My first criticism of feminism is that it has become too broad, forcing me to add an adjective into my title and to use it continuously throughout the remainder of my post. It has become too broad in that within the ideology contradictory messages are being espoused. For example, there are arguments within feminism both for and against prostitution. Another example: Emma Watson, the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, can champion feminist solidarity by saying that women from Kenyan plantations to divas in Hollywood all share common ground. Watson can then, within another feminist mindset, be criticized for not acknowledging the intersecting influence of race and class on the women for whom she claims universal truths. Feminism has exploded into sectarianism, and with no ideological canon, it has boiled down to individual interpretation which really makes it difficult to say anything substantial about it as a whole. So when I say popular feminism, I don’t mean any of the established waves of feminism, radical feminism, or academic feminism, I mean the shit that shows up on my Facebook newsfeed, and it is this that I will be examining.

To be clear, I’m not one of those “humanists” people. I mean, I am in that I believe in the secular value of human life, but I do consider myself a feminist because there is an obvious disparity between men and women that puts women in an inferior role. However, I don’t believe any ideology to be infallible, so to condemn me solely for the act of critically analyzing a progressive movement would only be dogmatic zealotry. My points may be contentious, but they still need to be heard with an open mind first.

One of my concerns is how victimhood has become a celebrated mark of identity. The #YesAllWomen campaign was a means for women to go online and exclaim their grievances as universal. There are certainly grievances to be had, such as sexual harassment at the workplace and catcalling on the streets, but enforcing universality (and All Women implies universality) means that every woman is a victim. It is said that 1 in 6 women in America will suffer a rape or an attempted rape in their lifetime, and while that it is a maddeningly high percentage, it is not ‘all women’. But fear begotten by universal victimhood creates Schrodinger’s Rapists, where a man who approaches a woman on a cold, dark street is both a rapist and not a rapist until her perception proves either way.

However, men in Canada are more likely to be attacked by strangers in a public space than women. If a woman is at a party and is planning to walk home, statistically she is safer on the walk home than she is either at the party or at home. This is a horrifying reality to be sure because of what it implies about the home and the party, but popular feminism prefers to focus on the easier sell of the dangerous stranger. Schrodinger’s Rapists end up being red herrings.

Victimhood is a social construction from long ago, and as women were seen to be the weaker sex, the notion of victimhood had been feminized long before popular feminists had gotten to it. However, there has been little effort to cast off the title, and this has damaged the popular feminist dialogue. For instance, it has denied men the possibility of being victims.

Now, I don’t mean “men get raped too!” or “men suffer domestic violence too!” because those areas are so highly dominated by female victims that forcing the conversation to acknowledge the token men who suffer the same treatment is usually only ever an attempt to hijack the discourse. I do mean that in a study of 215, 273 homicides in the United States from 1976 to 1987, 77% of the victims were male. Canadian data from 2008 shows similar results of 74% of homicide victims being men. From the same data, men are three times more likely than women to suffer aggravated assault and about twice as likely to suffer an assault with a deadly weapon. This is not hijacking the discourse because I believe the cause of male victimhood is the same for female victimhood: toxic masculinity. However, saying “all women are victims” eliminates the full scope of the problem by denying men their potential to be victims, and precludes women escaping the role.

Further problems with popular feminists embracing the victimhood identity is that for every prey there must be a predator. Eric Hoffer’s view on mass movements suggests that mass movements cannot exist without an antagonist, and the predator and prey mentality forces a binary that puts women on the one side as victim, and men on the other as perpetrator. This leads to problems. I once witnessed a woman post on Facebook about how she was all for gender-neutral bathrooms, but was unsure about men using it as she wouldn’t feel safe sharing a bathroom with a cis-man. The following discussion centred around the logistics of how to solve this dilemma while still maintaining the illusion of inclusiveness, as no one seemed to disagree that cis-men are unsafe while they pee. The “Teach Men Not To Rape” slogan implicitly states that men would normally rape if not taught otherwise. Male sexuality often comes under fire, like this male fraternity putting up a banner suggesting a drop-off for freshmen daughters and moms too being condemned as an example of the pervasive rape culture in American universities. While overtly sexual and crass, the banner nowhere implies that consent would not be respected by the men at the fraternity, but it still was considered predatory. One last example: it’s usually agreed upon that crossing the street to avoid a black man is racist, but doing it because of his gender rather than his race is simply being prudent because of the nature of quantum rapists. Many MRAs cite misandry to explain these behaviours, but that’s stupid. It’s not a hatred of men. If anything, it would be androphobia because it is fear dictating these actions, not hate.

