I’m going to expose a personal belief that many will be shocked I even dare admit… I don’t believe in women’s rights… neither do I believe in black rights, gay rights, aboriginal rights or men’s rights. I believe in human rights. For before race, ethnicity or sex, we are all human beings. This is the 21st century and it’s important we understand that we should have rights not because of our skin colour, sexual orientation or sex, but because we are human. Now that’s not to ignore the devastation happening around the world: the horrors of female genital mutilation, rape and discrimination. Rather it’s the opposite, to highlight the fact that there are hundreds of issues plaguing our world, but they effect all of us and to solve them we need unity.
So if this is my belief why should I spend my time writing about issues that feminists disagree on? Well feminist-related issues have been gaining a lot of attention on social media recently – and this, for the most part, is great. However, the problem is that more often than not, if there’s a disagreement over an issue, the solution is to insult and berate instead of tolerate and attempt to understand one another. Now I consider this a problem, as there are many people who are confused by the feminist movement: does it stand for equality rights or positive discrimination? The confusion isn’t surprising, as over the last century the feminist movement has transformed drastically. Unfortunately, because feminism has become such a delicate subject, many people who are unsure of where they stand avoid discussing pressing issues on the basis they may become subject to verbal abuse.
The ultimate purpose of this article isn’t to insult any person – feminist or not – and neither is it to discredit any activist or movement. The purpose of this article is to clearly dissect common issues that feminists disagree on so that you can gain a greater understanding of the contrasting perspectives and be better equipped to make up your own mind on where you stand.
6. Rape Culture
In the world today, there’s absolutely no doubt that rape is still a very real problem. In countries like Saudi Arabia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, women are subject to rape on a regular basis. Even worse, although these countries have laws against rape, they’re not specific enough and are rarely enforced. In fact, in Pakistan women are subject to gang-rape as punishments. These facts paint a dim picture of reality: that in the world today, millions of women are subject to rape in countries where the act is considered acceptable and even normal.
However, feminists are still split on whether rape culture is still a problem in Western countries. Feminists on the opposing side argue that rape in the West is not only illegal but also frowned upon by the large majority of people. For example, if anyone was convicted of rape where I live in British Columbia, that person would face a hefty fine, lengthy jail sentence, and become alienated within the community – and rightfully so. Now these points aren’t to ignore the reality that women can still be subject to the odd look and whistle on the street, but it is to ask a question: when we live in a world where particular countries consider rape normal and where women are publicly punished for being raped, is it not trivial to suggest that women being whistled at in countries where rapists are despised is a product of rape culture?
Overall, all feminists agree that rape culture is an issue that must be addressed immediately – especially in particular developing countries. However, feminists are certainly split on whether rape culture exists in the West.
5. Equality Pay
The point of equality pay is: women and men who work the same job should be payed the same. At first glance this appears not just reasonable but commonsensical, considering that throughout the 20th century, men were payed considerably more than women for working the same job.
However, some feminists argue the notion of equality pay is too broad and that there are questions that need to be taken into account first. For instance, how long has the person been working for? How efficient is that person at doing their job? Furthermore, some feminists also allude to the fact that in every state in America since 2009, single women under 30 earn more money than men under 30. Taking this fact into account, it could be argued that more men in America should support equality pay than women.
So you have feminists arguing for equality pay across the board and others on the basis the workers prove they’re also equally knowledgeable and efficient.
4. Free the Nipple
If you intend on promoting a movement, including the word nipple in the title is a sure way to draw a few eyes. Free the nipple is a relatively recent movement and, as you could probably guess from the name, has to do with nipples. The movement is essentially based around one simple argument: if men can walk around with their nipples exposed, why can’t women? Well feminists are split on answering this question: on the one hand feminists argue that women should be free to expose their nipples – just as men are – and on the other hand, feminists argue that it’s indecent for women to expose their nipples.
Feminists should be able to find common ground on this issue: If women wish to expose their nipples that’s fine, and if they don’t then that’s also fine. Whatever the case, it is ridiculous that men can walk around publicly with their nipples exposed whilst women who attempt to do the same are subject to fines for “indecent exposure.”
Do we still live in a world dominated by patriarchy? There’s no doubt that for millennia, patriarchy has dominated the world – and countries like Saudi Arabia are proof it still does exist today. However, feminists are torn between whether patriarchy is still an issue in the Western world.
Feminists on the opposing side allude to the fact that women are attaining 60% of the college degrees in almost every country and make up the majority of the work force in the US. Furthermore, the premiers of Canada’s four largest provinces are women, and the Federal Reserve, America’s federal banking authority, is chaired by Janet Yellen.
There’s no doubt patriarchy does still exist in the world, but if the famous five who led the first wave of feminism 100 years ago were alive today, they’d be astounded by the progress.
2. Adult Entertainment
Adult entertainment has always been a controversial topic – even when it’s not discussed in relation to feminism. That being said, feminists are distinctively split on the topic. On the one hand you have feminists arguing that adult films and online content degrades women and pollutes society by creating a false image of how they behave and how they should be treated – these feminists typically argue that this content should be restricted or even prohibited. On the other hand, you have feminists arguing that because adult entertainment is an activity – or even a form of art – that is carried out by consenting adults, women should be free to participate without restriction.
In summary, you have some feminists arguing that adult media should be restricted on the basis it degrades women, and other feminists arguing it’s degrading to prohibit women from freely engaging in an activity that’s already regulated and requires consent.
1. The Definition of Feminism
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably realized by now that feminism is a vast ideology that encompasses not just women, but people from a mixture of backgrounds with varied beliefs and ideas. And yet, despite the disagreements and controversies, the most debated issue that feminists disagree on is the definition of feminism itself. Does feminism stand for equality or does it stand for positive discrimination in favour of women? Well according to Merriam-Webster, feminism has two definitions: first, the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities; and second, an organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. So the answer is that feminism is both about advancing equality and advancing women’s interests.
In closing, if you’re in favour of equality rights for men and women, you are by definition a feminist. If you’re in favour of advancing women’s rights and interests, you are by definition a feminist. However, if you’re serious about achieving equality and solving the pressing issues, remember the only viable way of doing so is by informing instead of insulting, including instead of dividing, and most importantly, understanding instead of ignoring.