The future of feminism may be in jeopardy. Feminism used to be defined as a forward-thinking movement for equality of the sexes, but modern day feminism has earned a pretty abysmal reputation. Today, feminists are widely considered to be little more than petty man haters and there is plenty of evidence to support that impression. As feminists continue to divide upon and debate over the various issues that society faces today, their collective cooperation and collaboration continue to dwindle. Tens of thousands of women have abandoned the movement altogether, and many even consider themselves to be “anti-feminist.”
Modern day feminists disagree on a number of issues: race, gender issues, the wage gap, and most recently, sexual violence. But does this separation of ideals prevent future feminists from finding common ground?
Even veteran feminists are starting to question the violent shift in the proverbial wind. Margaret Atwood, whose novels have found a recent resurgence in popularity in the media via the critically acclaimed miniseries, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the novel originally published in 1985, and subsequently the adaptation of her novel Alias Grace, circa 1996, has recently made headlines for a much less popular reason. Margaret Atwood, who has been an icon for strong and intelligent women for decades, deigned to question modern day feminism in an article in The Globe and Mail, and as a result, found herself unceremoniously lambasted by feminists everywhere.
In her article, Am I a Bad Feminist, she questions the recent stance that men in the spotlight – namely, men in power – are guilty before proven innocent. She admits in this beautifully penned article that she did sign a petition in 2016 requesting that the
“University of British Columbia [be held] accountable for its failed process in its treatment of one of its former employees, Steven Galloway, the former chair of the department of creative writing, as well as its treatment of those who became ancillary complainants in the case.”
Before there was an inquiry, there was national media attention, and Professor Galloway was painted as a villain. This rubbed Atwood the wrong way.
“The public – including me – was left with the impression that this man was a violent serial rapist, and everyone was free to attack him publicly, since under the [confidentiality] agreement he had signed, he couldn’t say anything to defend himself. A barrage of invective followed.”
Ever since those inquisitive, curious, natural words were published, Atwood has faced public shaming and ridicule – simply for asking whether hanging before questioning was the right way to go.
Feminism: A Grey Area
This type of lawsuit is all too common these days and it is a confusing time. We logically can’t know for sure who is telling the truth and who is telling a lie, but both sides seem to cling fiercely to their stories. The Weinsteins, the Mastersons, and even the Cosbys of the world are causes for confusion – there are just so many stories.
Who, then, are we to believe?
It is clear that survivors of sexual assault need to be heard in order for justice to prevail. But inquiring minds must know – are we meant to believe blindly and without proof? Should inquiries not take place before people’s lives are forever destroyed?
And even when powerful men are convicted in court after the evidence and witnesses provide proof beyond reasonable doubt, even then sometimes dangerous men only get a few months in prison. What incentive does that provide to survivors to tell their extremely personal and embarrassing tales to help bring justice for those who have, for whatever reason, lost their voices?
It’s a confusing and frustrating time. But. You know what? Feminists still have powerful allies.
Kickstarted by the well-known UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women, Emma Watson, in 2014 at an event for the HeForShe campaign, men and boys began to be encouraged and welcomed into one of the world’s strictest clubs – feminism.
“Initially we were asking the question, ‘Do men care about gender equality?’ and we found out that they do care” – Elizabeth Nyamayaro, senior adviser to the executive director of UN Women.
The movement pledged to have one million men and boys take the pledge to stand with women for equality by July 2015 – a figure that was disappointingly not met.
Perhaps men need additional encouragement – perhaps they needed to feel less like the enemy. Perhaps men have been cornered and accused one too many times and have collectively retreated back to their hunter/gatherer instincts that have always served them well.
Perhaps it is partially our fault.
Whatever the reason, it is encouraging to know that there are men in the world who support feminism and the idea that equality is important. We, as women, need to embrace and support our newfound, unlikely allies, rather than belittle and reject them -especially when they are finally trying.
Equality: It’s Not Pie
There are feminists who need to realize that equal rights for women do not mean fewer rights. When women were finally allowed the right to vote, it merely shifted the political climate – it didn’t destroy it. It was about sharing and equality.
As time flies forward and political movements, including feminism, adapt and shift with the change in political tides, we have to adapt along with them. More and more men will join the cause, and feminism will be lost to future generations if we don’t nurture it and encourage it to embrace kindness and inclusion once more. The simplistic days of early feminism are inspiring – we need to re-harness that energy and that unified goal and strive for it with the same gusto that we used to. Then and only then can the future of feminism be secured.
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