Why we need Feminism today

Some days ago, the police in Innsbruck, Austria, started to give away free pocket alarms to women and girls. The media reported about the campaign and focused on the safety of women and girls in public places.
The campaign is not bad, but the way it is advertised gives the impression that women are more vulnerable than men and need more protection. Although the news about crime in Innsbruck show that men are victims of robberies and violent crimes, too.
This example demonstrates how stereotypes about men and women influence our daily lives. And that’s exactly why we still need Feminism.

Feminism is not about hating men. Feminism is about equality. Feminists do not want to be superior or better than men. They want to be treated the same way as men.

Many men who are against feminism are afraid of losing their control over women. They are scared of losing their partners. They are worried about finding a job if women can apply for the same positions. They are unsure if their voices are heard as soon as women are allowed to share their opinions as well.

However, men’s loss of control over women is not an appropriate reason to stop women’s emancipation. In fact, the control is the biggest issue for women. I am not only talking about the control in intimate relationships. Who ever did some research about the hidden structures of a state, an economy , a society, or any system or organisation, can easily find out that all of them prioritize men.

One reason why these systems work is because there are still many powerful stereotypes associated with women. For instance, women are weaker than men. Therefore, they cannot defend themselves and thus, need men for protection. My example in the beginning only shows one incident in which this stereotype is reproduced. They mostly talk about the protection of women and girls in public places, not about the protection of men and women.

Protection and Masculinity

Protection and violence are very close related. During all conflicts and wars, men are responsible for the protection of their wives and family members. At least, this is what the state wants them to believe. Even though in reality, soldiers protect the state and the interests of a small elite. (but this is another topic)

Who suffers the most in wars? The women, elderly people and kids who are left behind. Many men do not return from the battlefields. This is not only sad, it often means that their wives and kids are not safe anymore, and unable to survive without the help of other family members, neighbors, or relief organisations. In most families, the wives and kids depend on the male family members financially. Without them, they lose everything.
My grandmother was in the same situation after WWII. She was pregnant and forced to flee from Silesia (Poland), a former territory of Germany. Her husband was imprisoned in Russia and could not help her at all.

If women are not emancipated, they depend on men. The outbreak of a conflict or war is the worst thing that can happen to them. Feminist organisations have documented that rape is a weapon of war. It is used to destroy the culture and purity of enemies.
Most rape survivors are female. If a woman survives a rape, she has to live with the physical and psychological wounds of this experience her entire life. Often she is perceived as impure after the crime, and gets stigmatized by her own society.

Masculinity and Right-wing nationalists

These days, right-wing nationalists want the re-awakening of Masculinity. What they mean is that men should become more powerful again, because their current behaviour is too feminime: too weak, too passive, too oppressed. In short, stereotypes about male behavior are used to legitimize hate speech, violence and unrest. At the same time, “female” behavior is seen as inappropriate.

The problem is that stereotypes are very powerful. Men and women are treated according to them in our societies.
For example, many politicians have called Angela Merkel “Mutti” while attacking her policies regarding refugees. Her behavior is perceived as too soft and welcoming, although everybody who has any kind of reasonable understanding of what kind of policies the German government introduced after the refugee influx in August 2015 cannot share this opinion at all. However, a “Mutti” or mother is perceived as too soft for the tough political world.
I personally have encountered people who think that I should not study Political Science because I am a woman. The political sphere is only for men …

Ironically, right-wing female politicians dislike Feminism, too. They want to re-install the bourgeoise ideal of a nuclear family. Women should return to the private sphere as mothers and housewives. At the same time, these female politicians want to remain in the public sphere and profit from the goals of the feminist movement.

In short, women who are not emancipated have to remain in the private sphere. Their voices are not heard and they have no protection. They cannot earn money and they cannot defend themselves.

Crime & the Private Sphere

Most violent crimes occur in the private sphere. Right-wing nationalists want us to believe that women only have to be afraid of aggressive and brutal immigrants in the public spheres. But it is not true!
Every woman is more likely to be abused and hurt by her husband or a family member than by any other person.

