This is a question I often ask myself. How could a movement that originally was fighting to attain the simple goal of civil and legal equality between the sexes, turn into a radical feminist movement that considers all men to be inherently oppressive or even evil?
Sure, there are still many feminists who still belong to “old school” feminism, and they are usually very sane people. The best example is perhaps Christina Hoff-Sommers who has written a couple of excellent books about radical feminism and its unfortunate consequences in the US.
Let’s have a look at the factors that I believe turned feminism into a mess:
- There was a lack of clarity from the start of the feminist movement. Was it a movement for gender equality, or was it a movement that promoted women’s rights? This is a huge distinction, and the assumption that these two struggles are always compatible is far from true.
- This lack of clarity is also apparent in the name chosen for the movement. If it had been called equalism, then the end goal would have been clear. However, the name feminism implies that the end goal is female supremacy or something along those lines.
- By creating a strong feminist movement, men’s issues are automatically defined as being non-existent or at the very least far smaller than female issues (which is something I dispute in my writings). Originally this was less of a problem, since feminism was focusing on equal rights in society, which was an honorable struggle and a process that needed to happen. However, once equal rights had been implemented, feminism still assumed that women were far worse off than men, and more in need of a strong feminist movement than ever–without stepping back and looking at the wider picture, a picture which included men’s perspectives.
- Men have been far too silent in the gender debate, a silence which has probably been interpreted as men feeling guilty, or at the very least having no good arguments to counter the increased radicalization of feminist theory. This has allowed radical feminists to get more and more government grants and influence, which in turn has given them more resources to come up with ever more radical theories that make men responsible for every conceivable evil. Gender study departments in universities around the world, can now hide behind the respectable façade of higher education and use tax payers’ money to promote the theories of radical feminism.
- Radical feminism absolves women from personal responsibility in their lives. It’s all the fault of the patriarchy, a mythical structure which means that men always get the good deal in life… This is a seductive stance for young women, especially if a university teacher that you respect tells you that this is how the world works. This means that equity feminism and other branches of old school feminism, that emphasize women’s personal responsibility in creating better lives for themselves, have a harder time gaining new adherents.
There are many more factors of course, but these are some of the key points in my opinion. Feel free to add your own points in the comments.