An ideology based on fear is troubling for many reasons. Primarily, it excludes the voices of those that it is afraid of. Men who make advances toward women are criticized for only backing down once the woman has told him she has a boyfriend. The popular feminist theory is that the male will only acknowledge a woman as the property of another man. However, it is far more likely that the “boyfriend” excuse externalizes the suitor’s rejection, allowing him to maintain his masculine identity which demands sexual prowess and charm. A simple ‘no’ is interpreted as an internal failure; a failure as a man. You wanna know why I think this? Because I have experienced rejection and that’s what it feels like. By explaining male behaviour without including male voices, popular feminists create damaging theories based on assumptions and falsities. Another example is what is colloquially known as man-spreading while on a bus, where men are seated with their legs open, taking up more space. The popular feminist theory is that the men feel entitled to all the space around them. Is it not possible that men have something extremely sensitive protruding between their legs that they don’t want to have to adjust publicly in order to close their legs? Similarly, men who do not get out of the way on sidewalks are accused of the same thing for the same reason. These are based solely on female-driven anecdotes, yet they are considered gospel. I mean, what about women who take the outside seat on the bus and put their purse on the inside one? I don’t have an answer, I just wanted to give a counterexample. If a problem is sought, it is likely to be found, but the bias of the seeker will be the sole influence of its origin. The reason I accept toxic masculinity as the root cause of male violence is because male voices have confirmed it. By eliminating the dialogue, behavioural theories are simply made up and treated as reality.

Fear is also alienating. Masculine insecurities are often mocked, and “male tears” has become the catchphrase of popular feminists who wish to disregard the lived experiences of men. Males hold a position of privilege, after all, so anything they suffer can only ever be a first world problem. Yet, men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide, quite probably because of the burden of masculinity which stigmatizes help and internalizes blame. This makes it a deadly serious issue, and trivializing it is monstrous. It’s like mocking a woman for buying beauty cream; she’s been conditioned to think her beauty is her most important feature, except it’s a man who has been conditioned to believe his manhood is his most important feature, and he’s more likely to kill himself (or others, really) if he doesn’t measure up to the social expectation.

The reaction to the #YesAllWomen campaign, #NotAllMen, was summarily criticized for distracting from the conversation surrounding every woman being a victim. However, #NotAllMen could very well have been the more important hashtag. By giving examples of positive male behaviours in contrast to the all-too-common negative ones, it could have brought healthy male role models into the limelight. This could have reduced the fear of men among women, and shown men that there is an alternative to the brash hypermasculinity that is touted as the norm in mass media imagery. A commonly agreed upon solution to violence against women is to integrate the perpetrators into the dialogue by saying that “a man raped a woman” rather than “a woman was raped.” If toxic masculinity is the perpetrator for violence against women, how is positive male role models distracting from the conversation instead of being the solution to it? Rather than saying, “it’s not about you” when #NotAllMen comes up, wouldn’t it be more pragmatic to encourage men to celebrate the healthy way they interact with women, and how they might influence that conduct in their peers?

I once saw an opinion piece on how good dads shouldn’t be celebrated. Dads possess just as much capacity for nurturing their children as moms, and giving a gold star for what amounts to normal behaviour is seen as the enforcement of the idea that it is a socially alien concept. It’s what men should have been doing all along, so why do they get the gold star for doing it now? Except that’s stupid. That’s like not celebrating females in the hard sciences because they’ve always had the capacity to participate in those fields. Predators in a fear-based ideology cannot be seen in a positive light, so their legitimate progressive advances are minimized.

This has been put together from the views of multiple people I’ve seen on Facebook and other social websites, and it is quite likely that a person who adheres to one part of what I’ve said does not adhere to a different part. Like I said in the introduction, feminism has become sectarian, so looking at what I’ve put and saying #NotAllFeminists is just as meaningless as me saying that every feminist believes everything I have just wrote. This is just based on things I have personally witnessed and disagreed with, and it formed a coherent enough thesis that I decided to write about it.

Post-script: Probably my most controversial topic in this post is the popular feminist embrace of victimization. I’ve had this conversation with someone before, and she argued that the lived experiences of women brought fear and victimization; that it wasn’t “embraced”. This is a fair criticism, but men face proportional violence (in different contexts to women, obviously), but aren’t afraid of walking home alone, which means that gender conditioning plays a factor in the fear we do or do not experience. She countered that maybe men *should* be afraid. I reject this. Fear based on individual lived experiences is justified, certainly, but incorporating it into a social ideology is dangerous. Telling women and girls that they are victims is entirely counter-productive to eliminating the gendered construction of victimization. The problem is they’ll internalize and believe it, as with all social constructions. This in turn leads to all the troubling things I outline here. If the #YesAllWomen campaign was about empowering women, say she lifted heavy at the gym or got an A on her math exam or she contributed a brilliant idea at a business meeting, then that would tell women and girls that all women are capable of achieving anything. But it didn’t: it sought solidarity in negativity rather than positivity, which can only feed fear and alienation rather than overcome it.

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