Giving away pocket alarms to women is a nice thing, but it does not prevent the unequal treatment of women. It only tells women that they are unsafe in the public sphere and that they have to deal with the consequences on their own. In the meantime, women’s behavior is seen as inappropriate. They should stay at home and let the men take over.

However, the reality shows that countries which take gender equality seriously are very safe. Examples are: Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Denmark.
They are less likely to go to war and the equal living conditions benefit the whole society.

In short, politicians who promote Masculinity have one goal: a violent and aggressive society. This is not only dangerous for women. It is dangerous for everybody who wants to live in a peaceful and safe world.

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34 thoughts on “Why we need Feminism today

  1. I think that you cannot talk about feminism without talking about class. And you cannot talk about class without talking about socialism. Life will only change for the majority of women and men if we create societies that are equal and involve all of us in power sharing at every level of society. I think the Kurdish women (and men) in Rojava totally understand this.See my review here https://lipsticksocialist.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/rojava-the-real-alternative-my-review-of-the-alternative-towards-a-new-progressive-politics-edited-by-lisa-nandy-mp-caroline-lucas-mp-and-chris-bowers-and-revolution-in-rojava-by-michael-k/
    solidarity

    • Thank you for your comment and the link. Your example of the Kurdish women shows how women can be part of a movement if they are treated equal, which is still not the case in most societies. In many European societies there is a big push-back by right-wing nationalists. I agree that class is very important. The Scandinavian countries are welfare societies and that makes them more just and peaceful. Of course, they are not perfect but at least they try to distribute the wealth so that everybody can benefit from it. As long as women are pushed back to the private sphere, they cannot get an education, earn a living and fight against injustice. I don’t think that the class issue can be solved without getting women out of the private sphere in the first place.

  2. Great article. I saw some stories on the internet last summer from America, about high school girls being sent home from school because their clothes were too revealing – skirts too short, necklines too low etc – and might distract the boys from their studies. However, the pictures shared showed that the clothes in question weren’t very revealing at all. At no point did there seem to be an expectation that the boys might have some responsibility to learn to control themselves. The pressure was all on the girls, some only 12 or 13 years old, and it was all down to them to not sexually tempt the boys.

  3. This is a difficult topic. I agree with many points, also with the ultimate goal to be treated equally as men and women, although I think that it’s still a long way to go and women might still need some “extra” protection on this way (e.g. a fix minimum quota of women in some professions).
    As to violence against women: yes, we need to educate both, girls and boys, how to treat each other in a nice way and what to do in case of violent behaviour. This will, hopefully, also help to reduce ignorance (many men are still unaware of the everyday problems and risks that a woman encounters in her life).

    • Thank you for your comment! I think there still needs a lot to be done to create a certain mindset about the advantage of the quota system. However, it works quite well in some organisations, for example green and socialist political parties. But I guess, the conservatives will do their best to keep the status quo alive.

  4. I think the part about the pocket alarms is very interesting. Sadly, yes, measures like these may be necessary in our societies right now. However, I had never thought about the way they portray women before. It’s the same in many campaigns I’ve seen which protect women…

    • Thank you for your comment. You are right, and I think most of the campaigns do actually have a different agenda as it may seem. The pocket alarms are also an instrument to keep the government’s budget for the police low.

  5. This post is very well thought out and concise. As a fellow feminist, I hear you! I will say that though I agree feminism is about equality between men and women, I have to say I agree with the concept of prioritizing women’s safety during this crucial and trying time. That’s not to say that I do not think women can defend themselves; that’s not to say that I do not think men are also victims. However, with inequality also comes higher risk towards certain populations. It would be ignorant and naive to not provide safety mechanisms for populations that are at higher risk. Wanting equality does not take away from the real problem of inequality. Wanting to destroy stereotypes does not take away the fact that it is more likely a woman will be attacked and raped in an alleyway than a man.

