Not a feminist? Then you don’t really love your mom!
By Phreddy Wishchusen
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Do you love your mother? Really? Truly? If you answered yes, you’re either a feminist or a damned liar. The word “love” evades easy definition. It is nuanced and ever evolving. It is easier to feel than to define. That’s why every pop song we sing is about feeling it, losing it or making it. America’s most popular religion even describes itself as a “gospel of love.” But regardless of how you define your beliefs or define love, there’s no way your definition includes treating your “loved one” like a second-class citizen or an object.
Unfortunately, there is one subject we need to get out of the way before continuing this discussion: opening doors. I hate that I have to write this, but I can’t believe that when feminism is discussed in bars, at church suppers or during commercial breaks, the conversation devolves into tedious pedantries about whether or not it’s appropriate to open the door for a lady. Let’s set the record straight, if you want to be polite, open the door for people regardless of their gender. If you want to be a jerk, don’t hold the door open for anyone. If you want to be a creepy jerk hold it open for a woman and then shut it as fast as you can in the face of any man who approaches. Either way, don’t ever bring this up in a conversation about feminism. That’s offensive. That’s the equivalent of insisting that the most important part of the New York Fire Department heroic response to 9/11 was who got to slide down the pole first. It would ignore the firefighter’s medical knowledge used to treat the victims, their knowledge of chemistry and physics to deal with flames and hazardous materials, the engineering knowledge necessary to anticipate new weaknesses in the complex structure, and the spiritual power proven in bravery to deal with the chaos and the danger and the emotional/physical fatigue. Women in this country not only deal with the constant threat of sexual/physical violence, every day they must use knowledge from many disciplines to respond to threats against sovereignty of their bodies, their minds and their souls.
Feminism. It’s a word like love — nuanced, expansive, evolving and empowering.
Feminism seeks to redress how a majority of the population (50.8 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau) lives and how 100 percent of the population thinks. It is a philosophic, intellectual and spiritual practice.
Don’t let Rush Limbaugh-types scare you away from it, (remember the word femi-nazi?). They sadly don’t realize that feminism could improve their lives, too. Comparing the quest for equal rights/equal pay to the mass murder of over six million human beings is beyond offensive, it’s simply illogical, preposterous and silly. Women are our mothers, sisters, daughter, wives, friends and co-workers. If you actually care about them, you will care about the conditions of their lives. Let’s focus on just two of the many issues that affect women in the United States: pay discrepancies and ubiquitous sexual violence.
In the U.S., for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 72 cents working the same job. Our entire system, cultural and legal, entrusts the welfare of children to mothers. And most adult women in this country are mothers; according to the American Association of University Professors, 87 percent of women reproduce.
Yes, there are some great single dads out there (24 percent of single parents are dads), but the majority of childcare within both two-parent and single parent families is done by the mother. In a society with more single-parent families every day, there is an increased financial burden on women as well. They have to work less so that they can care for their children, and then in the time they do work they make less money. Or they have to work more jobs or more hours at jobs and entrust their children’s lives to someone else. By paying women less we are not only being unfair to working women, we are starving America’s children nutritionally and emotionally.
It’s easy to vilify Indian society now, after media publicity of gang rapes there, but the U.S. has plenty of its own gang rapes; in 2012 there were many well-publicized U.S. gang rapes, including instances in St. Paul, Minn. (nine men raped a 14-year-old girl), in Okinawa where two U.S. soldiers raped a Japanese woman and let’s not forget Steubenville, Ohio.
Women in the U.S. live in constant fear of sexual violence. That’s why they keep chemical weapons (mace/pepper spray) on their key chains.
What if the Assad regime said it needed chemical weapons to go on a “walk after dinner?” Would we just accept that, or would there be pundits, presidents and states-people all calling for “change” in Syrian society.
Sadly, the majority of sexual violence is not gang rapes but sexual assaults on women by “friends” and family members. Every woman I know has been sexually/physically terrorized by a man in some way, whether by rape, date rape, molestation, harassment, etc. And I don’t know any males who have been formally accused or tried, let alone convicted of sexual violence charges. The atmosphere of objectification (which is a form of violence, i.e. being treated as an object instead of a human being, anyone remember the word, chattel?) is so pervasive even President Obama didn’t think twice before calling California Attorney General, Kamala Harris, “the best-looking attorney general in the country.”
Men benefit from feminism, as well, unequivocally. When you don’t respect women, when you treat them as something less than you, how can you expect them to love you? And if even they say they love you, in spite of a status quo that offers you more rights, more safety, more money than them, how can you really believe that? Would you love your oppressor? Or the beneficiary of your oppressor? That unspoken doubt is a terrible feeling. I believe that misogyny makes males feel isolated from their partners and their parents and that isolation is a major contributor to America’s endemic depression.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “almost four times as many males as females die by suicide.” In a culture where males are given more opportunities for “success,” why are we losing so many of our brothers to suicide? I have to believe that if males were raised to feel like equals to women rather than superior, they would find it easier to reach out to someone in their time of need. Every aggressive advance and sexist comment we make increases our feelings of isolation, whether we realize it or not.
So this Mother’s Day, if you really love your mom, if you want her to live without constant fear of being raped, embrace a feminist ideology. Then the intellectual rigor inherent in feminism will guide you to find practical ways to make a more egalitarian society. Whether you are a man or woman, a more feminist society will not just be legally different, it will be spiritually different. All relationships between people will be richer and more satisfying. That’s what happens when people are not afraid of each other, not resentful and not isolated from one another. And as a result, instead of just one Sunday in May, your mom and yourself will feel loved and respected every day of the year.