There’s some truth in the ‘lesbian man-hater’ image of feminism. Before I come under fire for stereotyping feminists, I am not saying that it’s true. But that there are reasons behind these accusations. As a male feminist, I’m in a unique position to pick up on it. The fact that I feel the same reverence for women as other feminists, since self-identifying as such, is indicative of the beauty of feminism.
Feminism has made me love women more, it has to be said. The woman made popular by feminism, the powerful, independent, unconventional type, appeals to me more. But it has also allowed me to understand the full range of issues affecting women’s lives: contraception, abortion, body image, domestic violence, gender roles, the sex industry, the lot. It has taught me that women are defined by their adherence or rejection of countless rules set by society.
Feminism teaches us that women are amazing. Not only are they works of visual art, as artists throughout history and even straight women today will testify, they are also people of courage. Perhaps as a result of our society’s obsession with motherhood, they are caring souls unbound by the emotional straight-jacket of masculinity. Taking into consideration the feminist ambivalence toward men because of how damaging hyper-masculine culture is, it is no coincidence that straight feminists seem to prefer the company of other women.
Since the ‘lesbian man-haters’ accusation is often posed by ignorant straight men, I think it’s safe to attribute it to the unconventional nature of feminist women as well. In an answer to this question yesterday, I talked about how women are punished for straying from convention. To be less feminine is to be a man, to reject chivalry and passivity is to be a lesbian. As the popular Rebecca West quote goes, “people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat”.
Rejecting a life as a doormat, it seems, is grounds to question the sexuality and gender of a person. This really shows how deeply ingrained our attitudes about women’s place in society is: a boy who speaks up in class is assertive, a girl who speaks up in class is a nuisance. The question linked to above really explores this idea of keeping women in their place by placing negative connotations when they participate in otherwise positive masculine behaviours.
Women are the key to a fairer society. When feminists push for more women in parliament, it is not because they are trying to push women into politics when they don’t want to be there. It’s because parliaments with a larger female representation, such as Rwanda’s legendary 56%, have more women’s issues on the agenda. In my post about the ‘man-hater’ side of the accusation, I talked about how women are the victims of most of the gender inequality in society, and this is another reason feminists focus on women.
Feminists seem like lesbians because they love women. They appreciate everything women have gone through, and seek to join together all women from all backgrounds to unite against their oppression. Though my definition of feminism is usually one to eliminate all gender equality, the reason I call myself a feminist rather than an ‘equalist’ or some other such inanity is that I really believe this is about the power of women, and the struggle of women to become as powerful in society as they are in our hearts and minds.
Feminism has undone so much brain-washing for me. While FHM might have taught me to see women as sex objects, inanimate playthings of the male imagination, I have learnt to see women as complete people. As I said in my old post Heart and Soul, I really do value people down to their core.
Women are beautiful, but they have such a hell of a lot of personal value besides.
See the ‘man-hater’ part of this post here.