This is Not a Battle of the Sexes
My Fight Is Against the Patriarchy, Not Against Men
Feminism is not a battle of the sexes. It never has been.
Feminism is the fight against a rigid system of gender norms that dictate who we can be, and then places one entire half of the population as inferior to the other.
As a feminist, my fight is not against men, but against a patriarchal system that keeps women oppressed for the benefit of men — whilst creating such strict gender norms that neither girls nor guys can actually be happy with the situation as it is.
I am not a man-hater. I do not resent men for having being born to a position of privilege over women — they did not ask for it any more than I did. The only thing I will call out is when men’s behaviour continues to perpetuate the system. Because at the end of the day, how things are isn’t anyone’s fault but how things can be is the responsibility of each and every one of us. A system is made up of individuals, nothing more.
I feel it necessary to write this piece as a reminder that, when I denounce sexism or sexist behaviours, I am not attacking men.
Some friends and acquaintances have recently been offended by my feminism, telling me they felt personally attacked. Now, a few of them were clearly just using this excuse to bring the attention back to themselves. Playing the victim is a good way to put an end to all conversation and bring the focus back to you, even when you were the one in the wrong. Suddenly you find yourself comforting someone for having called them a creep, even though the real problem is that they had been consistently sexualizing you throughout your conversation and getting a little too touchy even after you had clearly laid out boundaries.
But let’s assume some men make this argument in good faith. As much as I hate having to take time out of actually fighting against all the horrible things that happen to women so as to comfort men who are devastated at the suggestion they might be horrible, I feel like there is very little chance of making progress if this fight is seen as a men vs. women kind of a fight.
For starters, the idea of a battle of the sexes reinforces the notion of biological sex as being determinating in our identities. Our gendered identities are not linked to our genitalia on an individual level, and on a social level, the characteristics we associate with each gender do not stem from biological, anatomical differences but from cultural norms. Seeing the fight against sexism as a man vs. woman fight reinforces a gendered polarity I would rather see disappear. It strengthens the idea that men and women are radically different beings by nature, that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and that we can barely understand each other across our interplanetary gulf.
We are not so different, and the strict gender codes we abide by screw up all our lives, men and women.
Sometimes, feminists will denounce behaviours men have been taught are normal. This doesn’t mean we hate men inherently. It just means we need to change some of the ways in which we treat each other. I, and other feminists, resent the normalised behaviours that men are taught and which are harmful to women. The ones that contribute to the patriarchy. We hate men that perpetuate violence. We don’t hate men, and some “male” qualities we want everyone to be able to benefit from — confidence, ability to assert oneself, things that, ironically, women need more than men, but that we have been prevented from learning.
In a post-patriarchal world, men will see the benefits, too. They won’t have to pay for dates or complain about the principle of “ladies nights,” they won’t be able to whine about how much easier it is for women to get laid than men, because women will be able to have more sex without stigma or fear of assault. Men will be able to cry and express emotions, men’s depression and anxiety will be treated, rape of men will be taken seriously.
But let’s face it, the end of sexism won’t be all good for guys. Returning from an unjust situation to a just one will require stripping men of unfair advantages. Removing privilege will appear like an injustice. The advantages of privileged groups are invisible because they are built into the system, restoring justice will require giving non-privileged groups advantages that will be visible because they will clash with the system. Like in the case of affirmative action, this will feel to many in the dominant group like an injustice. Bringing down the patriarchy won’t be comfortable for men.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it, because, let’s face it, no one is comfortable right now. Women might have the rougher deal but sexism sucks for everyone.