An interesting discussion with my parents tonight started a train of thought about the unintended consequences of the feminist movement. I admit that I am not a feminist scholar. Nor do I have a degree in the subject. But I am a woman living in a world that has been affected by the movement, therefore I have some perception about how feminism has affected me, my mother, my grandmother, my daughter and most especially the men in my life. It was going to be one article but I write like I talk (too much) so now this is part one of a series of articles on the topic.
Firstly let me state that I think the feminist movement was an essential development in our society and I would never wish it back. I’m not only glad it happened I’m grateful to the many women who fought for the rights I take for granted today.
The feminist movement gave us-
- Right to property
- Rights to higher education
- The perception of equality
- And many more things
We’re still working on-
- Equal pay
- Equal distribution of household chores
- Equal positions of power
In the hundred plus years of women striving for equal rights, and in a post third wave world, what exactly are we left with?
The Emasculation of Men.
I think feminisms single greatest unintended consequence was that of the emasculation of men. No matter what they do, men can’t get it right. And its not all their fault. Firstly, no two women will tell you the same thing about what they expect from men. Are men supposed to be strong, handsome providers? Or intelligent, understanding partners? Both? Are they supposed to open the door for you? Treat you like a lady or treat you as an equal?
There’s a billion dollar industry in ‘relationship self help’ books simply because no one knows where the lines are any more. Lots of couples work it out between themselves and have happy marriages (though only half our marriages work out in the long run these days) but as a society no one has a clue. What do fathers tell their sons about how to woo women these days. Is there any wooing going on anymore?
When I say emasculation of men I mean it. Men aren’t really appreciated for being men anymore. Women seem to want just a male version of themselves. Men don’t seem to have that problem. Where men see women as The Great Unsolved Mystery, women see men as In Need of Housebreaking. If we can just train them to please us then all will be well. And for the most part, men seem to go along with this. Men don’t need to understand women as much as we need to “fix” them. But this is just in personal relationships.
In the bigger scheme of things it’s a bit like the male half of the species is staring over at the female half of the species bewildered by the plethora of feminine opinion. Women who just want to be loved and treasured, women who want to be treated as equal, women who can go toe to toe with any guy over any thing, women who can do anything better then any guy, women who will shoot you down with icy stares if you dare to help, women who will be offended if you don’t help… well the list goes on and on.
Men do still have the lions share of the power in the world. At least in as far as top jobs and positions of influence. But I sometimes wonder if they keep those jobs for themselves so that they don’t have to try and walk the minefield of dealing with women in those jobs. What if the woman you are trying to negotiate a peace treaty with is one of those ones who expects you to open the door for her? What if she isn’t? Sure its just small things, and yes, women can do any job as well as any man, BUT if you are a man, I don’t doubt that it must be stressful trying to decide just what type of woman it is you are dealing with. And when you are in an already highly stressful situation, it must just make it all that much harder.
The bottom-line is there are no clear cut rules of etiquette anymore. Men do not know where they stand and we women can’t tell them because its different for each and every one of us. These leaves men vulnerable and unable to truly be themselves until the work out which type of women he’s dealing with. Men need the rules, and frankly, so do women. Without them there is way too much uncertainty and too many hurt feelings on the part of both men and women. And its not a problem that can be solved with any self help books. This is something society needs to decide. A consensus of etiquette.
Another aspect of this problem is the distance that is being created between men and children. Any interest a man shows in a child is viewed suspiciously. This is a tragedy. Especially in a culture in which so many children are growing up without fathers being a daily part of their lives. Kids need men. Little girls need to experience the love of their fathers- through it they learn about what they expect future partners to treat them like. Boys need men as role models. They need men to be rough and tumble with, and to teach them what being a man is all about. They need grandfathers to teach them stories, to whittle pieces of wood, make billy-carts the whole works. But these days men seem more and more reluctant to get involved for fear of being seen as a pedophile. This is especially the case for men who see children around them, in their neighborhoods, who they could share with and teach stuff to who are prevented from making any overtures for fear of being seen as “creepy”. One single father I know told me how he was reluctant to show his daughter too much affection in case it was “seen the wrong way”. Leaving her wondering what she had done wrong.
I blame this phenomenon on feminism because women are the safety conscious ones. We will go out of our way to prevent anything bad happening to our children. In and of itself this is not a bad thing. But its being taken too far. In trying to prevent our children from being sexually abused by pedophiles we are robbing all men of a trust they deserve until proven guilty. 99.9% of men are just as caring, loving and protective of our children as women are and to demonize all of them for the sickness of a few is wrong. Sure, it’s a scary world we live in, which is precisely why we need men of all shapes, sizes and roles in the lives of our kids. How else are they supposed to learn? And we need men now, more then ever because of the complexities facing our young people. Boys need to learn from older men’s experiences with women if they are to have a hope in hell in working us out. Girls need to learn from men about how to interact with the opposite sex.
So one of unintended consequences of feminism has been to distance us and our children from men. In striving to come out from under the thumb of male dominance we have been left in the cold of the Great Divide. Women and children on one side and men on the other. Most of us desperately want what’s on the other side, but we don’t know either how to get there or what to do once we arrive. Hopefully it’s a temporary glitch in the system. Hopefully we can find a new way to relate to each other that is beyond “me Tarzan, youJane” and beyond the confusion we exist in at the moment. Hopefully we can move beyond paranoia about the role of men in the lives of our children and give men back the power of fatherhood, grandfatherhood, and positive male role modeling. Hopefully, we women can learn to give men a break.
Originally Published on Rusty Lime 7th July 2008