I read a piece and saw a part of former president Bill Clinton’s recent interview that discussed his affair with Monica Lewinksy. It got me thinking about feminism and the general advancement of women’s rights towards equality and similar treatment to men. Now, I had a look around and came across this definition of feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Such a movement that emboldens this very definition is the MeToo movement. I’m not going to focus specifically on the movement, but rather on feminism at large.
Before I get there, I must say that I was rather surprised about Mr. Clinton’s response. It surprised me as there has been so much in the news about Harvey Weinstein’s recent arrest on sexual harassment allegations and others in politics who have had a similar fate. It’s unfortunate that we are still talking about men who inappropriately touch women or force themselves on women. Let’s agree on that — unwanted sexual advances have no place.
Now, I think the MeToo movement is an important cause, but it’s just that, a cause. Feminism in general is just a cause too. These movements or causes including feminism are not cultural shifts rooted in society to make a real difference.
The Seneca Falls Convention provided women the right to vote in the US and recently Saudi Arabia seems to give women more rights like driving, but they are again causes. Some, like Judge Judy Sheindlin, may argue differently. Judge Judy says during her interview with Katie Couric that “you define your own world.” Such a view seems to be a rebuttal to the very definition of feminism as she also mentions that she didn’t need a group to define her. Naturally, that is one opinion, but the opinion raised some questions for me — does feminism actually work and what about men’s involvement?
One could select various metrics and measures to determine the effectiveness of feminism. For this purpose, I will only focus on two with objective data. For example, let’s look at the number of female CEOs, specifically those at Fortune 500 companies. In 2018, there are 24 female CEOs at Fortune 500 companies. This number is lower when compared to last year. It doesn’t seem very positive for feminism.
A second metric is the salary parity between women and men. According to the World Economic Forum, a 2017 report shows the gender pay gap widening when compared to previous years:
We can immediately see by visual inspection that the gap is wider over the last decade starting in 2006. Of course, average earnings increased since 2006, but that doesn’t create a net increase in real wealth gained. That costs of living increased alongside the earnings to mute any associated salary increase.
Case against feminism
There are counterarguments to the feminist movement as whole. Two arguments against feminism are: 1) feminism has become too strict an ideology or 2) softened to the point of uselessness. Both arguments contradict each other and seem to suggest that some women who make a successful run are no longer affected by the feminist cause. They have made enough money such that issues such as gender pay gaps or lesser opportunities no longer apply or hold the same relevance.
On the flipside, Hillary Clinton once said that she chose to pursue a career then to stay at home to bake cookies. In the same breadth, her husband had an extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky as we all know. Such a person doesn’t seem to create any good cause for women’s rights as they are contradictory — slagging women who decide to make a career being a homemaker and having a husband who’s a cheater. Neither really seem to bode well or make the case for feminism.
Men’s involvement crucial
This part may be completely subjective, but I think it still needs to be said — men need to get more involved. Men need to empower women by clearing roadblocks. Part of clearing the roadblocks is supporting women in their education and giving them an opportunity. I’d like to think that most men are already involved and support the women in their lives, or they would like to get involved.
Here’s the problem: men still don’t get it. They don’t get that they need to be involved and that women are equal to them. I go back to Harvey and Bill, both two powerful men in their own capacities that don’t get it. They don’t have any remorse or any self-reflection on the consequences of their actions. The ‘power men culture’ has to change. Power men culture refers to powerful men loaded with money and even political power believe they can do whatever they want and get away with it — again Harvey and Bill. I harp on those two, but there are others — just have a look at Bill Cosby or even Al Franken.
I believe the power men culture gives a really bad rap to men who don’t do these kinds of things. It also sends the wrong signal to that men are chauvinistic pigs who don’t appreciate the contributions that women have made. Once again, it’s about working on educating men to help them understand diversity promotes results and good albeit difficult to manage in the beginning.
In addition, millennial men seemingly prefer to have stay at home wives, but that doesn’t necessarily take root concretely. Millennial women are outpacing their peers in school and university. As a result, it’s important that millennial men continue to work towards supporting their female peers even though they are not excelling as fast. There is the danger that this could incite a backlash where millennial men do not advocate for similar rights as they may feel inferior to their female peers. Some suggest that we may only see the Gen Zer that promotes equality between men and women.
Cultural shift in men’s feminist view
Now I fully acknowledge this may ruffle a few feathers, but I’ll say it anyway — women shouldn’t be babied and felt sorry for. It’s true that women should be protected, because we have laws and a court system, that when functioning correctly, goes through its due process. Women need to be supported to fight on their own but they don’t need to be carried on hand and foot. Men should continuously support their female counterparts and continuously advocate for equality. In doing so, it’s important to accept that women may perform a certain task or activity better than men do.
Moving forward, we should continue to increase opportunities for both sexes specifically for women. Any difference in payment or opportunity should happen due to skills, experience, or other factors, but not on gender. Naturally, some jobs or tasks may not be suitable to one gender or the other, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the other couldn’t try it.
Feminism in itself should not remove men or exclude them, but it must include them as men should be involved to be the biggest advocates of women around them.