I have this thing with buzzwords. I don't really like them. I don't really like using them.
I realize that they're incredibly useful at times: When I use one, you know exactly what the story is. If I say "patriarchy," you immediately think, "the system where men dominate that is hurting women."
But see, that's the problem. What you should be thinking is, "the system where some men dominate that is hurting women and men." What you should be thinking is, "the system where a vast number of women are buying into the ideals of what is feminine and what is beautful and enforcing those ideals on themselves and others."
I stay away from the word "patriarchy" because the thought that immediately conjures up is wrong. As I've mentioned on our What is This? page (and in various other places), sexism of any kind hurts both sides. There isn't a group of like-minded men sitting around and thinking of ways to hold women back. (Well, wait, actually... Nah, I'll leave Congress out of this. For now.)
That's kind of where the problem comes in. We all realize that women, as well as men, are holding women back, and that men are also being held back. But the word we've chosen to reflect that idea pins all the blame on the men. And, let's be honest, the ladies have had a much harder time than the men, and still continue to have a much harder time around the world. I'm not trying to dismiss that. But the fact that women have arguably more/worse problems doesn't mean that the men's problems don't matter or that the women's problems are entirely men's fault.
This word divides us. People for women's rights use it without pause, because the concept is true. People for men's rights use it with scorn, because the literal translation is false. There's a serious need for a relabel on this idea, because, yes, names do matter.
After all, ladies, how would we feel if the guys were throwing around the word "matriarchy?" The matriarchy is the reason they have a hard time winning child custody cases. The matriarchy is the reason they have a hard time being taken seriously as domestic violence victims. I would be pretty pissed if they tried to pin these problems on us without taking any of the blame.
Why not anthriarchy? Bipediarchy? Shoot, humaniarchy. Anything to demonstrate that we are all-- male, female, black, white, straight, gay-- involved in this. Anything to reassure us that, no matter our gender, race, religion, sexual identity/orientation, eye color, we all have some say in this.
Men are not women's problem. Women are not men's problem. People are people's problem.
Yes, "bitch." I would like to talk to you all about the word "bitch." There are a few curse words that are completely gender-fueled (such as the obvious "pussy" and "dick,") but I feel this one deserves its own article. The others may be touched on in time.
The thing about "bitch" is how versatile it can be. And how, in this case, that versatility is not a good thing. Off the top of my head, I can think of four different definitions of "bitch"-- three nouns and one verb. Well, five. It does technically mean "female dog." Oh, wait, six. ...Seven. This will be a fun article.
"Bitch," when applied to a woman, is an insult. The original idea is that you're comparing her to a dog. Which, sure, that's insulting. She's a human, not a dog. The main problem with this, I feel, is that "bitch" gets thrown around much more often than its male equivalent of "bastard."
Imagine someone just told you that you're an idiot. If it was a woman, it's likely that you might think of her as a bitch. If it's a man, do you call him a bastard? Probably not. "Bastard" seems reserved for extreme situations-- a thief is a bastard, a rapist or murderer is a bastard, someone who's violent in general is a bastard. But someone who just insults you? That's a jerk. Unless it's a woman. Then she's a bitch for some reason.
Needless to say, I've been trying to adapt my vocabulary to call women "jerks" unless it's a fairly extreme situation. It's a hard habit to kick, but I can't get over the inconsistencies involved.
"Bitch," when applied to a man, is an insult. The strange thing is that it's almost the exact opposite of the female-applied definition of the word. A man being called a bitch is being called weak or submissive, whereas a woman being called a bitch is being called overly aggressive. I don't like this definition and never have. I'm not my husband's "bitch." When a man refers to a woman as "his bitch," I want to show him what a bitch can do. Erm, the first definition. I want to show him what the first definition of a bitch can do. Jeez, this word is complicated.
This definition is used to compare a man to a woman, which is apparently an insult, because women are clearly inferior to men and a man being like a woman is a bad thing. This brings me to my next point...
