Ideologues who lacks compassion for half of humanity will not secure freedom for anyone.
I spent a little too long on the internet today. I was on a mission to find out the thoughts women and men had on hair removal, specifically women removing hair from places that men don’t usually remove it from (i.e. underarms, legs). What I thought would be a history lesson along with some useful statistics turned into hours of achy-backed, red-eyed, horror-stricken internet browsing as I saw just how verbally violent commentators on all sides of not only this issue, but feminism-related discourse in general, were willing to get.
First there were the celebrity gossip pages. While I was pretty surprised at Julia Roberts going au naturale, I wasn’t really very shocked at the words “blunder”, “style sin”, and “wooly mammoth” being used to describe celebrities with armpit hair. My favourite articles were one that listed celebrities who “forgot” to shave their armpits and another which ended by saying “But, don’t worry, it’s okay. Everyone runs out of razors once in a while. Even celebrities!” As if anyone would ever do that on purpose. This didn’t shock me because celebrities uphold the status quo. The status quo is part of our current culture and that culture has certain beauty standards. Those standards include hair removal. To avoid hair removal is to deviate from the current norm. Regardless of how it should, could, or would be, that is the truth.
The part that did shock me, however, was that the very people at the head of the fight against such standards, the powerhouse behind female liberation, the feminists, came off just as aggressive. One article author, whom I’ll keep anonymous, proudly mentioned her lack of hair removal rituals before saying how “annoying” it was when men replied to women’s discussions of hair removal with claims of how “it’s hard for them too.” She said she didn’t want to even waste any breath responding to such “nonsense.” Despite the reality that there are, in fact, media pressures on men to remove hair regularly from not only their faces, but now their chests, backs, and private parts, this woman didn’t believe men’s feelings deserved discussion.
And she isn’t the only one. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of comments from feminist publications make scoffing, derisive, and dismissive comments towards men who post replies. While I’m sure, once in a while, there are men who say aggressive things, these men’s comments are not anywhere in sight. The comments that are left up are usually full of validation and then sharing, something that says “That’s really hard to deal with, I agree. Here’s what it’s like from a guy’s perspective … ” These comments are left up and then bashed by dozens of women.
I realize I’m launching myself straight into the jaws of the big, bad controversy and siding with the likes of Suzanne Venker (“War on Men”) and Naomi Wolf (“Vagina”) who have been bashed by feminists all over the world for their claims about female-male relationships. I’d still like to try and be a feminist, i.e. an advocate for women, as well as an advocate for men without being labelled a loony, old bag.
Stephen Covey, in 7 Habits of Effective People, describes three levels of relationship maturity:
- Dependent: The paradigm of “you.” Dependent people need others to get their needs met and blame others when those needs are not met.
- Independent: The paradigm of “I.” Independent people use their own efforts and resources to get what they want and take responsibility for their actions and choices.
- Interdependent: The paradigm of “we.” Interdependent people work together, combine their strengths, and supplement each others’ weaknesses to create great things and reach new heights.
There is no shortage of current literature encouraging independence, but we live in an interdependent society where we have to work together to get things done in our personal and work relationships. Covey says that we move through these three stages in order, needing to be independent before we reach interdependence, and that interdependence is the highest level. It allows us to achieve more than we ever could alone.
The way I see it, feminism is responding to the changing maturity of female-male relationships. We’ve surpassed the point where we need men to marry us and earn money so that we can survive. We’ve surpassed that point where blamed all our failures as women to thrive in society on patriarchal pressures. Now, we’re in the era of independence. The independent woman reigns. The independent woman can make her own money, raise her kids alone, drive her own car, and pay her own bills. The independent woman is equipped with her trusty vibrator, group of friends, and cell phone for no-strings-attached hookups. This is progress from where we were 40 years ago, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best we can do.
A lot of the time, whenever someone speaks out for the possibility that men could be harmed by the rather casually unintentional aggressiveness of feminism, the retort is something like “And what do you suggest, we start cooking and cleaning for them again? We lie down and give up our rights to voting, abortion, and equal pay? You must be joking.” I agree. That would be a joke. Reverting to the dependence stage after independence would be ridiculous. But what about interdependence? What about working together?
Unless men and women are going to stop engaging in any sort of interactions and that includes sex, civil union, and child-raising, there will come points when we need to work together. At those points, we can remain “I” and “I” or work to become a “we.” The difference, of course, is that “I” can only fight for “me” and likely against “you.” “We” can fight for “us.” It reminds me of a Swedish proverb I absolutely love: “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”
This was previously published on Authentunity.
Image credit: istolethetv/Flickr