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|Here are some excerpts from Ashley's recent paper on
Anti-feminism in America!
Feminism is the belief that women and men should be equal socially, politically, and economically. Why is this ideology so hard for many Americans to identify with? It turns out there are many reasons—including those of cultural programming, ignorance and denial, definitions of femininity and masculinity, and a sense of duty and tradition. Historians’ research and writing provide an understanding. From a close reading of them, one can begin to glimpse an explanation.
PADDLING UPSTREAM - FIGHTING CULTURAL PROGRAMMING
Typical feminine attributes—compliance, peace-making, keeping up appearances, never complaining, adapting—do not a revolution make. Stereotyped customary expectations, held by men and internalized by women, are the cause of women’s disadvantages. These stereotypes are all around us, promoted through families, schools, mass media, and all other "agencies of socialization."
For instance, much of men’s sexual dominance and right of sex with women is taught to young children and teenagers as an inevitable truth. It is believed that men and post-pubescent boys cannot control their sexual drive and appetite, and furthermore should not be expected to be responsible for them. (Rich, 190) Most young women are warned by their fathers—in movies, in books, in real life—to be wary of young men because "they only want one thing."
IF THEY ONLY KNEW - IGNORANCE AND DENIAL
Some people do not want to think that the way they live their life and the decisions they make are political. Needing and supporting an ideology such as feminism--an ideology that seeks and defends changes in lifestyles and current cultural "realities"--forces those who subscribe to it to question whether they are as free as they currently think they are. It may be hard for many women to accept, however, that social pressure has shaped their decisions.
Barry discusses the role women have, along side men, in perpetuating a "male-identified" society. She defines "male-identification" as: internalizing the values of the colonizer and actively participating in carrying out the colonization of one’s self and one’s sex…male identification is the act whereby women place men above women, including themselves, in credibility, status, and importance in most situations, regardless of the comparative quality the women may bring to the situation…Interaction with women is seen as a lesser form of relating on every level. (Rich, 190)
Most women do not want to accept the above reality, because if it is true, then women have to acknowledge the hand they have had in ensuring their own cultural inferiority. Some women, unfortunately, also believe in men’s higher credibility, status, and importance. This is heart-breaking.
Categorizations of rape as "violence" and intercourse as "sex" by many Americans muddle the connection between sexuality and oppression, allowing people to be against the act of rape without considering the power play of dominance and submission that spill over into their own sex lives. (Rich, 187) In other words, they can think of themselves as socially conscious without calling themselves feminist.
WITHOUT FEMININITY, WHO AM I? - FEAR OF LOSING ONE’S IDENTITY
Women who are tied tightly to, and are protective of, their gender roles often do not understand that they can keep these roles while still subverting the power and domination men put over them. Men as a group exert power over women as a group, and the masculine and feminine roles that allow it are reproduced within smaller-scale relationships and activities. (Kimmel, 122) As the radical wing of the feminist movement contends, simply bucking sex roles and expectations is not enough. The power balance that enables oppression must end. (Connell, 34)
Some equate liberation with an abandoning of duties, a renunciation of obligation—mothers and housewives with a fierce sense of loyalty to those they serve and care for. They think feminism considers their life’s work—marriage, love, family, and children—as a restrictive burden. (DeHart & Matthews, 152) They assume that their role is under-valued by feminists. Further, they do not want to think of themselves as victims or as marginalized. (DeHart & Matthews, 155) They know the lives they lead take a lot of strength and dedication, and they do not want to be robbed of the credit they deserve. The sacrifices they make for hearth and home are all they have, and all they think they are good at. Equality will knock the imaginary pedestal out from under them, it would challenge their privileged status in the mythology of American culture. (DeHart & Matthews, 161) Women and men content and fulfilled with the state of their family and the roles played within it often see the plight of the feminist as a fix to her unhappy life, at the expense of bringing chaos in to the lives of others. (DeHart & Matthews, 153)
FEARING THE LOSS OF MASCULINE IDENTITY
Masculinity and femininity are relational—the definition of one depends on the definition of the other. (Kimmel, 122) This explains why many men feel threatened by women working to leave their traditional roles, or worse yet, redefine or alleviate such roles. Kimmel contends that because it is men who benefit from the historic and current definitions of masculinity and femininity, they are less likely to initiate changes in these definitions. (123-4) However, with every advance of the women’s movement, this is exactly what happens. The meaning of what it is to be a "real man" is altered. This makes it hard for men to ensure that they are maintaining their masculine characteristics. Masculinity, they have been taught, validates their existence—much like women are programmed to think that motherhood validates theirs. The confusion and doubt feminism causes in men is one reason for them to be against it.
After reading all the texts used to write this paper, it seems amazing that a feminist movement even exists, considering all it is up against. Being feminist, for a man or a woman, is truly like paddling upstream. Everything around us that has the ability to carry a message—television, teachers, billboards, and bosses—seem to be prescribing that against which feminists fight. Somehow, though, the women’s movement manages to win small battles here and there, and even a big one every once in awhile. Perhaps the historians cited and others like them will enable the women’s movement to get inside the enemy’s head, and maybe even change their mind.