"Bitches." As in "bitches be crazy," or "bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks," or "I got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one." This one uses the word "bitches"-- normally reserved as an insult for a particular lady-- as a blanket term for all women. I dislike this one almost as much as the second definition. We're not "bitches," and we're not "hoes," the same way that men aren't referred to as a group with the term "bastards." Stop doing that. Seriously, how do you even get dates that way?
This is actually the first definition taken to its extreme. Instead of women who do something rude, it's just automatically assumed that all women are bitches.
A female dog. It's just obligatory.
"Bitching." As in, "Quit your bitching" or "you're just bitching and moaning." In this case, the word is used to mean "complaining." The problem with this one is that it calls back to the prevailing stereotype that women nag and complain constantly about trivial things. "Take out the trash" or "I chipped a nail."
Note that there isn't a male equivalent of "bastarding." What would that even be? Like, going around punching everyone in sight or something? Because this definition makes me want to go bastarding.
"Bitchin'." As in, "That new car you got is bitchin'." This one sounds like it's a good thing, right? Well, sure, until you think about it for two seconds. The implication, when you get down to it, is that a man rolling in women ("bitches") is cool. Having multiple female partners is seen as a desirable trait for a male. And, in our male-dominated language (let's be honest, most languages are), this word is from a male perspective. So, basically... When something is "bitchin'," it's being compared to a man's ability to "score" with multiple ladies.
If I have to point out what's wrong with that, we're in trouble. Women aren't Pokemon. You don't have to catch 'em all. We should not be seen as objectives and goals and etc.
When a woman applies the word "bitch" to herself, she's attempting to reclaim it. It's almost like a racial slur that way. Certain races can use certain words, so now one of the genders is trying to take its word back. It's empowering, in a strange, half-ironic way. Like, "You think I'm a bitch? Fine, I'll be a bitch. Deal with it."
But then there's the issue that I have to assume other groups have dealt with at some point: Do we even really want this word? It's an ugly word. Taking it back means that we can control what it means to us, but it's also a good way to put ourselves in a box. An insulting box, at that.
I suppose, in the end, this one is up to the individual woman. Feminism is about empowerment. It's about putting men and women on an equal playing field. And, ladies, if reclaiming that word makes you feel more confident and better about yourself, then I'm all for it.
Now get out there and become a physicist or something, bitch.
It's a very prevalent stereotype for feminists to be angry, bra-burning man-haters, but if you look at the actual definition of the word, a feminist is just someone (male or female) who wants equal rights between the genders. The focus is usually on women's rights, because, let's be honest, they tend to be the more obvious problems. (Men also have their problems, of course.)
The word that suits man-hatred is "misandrist." It's basically the flip-side of a misogynist.
So why are feminists, who are by definition not supposed to hate men, so often cast as misandrists?
If we go back to when the women's rights thing was really kicking off in this piece of the world, we would look at the United States in the 1800s. Things were ugly, not gonna lie. Women were fighting tooth and nail for basic things like voting rights (which we were not granted until the year 1920) and the right to say "no" to sex with your husband (which we were not granted in any of the 50 states until 1976).
To get down to the short and sweet of it, men felt that their privileges were being threatened, and many in this day still do. It's understandable. Something new was happening, and the world was changing in a big way. It continues to change for women piece-by-piece, as people are now focused on contraception availability and how women are portrayed in the media.
And so the "straw feminist" was born. A "strawman" is a tool used to make someone's argument sound insane. There are all types of strawmen in media, the most popular perhaps being straw liberals and straw conservatives. The role of the straw feminist is to provide a woman to blow out of proportion-- she doesn't want equal rights, she wants the only rights. She doesn't want to rule the world side-by-side with men, she wants women to be in charge completely. Sometimes, these caricatures will go so far as to say that all men should be killed or put into slavery.
Now, here's the definition of "feminism" again. You can see why this caricature doesn't make sense, can't you? These straw feminists are not feminists. They are misandrists.
Because of these caricatures, many women (and men, for that matter) will not self-identify as feminists. They believe in equal rights for the genders, they'll tell you, but they are not crazy bra-burning man-haters. I suggest dictionaries for these people.
If you'd like to hear a little more about the "straw feminist," this young lady makes the point better than I could ever hope to.