As a millennial woman, (someone who came of age between 2000 and 2010), I grew up being bombarded with messages of strong women who could “have both“. I grew up in an age were women started to become leaders of industry en masse and breadwinners in their own right. This is an amazing step in human history but I always find myself thinking of the cost of such empowerment.
I attribute these changes to the rise of Feminism as a mainstream and widely accepted and debated idea.
The subject of feminism was a popular one in my A Level Sociology class.I remember having a debate with my tutor about the costs of feminism and what we as women have had to give up to make steps to be seen as equal to men. The easiest example I could think of was how the concept of chivalry was now outdated and limited in 21st century society. “Chivalry is dead and Feminism murdered it”.
Chivalry to me required women to be in a position of disadvantage. The proverbial Knight in Shining Armour is no longer necessary because the princesses have learned to save themselves.
This I feel is both a positive and negative move. It’s positive because women no longer need men to support them financially and they can do most of the things that were once restricted by the shackles of society.
It’s negative because women like me are finding themselves incapable of being vulnerable because there’s “no need for me to lean on my man right?”
This might be a personal thing that only affects me but I find it extremely difficult to ask for help from my boyfriend. I’ve worked since I was 18 because I didn’t want to keep asking my parents for money. I take my independence very seriously and the idea of needing a lovers assistance makes me very uncomfortable. This is because feminism to me is women and men recognising that society treats us differently and sometimes unfairly. It’s realising that to make these changes we need to stop confusing the concept of gender( women as the homemakers and men as breadwinners) with a persons sex. It means reaching for striving for equity and equality. I mean why can’t I be the one that makes the most money in my relationship? Why can’t I be the breadwinner?
What I’m alluding to is the fact that feminism has all these beautiful and remarkable effects for both sexes. But at what cost?
I looked into ways in which feminism has benefited society in recent history
Women’s Civil Rights, Female World Leaders, Intersectional Feminism, Malala winning the Nobel Peace Prize and Street harassment slowly becoming a unlawful act. All this in the last two decades and feminism is still a relatively new concept…
It’s becoming more and more acceptable for men to display characteristics that were once seen as feminine and unmanly. The sexual revolution didn’t just help women with their body autonomy. Access to birth control and abortion rights means that men are less likely to get prematurely saddled with babies they aren’t ready to have.
In the US the definition of rape has been changed to include men.
In 2013 women being allowed on the frontlines of war lessened the onus on men and gives them release while empowering women into leadership roles.
The most obvious difference is paternity leave. Studies show that children who spend more time with their fathers are more likely to succeed academically and less likely to abuse drugs and be delinquent. In fact, research shows that children whose fathers do more than 40% of chores inside the home are more likely to excel in school.
I realised that what I was experiencing was probably what a lot of modern men go through on a day to day basis. The “mans man” doesn’t seek the aide of his woman without shattering his pride and ego. Right?
Mass media supports this idea because when faced with this situation men aren’t portrayed as being able to handle it well. It’s a familiar plot line when watching a show/ movie based around the family that when, the husband figure is the breadwinner and a sudden shortfall causes a lifestyle change, this lifestyle change isn’t communicated to the wife figure and it eventually leads to a violent or emotional outburst. This isn’t just true in works of fiction, real life examples such as the Parente familicide  show that life imitates art or vice versa.
In order to get a well rounded outlook on the subject of feminism and its effect on women and men seeking aide, I asked a few friends (4 males and 3 females) about how easy they found it to lean on significant others when they were in positions of financial need.
Two of the men that I asked took a very traditional outlook where they would almost never go to their lover instead choosing to rely on parents and friends.
The other two men who are self confessed feminists stated that when then need arises and if they were in a loving supportive relationship they found no problem in asking their partners for help because the would reciprocate.
The situation was similar with women, one friend is in a committed long term relationship were transparency is part and parcel of the union and for this reason she found it easy and natural to lean on her man. The rest of my female friends are in fairly new or uncommitted relationships so they communicated that they disliked the idea of being a burden on their partner. Maybe perhaps because of pride?
Personally I find it hard to ask for help because of pride additionally because I have been made hyper aware that I live in a day and age were I should be able to support myself. