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Why I am an egalitarian, not a feminist.

For quite a while now my facebook feed has been full of feminism. Feminist quotes, feminist videos, and memes showing why everyone regardless of whether they know it or not has to be a feminist if they believe in the equality of men and women. When you tell someone you’re not a feminist you are normally met with a bit of ridicule and a lot of patronising attitudes.

The Definition of Feminism

People will tell you that feminism means equality, so if you believe in equality you must be a feminist. If you deny this and  continue to say that whilst you do believe in equality you are not a feminist, the person you’re talking to either gives up on you entirely or just assumes that you don’t understand the definition of feminism in the first place. A lot of discussions don’t really go anywhere because the person you are talking to either assumes you don’t know the definition of feminism or they assume you have misinterpreted it. So just to clear something up let me bring up the definition of feminism as according to Google.

feminism

ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m/
noun
 1. the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
I am not saying feminists don’t believe in equality. The definition states that the aim of feminism is making women equal to men, not making them more powerful than men. The definition is not about taking away men’s rights, it is about giving rights to women. Some feminists do hate men and some feminists believe women should do away with them entirely, but crazy ideas and crazy people exist in all ideologies and the majority of people who identify as feminists do not believe that.

So why aren’t you a feminist?

You may be wondering at this point what the hell my problem is. If I know that the majority of feminists believe in equality and I believe in equality then why won’t I just identify as a feminist? Well the answer is in the definition, it’s just not the conclusion most people seem to come to. The definition above states that feminism is the advocacy of making women equal to men, so that implies that men are equal in all areas and women are not equal in all areas and so in order to achieve equality we need to bring women up to the level of equality enjoyed by men.
I believe that society in the present day is not as black and white as that definition assumes. I believe that women are at a disadvantage and do experience inequality in some areas of life, and I also believe that men experience inequality and are at a disadvantage in other areas of life. I do not believe men have the advantage in all areas and so I do not believe equality can be achieved by making women equal to men when in some areas they may actually be better off than men. Therefore I believe equality has to be achieved by looking at the issues that affect women and the issues that affect men.

Equality works both ways

I’m a little short on time at the moment and I will bring in detailed examples in a separate post a bit later on but some of the areas I am thinking about includes:
The disproportion rate of suicide in men, that fact that although male victims can make up as much as 40% of domestic abuse statistics they are still not taken seriously, the fact that men are often given harsher sentences for the same crimes whereas women tend to be treated more leniently, the fact that whether a man wanted a child or not he will have to pay child maintenance for the next 16+ years and still be called a deadbeat father.

The fact that men are more likely to be victims of physical violence and yet feminists claim men feel so much safer walking the streets at night. The fact that white working class males are now actually the social group that is least likely to succeed in school and go to university whereas female students up and down the country now outperform their male counterparts and yet white males are still constantly told they are the most privileged group in society. The fact that prostate cancer does not get anywhere near the same publicity or funding as breast cancer. The fact that there are far, far less men’s shelters than there are shelters for women and children even though men are more likely to become homeless in this country.

Feminists often say that they fight for men’s rights as well as women’s rights, and I am sure to some extent that is true. However what I tend to see is that when feminists talk about how feminism can help men it is still on female terms. Men will benefit because gender stereotypes will be pushed aside and men will be able to be emotional, these ideas of gender roles will be destroyed so that men can stay at home and take care of the children etc. This is certainly true for some men, but I do not believe all of men’s problems would be solved if they were allowed to be like women any more than I think the only way for women to succeed is if they act like men.

‘Toxic Masculinity’

A lot of the time there is this assumption that all of masculinity is in some way toxic and that femininity can cure society of all its problems. This idea exists because these days we see masculinity as a social construct rather than a biological fact. It is true that your upbringing, the society you live in, your parents, your friends and your childhood will influence your adult life, but when you talk about men and women you can’t just pretend biology doesn’t exist because if you do you are ignoring half the argument. The nature vs nurture debate is an old one and one that has never been fully proven either way,  yet now apparently sociological theories are no longer theories but more factual than biological science.
When you look into it it does appear that women and men  deal with emotions differently. Women are more likely to find comfort in talking about it and letting their emotions out, whereas men are more likely to do one of three things: try to solve the problem, get angry or try to avoid the situation if they don’t feel it can be solved. This is of course not 100% accurate and people do vary, but again and again I keep seeing evidence that men and women’s brains deal with emotions in different areas and women typically find it easier to verbalise their feelings whereas men are more likely to try to solve or avoid the issue at hand.
I am not a scientist but I have watched videos and read articles that keep saying the same things, and I am happy to provide links if anyone is interested.
If this is true, even if it is not true for everyone, the type of talking therapy that is currently available may not appeal to men as much as women because they don’t find talking about their feelings as helpful, in fact they may feel unable to and this may cause them greater distress.
It is all very well to say that men have been conditioned not to express themselves because of toxic masculinity, but if their brains are literally wired differently when it comes to communication and emotion then surely we should be focusing on finding mental health care that benefits both parties, not assuming that all mental health care that works for women would work for men if only they could get away from toxic masculinity and just open up.

Egalitarianism

The biggest problem I have with feminism as an ideology isn’t what it says or does. I agree with a lot of the things it says and some of the things it does. What I do have a problem with is this idea that you have to label yourself a feminist or you are automatically a bad person/a woman hater. When a woman says she is not a feminist she has ‘internalised the patriarchy’ and she is ‘hurting fellow women everywhere’ because she has chosen her own definition.

I don’t mind if you want to identify as a feminist as long as you are open to debate, so I don’t see why the same can’t apply to me or to other non-feminists.Time and time again I see people pushing this binary view of the world, this idea that you either have to be a feminist or you have to be a sexist and there is no way you could believe in equality without defining yourself as a feminist. This idea that ‘my group is all good and your group is all bad’ is a really simplistic and reductionist way of looking at the world, and it is not helpful for debate or any kind of progression.

Egalitarianism (from French égal, meaning “equal”)—or equalitarianism—is a trend of thought that favours equality for all people. Egalitarian doctrines maintain that all humans are equal in fundamental worth or social status, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

I am an egalitarian because the definition works for me. I am an egalitarian because I  don’t see the proof in this black and white all or nothing oppressor and oppressed way of thinking. And I am an egalitarian because I am not just concerned with male and female equality but equality across the board, and in some cases I feel other cases of inequality are simply more important at this time.

I fully support the first, second and third wave feminist movements that have taken place in the last 100 years because they did fight for inequality and at that time women were less equal than they are today. The right to vote, the right to control your own body and the move towards strong and interesting female characters in popular culture (i.e Buffy, Dark Angel, Xena etc) were all fantastic things that I fully support. But I feel fourth wave feminism often focuses on the wrong topics, goes about things the wrong way and alienates and denies anyone who disagrees with them regardless of what that person actually says. I feel that I can support equality between the sexes/genders without having to identify with a group I don’t feel comfortable with, and I don’t see why that should be a problem. That is why I am not a feminist, and in the next series of posts I’ll be looking at things like the gender pay gap, sexism, inequality and structural oppression and questioning if the progressives are as progressive as they think.