive screw-over-all-the-men undertone. What? That’s certainly not the feminism I stand for.

At this point, I should probably throw some shocking statistics at you to prove that advocating for feminism is necessary. But you’re a human being with a brain, and the internet is at your fingertips. If you can’t use those tools to learn how women have statistically-demonstrated more difficult lives than men in many ways, I think we’re done here.

Most recently, Emma Watson’s speech at the UN has been the focal point of many feminism discussions online. To put it kindly, some have been more productive than others. The not-blatantly-useless responses seem to broadly fall into two camps:

  1. This is fantastic, I’m so glad to have a well-known celebrity making a passionate and eloquent appeal for feminism worldwide, I’m genuinely excited about the HeForShe movement, and I think this is an important first step toward making the world a better place for both women and men.
  2. This isn’t terribly bad, but she kind of misses the point by suggesting men be the focal point of a new feminist movement, and this upsets me because real change toward any kind of equality must center on the marginalized group (women) and not the group that already has power and privilege (men).

Huh. Well, I agree with both of these.

I understand it is easy for marginalized groups to be ignored and undermined. We need more women, more minorities, and more folks from all manner of diverse backgrounds to have a voice in mainstream society. Doubly so if that voice is advocating for equality. It follows that men should not be the frontrunners in a movement about feminism.

At the same time, I believe we are all one human family. If one part is hurting (women), the rest cannot be whole. Maybe there will be short-term gains for the part that is less broken (men), but that is analogous to a runner saying, “my legs are so strong!” while suffering from a sprained ankle. Something has to give. The body suffers because all its parts are deeply connected.

So, feminism. Yes, men should join the fight for gender equality. But they must understand: it is not about them.

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