By Edwardo Lovo
“Why are you a feminist?” I’m often asked, after revealing that I am one. The need to ask the question expresses that someone needs a justification to be a feminist; the onus is on the feminist to exonerate their feminism. The question that should be asked is, “Why aren’t you a feminist?”
Do you believe in sexism? Do you believe in discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, age, and class? Do you believe in an inequality between people based on arbitrary characteristics? That is, do you believe they exist? Do you believe in promoting these things? These questions are intended to be rhetorical, and I ask you, dear reader, to consider more fully why you aren’t a feminist.
Feminism is a movement against the oppression of women, but it doesn’t merely take a stance against systematic sexism. Society has complicated human beings by structuring all its individuals into multiple categories; we don’t merely fall into a single category, such as men and women, but fall under a variety: social class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. So, women can fall under any of these categories, and for feminism to be a movement against the oppression of women, it must be a movement against all of the intersecting systems of oppression.
Feminists are stereotyped as man-haters, as being all women, as being lesbians, as being hairy. Well, I’m not a woman, for this reason I don’t think I can count myself as a lesbian, I’m too narcissistic to hate myself—and, hey, I shave sometimes.
I acknowledge that I am writing from a male perspective, and I do not intend to speak on behalf of women, but as a self-identified feminist. How, as a man, am I affected by systematic sexism? And, for the non-believers, is there systematic sexism?
Patriarchy is an oppressive system that imposes norms on men and women—promoting an imbalance of power relations that favour men. To serve you one example, women are given the contradictory expectations to be sexual and not sexual. On the one hand, women who don’t accept his advances anger a man. On the other, a woman is degraded for being promiscuous by being shamed by negative labels, whereas a promiscuous man is praised for his “success”.
In a workshop on racism held by the Human Rights and Equity Services, the speaker Dr. Gary Dumbrill reported on his experiences being raised in the ranks of the work force. He noted that as he raised the ranks he noticed fewer women as his colleagues and that this is cause for reflection. It reflects an imbalance of power between men and women, where men are placed in the higher echelons of the work force.
Clearly, something is wrong, and these are problems that cannot be dismissed offhandedly by claiming that there is no inequality between the sexes.
For men especially it is difficult to see the inequality, as we are the privileged in this oppressive relationship. But after removing the blindfold to the cited facts above (and countless other visible effects of varied forms of oppression) the question that faces each and every one of us is, “Why aren’t you a feminist?”