    I feel a lot of validation in your words, but it does not take away my fear. I speak a lot on this topic on my own blog. I would love to have more discussions with you thoughts on this topic! Great writing and wonderful points.

    • Thank you for your feedback! I will check out your blog for sure. You are right that there needs to be certain safety measures, but this one-sided view is not appropriate in this case. This whole debate about the safety of European women is being instrumentalized by populist and conservative parties. They want to save women from male immigrants, not men in general. This way, they harm women and migrant men at the sam time. The only group that really profits from this campaign are white men.

  6. Jen,
    You have put forth a concise description of feminism for those women who deny what a feminist is, who refuse to be labeled this way. You’ve put it in a social and present day political context that calls out why those in power are so afraid to speak to feminist issues and women who are not in power are afraid to claim feminist principles.

  7. Hi Jen,

    very interesting article! I’m quite new to wordpress and was looking for other feminist blogs, so I’m really glad that I stumbled over your post!

    I think right now the safety debate about women has become a big issue again. My parents always tell me to “take care of myself” when I go out – of course they were also worried about me before, but recently they don’t really like me going out anymore. But so what – would just staying at home save me from getting hurt? I hate being patronised and right now I feel that society is moving back to patriarchy.

    I’m actually from a town near Munich – although I live in London now – and some days ago a girl was raped at university there. When I heard about this, I felt really shocked and coudn’t think of anything else for a long time. It could have been one of my friends who study there – it could have been me. Then a big debate started because the rapist was described as “blonde and speaking German without any accent”. Ha, so what? People were surprised that it wasn’t an immigrant? Plus, what would have happened if he was? Probably “decent German men” would have protested that all refugees should be thrown out immediately because they threaten their “poor wifes and daughters”. But well, it was a German – so whom to blame now? I really feel sad when I see what is going on in the world right now.

    That’s also why I have started my blog. Maybe you want to take a look at it? Altough it’s still very fresh 😉 https://feministgossip.wordpress.com/

    • Hi Sabrina! Welcome to WordPress 🙂 I will check out your blog. Thanks for your feedback. I heard about the rape case in Munich university. It is very sad and terrible how people instrumentalize such incidents.
      I was also told many times that I should not go out alone in the evening or at night, but I think that staying at home does not make the world a safer place. I think men are as vulnerable as women, and this stereotyping of women as the weak sex does not help at all. We should claim our space in the public. And as you also pointed out, I think this debate about safety of women is very much driven by nationalistic men who blame immigrants for every crime and who want women to stay in private places.

  8. There’s certain areas where I agreed with you and certain areas where I disagree. Women are, on a statistical average, weaker than men. Women tend to be less aggressive than men. There are differences between the genders and I can’t say they’re equal. In some areas men excel while in some areas women excel. However, I agree with you and do believe that they should be treated equally. The problem with feminism as I see it, is two fold. One hand, it completely disregards and even mocks male problems such as high suicide rate as in the case and of York University protests, and on the other hand it claims to go around being synonymous with equality. Equality is a concept while feminism is a political movement. I may agree with the aim of feminism, which is equal treatment, but I may not agree with the way feminism attempts to achieve this aim.
    Feminism, especially third wave feminism, has resorted to nonsensical means and myths to spread their propaganda. The gender wage gap, which has been debunked multiple times, is spread by feminism to create a victim complex. Women are, at least in democratic countries, free to hold any job. I think feminism leads to spread of victim complex and makes women feel insecure.

    • Thanks for your constructive feedback. My article was about what you call the “victim complex.” For me, it is wrong to place women in the weaker position in general, and that’s what the one-sided safety campaign in Austria does. I don’t think that women are less aggressive than men. They just show it in different ways because that is what their parents and the society teach them.

  9. I totally agree. Feminism is EQUALITY and supporting a fair world. Superb post. Our blog page is on similar lines hope u like it too. 🙂 Do check it out. Thanks for inspiring us cheers.

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