Most people would say that chauvinism is worse than feminism, right? According to Beyoncé’s song, Flawless, ‘feminism’ is the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.
Now there is nothing wrong with this. This is fantastic and we should all be striving to see the amazing value of both sexes, as equals. It is when radical feminism heads down the path of things like man-hating that this ideal begins to run into the danger zone. When a woman thinks that women should have more rights than a man etc etc, what makes that any better than chauvinism? That is, after all, what chauvinism essentially is.
Both result in an ingrained hatred and bitterness toward the opposite sex, which is neither healthy nor constructive, and doesn’t solve the problems that either sex are battling against. It makes our problem worse by hollowing out an even greater abyss between the genders.
And university hasn’t helped. In particular the arts department. In many classrooms across our nation, bitter women are teaching younger women to be bitter. From the moment I sat down in my first university class, I felt one message being strongly pushed on me:
Understand just how hated you are as a woman.
Now there are positive ways my views have changed because of university. I’ve come to accept the basics of feminism, as valuing men and women equally, but it is this radicalism that still doesn’t sit well with me. Girls walking around angry because of things they are afraid might be done to them, assuming every guy is a lusting jerk not worth her time. And heaven forbid someone tries to open a door for her, pull out a chair, or tell her she’s pretty.
In my Shakespeare class last year, there were some prescribed articles for homework that I would read half way through and then literally have to put down, feeling my chest physically tightening from the pure hatred emanating from the page like tangible waves of nausea.
It actually began to affect me so much, weighing down my mind and spirit, that it was having an impact on my life outside of university.
By second semester of third year, I was feeling ready to finish my degree solely because of this. It was then that I stumbled into my favourite literature class of my whole degree, with a wonderful professor named Alyson.
Toward the end of the semester, we read Howl by Allen Ginsberg, and were asked to write a poem “howling” against something. So I decided to howl against extreme feminism. I don’t remember it being especially good, but I do remember it had an A-B rhyming pattern.
I was extremely nervous to present it to the class, feeling for the last 3 years that I had been severely outnumbered. I was finally speaking out.
After I finished reading, people clapped. Alyson smiled and what she said next actually brought me to an understanding of feminism as an ideal for the first time.
“I want women to have the power, the independence to choose, and if that means getting married, taking their husband’s name, and having babies, then good luck to them! But I can sleep at night knowing that they had a choice” (Paraphrased from my memory).
There is nothing wrong with equality. We were created equal. Equal value, equal intelligence, equal moral capacity. What goes wrong is when one gender sets itself up against the other, seeking to take power rather than add value, whether its men or women. We were also created different, and these differences should be celebrated, rather than eliminated.
Last summer (to my shame) I got super defensive with my cousin Caleb during a discussion about Tony Abbott and the accusations of chauvinism against him. I could feel myself trembling and tears were welling up in my eyes. There was hot anger rushing all through my body. I stopped, saddened at the thought: “What has uni done to me?”
During this time of finishing university and in the months following, I could hear a quiet but clear voice inside me saying, “Put down your weapon. You were never called to fight men.”
I apologised to my cousin.
Imagine how much each of these problems could be improved if both men and women are thinking about the best for others around them, trying to assume the best, rather than walking around with a chip on their shoulder, wondering how to bring the other sex down a peg.
Working together will produce outstandingly better results than living in bitterness, pitted against one another. So if you need to forgive the other gender, or your own, or any of the people at your university etc, do it today. Then walk out of a cage of bitterness/anger/chauvinism/radical feminism/fear/ignorance.