I have promised myself many a time to never discuss or listen to discussions about feminism again. Most of what I think of feminism did not come from discussions or listening to podcasts on the topic. Most of my thoughts, however wrong they may seem, came from the internal contemplations. And my views changed quite a lot in the last several years. So I intend to use this short essay as a checkpoint, to which I can come back and see how my views transformed, if at all.
Disclaimer: If at any point of this writing experiment you feel like I am against the womankind or the feminist movement, let me state beforehand — I am not.
The beginning seems like a good place to start.
I first heard about feminism in college. If you were to ask me then, "Are you a feminist?", based on my understanding I would answer, "Of course I am!" I had been lucky to meet, study, and work with excellent women. Of course women are not dumber than men, of course they are as capable of accomplishing great things, and of course they should not be tied to the roles of the mother or the hearth keeper. Today I am not even a tiny bit less convinced in these things than I was 10-15 years ago.
However, if you were to ask me today, "Are you a feminist?", I would respond with a question, "What issues are we talking about: is it the equality of opportunities, is it the violence against women, is it the career opportunities and traditional gender roles?"
These questions are supposed to show me as overtly pedantic and maybe slightly annoying and should stifle the conversation. However, your eyes light up, you press on and affirm, "Yes, Azamat, these are the issues that feminism is about. Are you a feminist?" Then I will go on and say, "I agree with you, these issues do exist. But do they belong to the feminist movement?"
As you stand there speechless, contemplating whether or not to keep me in your social circle, I continue. There are things that I am convinced and not so convinced about — one of each, in fact.
Women's pains from violence against them at home and in the streets, glass ceilings at their jobs, and pressures of the society are real and undeniable. The thing that is causing these issues is patriarchy. Yes, patriarchy exists — this is the thing I am convinced about. Patriarchy's effect on women's lives is tremendous. However, there are working solutions to violence, discrimination, and societal pressure against women. They are, respectively, jail, court, and don't-give-a-f*ckness. Indeed, violence against women and unequal treatment of women are punishable by law. Traditional expectations about gender roles, even though still persist, are on a downward trend and should be ignored. However, these solutions are only symptomatic.
I am not convinced that the underlying cause of patriarchy is for feminism to solve. Because patriarchy is not inherently anti-women. In a weird way, in which only men can self-harm, patriarchy is anti-men. In a more sensible way, it is against weak men, who are unfortunately increasing in numbers. Patriarchy brings discomfort and unhappiness to these weak men even more than to women. And the only way they can mediate the pain is by hurting (not only physically) those whom they see as even weaker.
If these are not women's problems to solve, in the sense that the solution is not dependent on what women do, but rather how men evolve, do these issues have anything to do with feminism? In my opinion, the solution is not in promoting women's studies or focusing on boys' education. The solution is in healing men's psyche. These healed men will bring up the next generations of boys properly. We can call men trash right and left, but there are good, strong men with whom I wish you to cross paths more often. To women: look for them and do not settle for weak men. To men: work hard on yourselves to become the good, strong men.
As you start walking away, determined to never talk to me again, I add a couple of heretical thoughts.
First, it is important to not mix up capitalism and patriarchy. Due to biological differences, women and men (on average) have different possible career trajectories. Capitalism favours those who do not (cannot or do not want to) bear a child, can spend more hours at work, and do it for many consecutive years. As a result, men are positioned to reap most of capitalism's fruits in the form of power and riches, but it does not make capitalism patriarchal. It is the only system that brings good for everyone, including more opportunities for women. Which is not to say that capitalism is faultless.
Second, traditions and social norms are not baseless — they were developed as a result of the long existence of the humankind and contain the valuable collective wisdom. Maybe — just maybe — traditional views suggest a way to happiness for most women. Which is not to say that all women must follow it.
With this I finish and we never meet again.