Thursday, April 22, 2010

Women Who Want to Be Men (from Emily)

Recently I was talking with a friend who said that before he encountered my definition of "feminism," he thought of feminists as women who wanted to be men. Well, as I usually do, I exclaimed that that's not what feminism is at all and began listing off the very reasonable (conservative even) beliefs that drive my feminism. I explained how my biggest concerns as a feminist regard  violence and sexual abuse - and who's going to argue that fighting against domestic abuse is bad?

But I keep thinking back to that conversation, and so many like it that I've had over time. Something bothers me about the way I represent my feminism when I'm speaking to people I know to be conservative. Because aside from the fact that most feminists don't want to be men, and aside from the fact that most women I've met who say they want to be men hate other women and avoid becoming friends with them (I'm not talking about transgender folk - I'm talking about female misogynists). Aside from all that... I'm troubled by the antagonism with which a man would say "feminists are women who want to be men."

Why does the idea of women wanting to be men bother these men so much? If imitation is the best compliment, then shouldn't they feel flattered that people who were born with two X chromosomes want to act like those who were born with one Y and one X? And if men and women are equal (as these men always assure me they believe), then a woman entering their midst isn't about to degrade men, now is it? And, perhaps most importantly, if men don't have any privileges and in fact have it way harder than women (as these men also tend to assure me), then shouldn't they be happy to share their burden with these women-who-act-like-men?

And yet, some men (some people - women included) are not happy about it.  I can only conclude that those people who feel angry or threatened by women who act like men or who want to be men don't really believe those things I mentioned above. In fact, I would even hypothesize that they see womanhood as degrading and women who try to "become men" as stealing something that is above womanhood. Something that needs to be guarded and protected in order for men to maintain some sort of privilege.


  1. Very insightful, Emily. I'd never thought of it quite that way before. If women want to "become" men, it's (generally) because they are aware of social benefits that men tend to receive while women tend not to receive. That men who believe in "equality" would not want to share these benefits is an astute observation.

  2. I enjoyed this piece. I remember a very similar conversation you and I had about this subject. I hope I passed the test! I am only kidding around; I doubt that you were testing me in any way. I was thinking about race in a very similar way while I was working at my Jewelry Counter today. It is advantageous to be white, but is it really what people want to become, conforming language, art, music, culture, dress and fashion to something iconically white. Whether or not there are advantages to race, ethnicity, or gender, I hope (and perhaps in vain) that stereotypes of gender find no home. There is no stereotype for woman AND men that works anymore. Were are people. And as I am writing this I realize Em that what is ideal in my head doesn't always coincide with reality. But thats why your in the world, doing your hero thing everyday!