How Sexist Feminism Hurts Feminists

I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember.

I hate to say it, but I’m a man-made feminist. Truth be told, we all are, which is particularly frustrating to admit. However, if true equity existed between the sexes, feminism would be useless.

Like so many others, I am a feminist because I grew up in a patriarchy, a world built by men and for men. We have seen men and boys have the edge at just about every turn because they were the ones who were able to lay the foundations of our societies. And sadly, many women have also been victims of violence, abuse and exploitation by men. For them, feminism is not optional, it is survival.

So why is the feminist movement at odds? At a time when diverse groups of people who experience discrimination are joining forces, supporting each other, and weaving different lived experiences together to create a stronger thread, we often feel that many of us are alone, knotted inside because of what other factions of the women’s movement call ‘liberation’.

Here’s the thing, I get it. I myself have embraced many of these alternative and very popular versions of female empowerment. The moment I snuck my first Cosmopolitan magazine, everything changed for me. I flipped through glossy pages of airbrushed images of women no one could ever look like (not even the women in the pictures themselves), and once the magazine had my self-esteem plummeting where they wanted, pages of product advertisements followed. promising to help the reader reach those unattainable standards.

And then the icing on the cake: once we readers felt utterly downcast, realizing that no amount of cleansers, self-tanners, teeth whiteners, or diets could make us look like those images at the airbrush, they hit us with the mortal blow. At least 10 pages of sex tips and tricks and ways to “get your man”. The message seemed to be: if all else fails, you can find empowerment there.

However, the idea that a woman draws her power from the bedroom leads to some very strange bedfellows. After the sexual revolution, feminists quickly took the arm of pimps and pornographers, the very people who told women that the commodification of our bodies for the male gaze was in fact the pinnacle of true feminism. The argument was as follows: as long as it is women who exploit themselves, no man will ever be able to exploit. Genius! But of course, this argument conveniently omits the fact that men remain the beneficiaries of such behavior.

I bought into that way of thinking. Rather than learn body literacy (all about menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding), I went to the doctor and just took birth control pills. Rather than expecting men to put their mental or physical health on the line for sexual ‘freedom’, I have happily borne the brunt of fertility management on my own, albeit as women , we are only fertile on average 4-6 days of each month, while men are fertile, well, you guessed it, 24/7/365.

To make matters worse, many feminists even validate men as allies by saying that as long as men pay half the cost of abortion if birth control fails, we all continue to live feminist beliefs. Or, if women chose to continue pregnancies, as I did, those same feminists often justify men walking away because, hey, the woman had a choice after all, so true equality should give the guy the same right to opt out of parenthood.

But this kind of “feminism” is just patriarchy wrapped in platitudes and prescriptions that hurt women, not men. The responsibility always rests with us. Male allies may march alongside us, but women’s bodies continue to make sacrifices under the Cosmos approach to sex. So what does this form of feminism actually do for us?

I know all of this because it was my lived experience. I exploited myself before I could be exploited. I used sex as a tool or a weapon, whichever was more useful at the time. And at 16, I was pregnant and single. Cosmos feminism failed me. So it’s hard to see the masses embracing it now.

Yet, I am incredibly sex positive. I know it may sound weird, but as a mom, I want my kids to have the healthiest, most fulfilling sex life one day. This kind of sex positivity took me decades to find because I had to undo the male-centric brainwashing of fake feminism. For me, it’s not just about personal sexual freedom, which, to be honest, is still mostly performative. This is a real sexual liberation that will impact generations to come.

I want women and non-binary people to experience pleasure just as much as their male counterparts, and I’m grateful that the sexual revolution has brought us to embrace and celebrate our bodies without shame. However, somewhere along the way, rather than demanding that men rise to the level of our female power, feminists have pursued equality by simply lowering us to the lowest level.

I call this the “new patriarchy”. It is a system defended by men often ignored so that feminists can claim victory. Men who often call themselves feminists too, and walk freely in our ranks. Those handing out flyers for a “Free the Nipple” rally with joy. Those who demonstrate in the streets for access to birth control for you, while remaining silent on the development of male alternatives.

The new patriarchy is about men bemoaning the inconveniences of prophylaxis, while simultaneously ignoring the very real side effects that many women experience from the hormonal contraceptives we are supposed to be taking to be “responsible.” It’s men who champion the body positivity movement, not because of the harm done to women by normalizing unattainable beauty standards, but because these men want to see a wider variety of naked women, now that women are finally comfortable in their own skin.

And sadly, many in the feminist movement have embraced these patriarchal views of their sisters who loudly proclaim: This is the very type of behavior that created a need for feminism in the first place. These feminists support pimps and johns, sex buyers and Backpage, even though they know that women are harmed by this industry.

They just call it one of their favorite buzzwords: “choice”. This label ignores the fact that only a privileged few women actually have a choice when it comes to sex work. While these fake feminists may proclaim their allegiance to marginalized voices, they do nothing to combat the push to legalize prostitution, which disproportionately harms women of color and LGBTQ people, fetishizing them and driving often to violence against these groups of frequently trafficked persons. .

On the contrary, many feminists actually fight alongside patriarchy to defend the “right” of their sisters to “choose” to be commodified, to make their bodies mere products of transactions and abuse.

In addition, a whole generation of adolescent girls receives a sexual “education” from pornography which often involves acts of violence and aggression towards the female body, and many feminists have the audacity to promote it while decrying “rape culture” from the public. the other side of their mouth. If rape culture is the theory, then pornography and trafficking are the ultimate practices.

That’s not real sex positivity at all, and I’d say it goes against everything our feminist ancestors stood for. We have replaced female-led feminism with a patriarchal version of it.

If your free nipple rally draws the same crowd as a wet t-shirt contest, you’re probably played. When Hugh Hefner was a major supporter of the development of birth control for women, but nothing equivalent for men, the picture should have become pretty clear. They co-opted feminism.

I am HIV positive. I want all adults to experience breathtaking, overwhelming, profound and transcendental sexual pleasure. But what I see being promoted now is the exact opposite. Our culture now celebrates a kind of high-volume, low-quality sex that still serves men in one way or another. And it’s time for us man-made feminists to kick these toxic bedfellows off our sheets.

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa is the founder of New Wave Feminists. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.

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