current affairs

Feminist or Egalitarian: The complexities of gender equality movements

feminism, egalitarianism, women, movements, Lucy Kehoe, Kettle Mag
Written by lkehoe

A male friend recently stated that he did not call himself a feminist – instead he was an egalitarian: he believed in the complete equality of all genders.

Confused, I explained that my personal definition of feminism was, like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Beyoncé, “the social, political and economic equality of the sexes,” so by these standards he was definitely a feminist. Unperturbed, he dismissed my conclusion. He wasn’t a feminist because that word had the negative connotations of being solely focused on female empowerment, and failed to represent complete and total equality regardless of gender. He would, he stated again, if labelled, be an egalitarian.

The explosion of online feminism has been somewhat crippled over the past few months by a growth in criticism from ‘Meninists’ or mens rights activists, as well as less radical critics. Perhaps most radically, altough not representative of all feminist critics, is the Twitter account @MeninistTweet, which boasts over 800,000 followers, critcises feminists through social media, posting facts about male discrimination alongist sexist jokes and even brought out its own Meninist mechandise, selling t-shirts with the slogan #meninist. 

What role does feminism have?

Feminism, as a concept, has been smeared as increasingly pro-women and supporting female domination, eroding male self-worth and creating a generation of men who feel victimised by aggressive pro-women activists  – in other words, feminism has been perceived as supporting only females and dismissing men entirely. But are the feminists destroying men’s self-worth? Is feminism sexist? Should we all be proud egalitarians?

Certainly, the word feminism holds a huge female historical tradition behind it: it stands on the shoulders of the suffragettes, reproductive rights, legal inequalities, Betty Friedan and Simone De Beauvoir. The word comes, however unfairly, with an image of burnt bras and female power. The word’s importance relies on this history – viral trends on social media of #Imafeministbecause regularly highlight the need to respect past feminist’s sacrifices.

It’s very lexical construction promotes its foremost intention to promote females. But does this mean it becomes redundant in a modern day country such as the UK where feminist issues have become social debates as opposed to political debates and women are, for the large part, some of the most progressive females in the global community? Should historical memory control the labelling of a person’s social beliefs? 

I support egalitarianism

The UK seems, at times, to have been thrust into a constant battle of the sexes, with Feminists raging on side-by-side with Meninists. Men are more likely to be convicted in court than women, are more likely to be homeless, more likely to lose custody in divorce cases, more likely to commit suicide and more likely to be killed in a violent crime. Any browse of Men’s Rights publications will reveal a apparent plethora of areas in which men face discrimination or unfair treatment due to their gender – just like women.

The creation of the Men’s Rights Movement provokes a complex question – who is the dominating gender suppressing the other when both sexes are complaining of discrimination? Is anyone on top? Perhaps, ironically, this dual movement problem emphasis’ how equal our society has become: each sex at pains to iron out the last wrinkles of gender inequality as gender discrimination is diminished.  In that context, where does the word feminism, with it’s history and connotations, fit in or is it an outdated term that should be replaced with egalitarianism?

As a female, the concept of feminism appeals largely because of its associations with promoting female rights and progression, but these connotations highlight the potential alienation of men from the movement because of it’s emphasis on female empowerment. Egalitarianism becomes an appealing prospect when viewed as a movement that not only promotes all gender equality, but which brings the genders together united behind this one ideal, including males and females in its progressive outlook. 

This isn’t a renouncement of feminism. As a female, I still associate with strongly that word. But in light of the historical baggage that tailgates it, I can also understand male refusal to adopt it as a label. Feminism is ultimately a women’s movement, both in terms of aims and gender association. It was started for women and continues to exist as a vessel of protest for us. The male sex, regardless of their belief in gender equality, will always assume an unintended inferior position in a movement that champions the progress of women.

Feminism isn’t against men, but it isn’t fighting for all genders. Hence, egalitarianism stands as a more accepted form of men’s ‘feminism’ than ‘meminism’. As a movement that doesn’t trace its origins back to a comic but potential discriminatory twitter account, it appeals as a serious ally to the feminist movement without adopting the baggage of a women’s movement that ultimately champions only the female sex.

Egalitarianism is a men’s feminism and for that, I am wholeheartedly behind it.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.