I’m a bad modern-day feminist

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Akola Thompson

OCCASIONALLY, when I am short of things to do, I browse through the TED website and listen to talks on varyious issues. Last week I came across a TED talk by Roxane Gay titled: “Confessions of a bad feminist.”

It was a funny, thought-provoking talk up to the first three minutes, after which I realised that what she really meant was that she is a good “modern-day” feminist. She joked that when she was younger she “had strange ideas about feminists as being hairy, angry, man-hating, sex-hating women – as if those were bad things.”

Gay basically said that she is a ‘modern-day feminist’, as distinct from what you might presume is just a plain, regular feminist. One might be obliged to think that the two are not mutually exclusive, but I disagree. The current mainstream feminism as is seen and perpetuated by Gay and others I believe has thwarted the very ideals they were founded upon.

As such, feminism is often given a bad name, so that when one identifies as a feminist, people immediately think of you as being a man-hating, vitriol-spewing, angry lesbian. So, unfortunately, whenever I identify myself as a feminist now, I feel the need to make the distinction between the feminism I respect and the current branches of it now in popular culture. “No, no,” I’d say, “I’m not that man-hating, pitch-fork type, I’m the type that believes in the equality of the sexes. Yes, we still exist.”

Modern-day feminism has, in my opinion, become extremely narrow-minded and dogmatic, very much like organised religion. Modern feminists have thwarted the ideals of feminism to sync with their own limited worldview, one that has spread through perpetuation via a mass and uncritical following.

In the media and even on my newsfeed, I see modern-day feminists throwing around the word “misogyny” very loosely. These days, a man smiling at a woman could be deemed as being chauvinistic. I am definitely not saying that misogyny is not real, because we have all had our encounters with it, but as a feminist, I do not feel the need to label every man a misogynist because of what another of his sex might have done. I do not see a smile as being belittling, but friendly. If he made rude mouth gestures then maybe he would earn that title.

At the rate modern-day feminism is going, I would not be surprised if I woke tomorrow and was greeted by an international debate stemming from some bourgeoisie soccer mom in New York stating that the gender signs on bathroom doors encourage separation of the sexes and, as such, we must do away with these archaic symbols. If we decide to eliminate the differences that make us men and women, what we are essentially doing is fabricating an ideology with absolutely no benefits.

Feminism taught me that men and women are equal in both rights and responsibilities. This means, if a woman rapes a man, she should be held to the same level of accountability as her male counterpart who rapes a woman. Therefore, when I hear of a man getting raped, my first reaction is not to suggest that he is a man and he probably wanted it, my first reaction is to suggest that the law books be changed to reflect our changing societies in which the definition of rape has widened.

It thought me that men must be included, as that is the only way we as a race can successfully move forward. That is why whenever I see, read or hear about modern feminism events, which were attended by a majority of women, I get bothered. There is no way we can further equality between the sexes if men feel as if they are excluded and merely see us an angry misandrists’ club.

Maybe what we need is a fourth wave of feminism. This will serve to wash away the deafening, wrong ideals of modern-day feminism, which refuses to step out of its comfort zone of university classes of gender studies and feminist groups.

We are becoming too aligned with on-the-surface feminism as those we revere seek to cement their fame further by standing for a popular cause. This was particularly seen with Beyoncé, a product of western masculine capitalism, who once performed in front of the word “feminist,” but has rarely ever done anything concrete that might reasonably suggest that she is an actual feminist.

I miss (and missed) the feminism that broke down barriers and allowed us into construction, allowed us to question the belief that women should not wear pants and allowed us to question levels of patriarchy.

Now, feminism has become a mission creep in which the new-agers have become obsessed with culture and how people think, speak and create. As a result, intolerance blossoms as they move into cultural realms in an attempt to remove barriers for women. It is a good demand, yes, to break down barriers for women, but when one tries to control and depict how art and culture reasonably depicts women, then this is an illiberal demand; one I do not believe they have the right to make and this has nothing to do with them being women.

Instead of trying to control cultural thoughts and creations as in music, paintings and so on, I want to see modern-day feminists go back to what they began advocating for. Fight for equal representation of women in parliament and in the government, fight against female mutilation and inequitable gender hiring. I want to see feminists fight against the forced trafficking of women, men and children. What I do not want them to do is fight for the silencing of men, because it is their belief that men have had their time to speak.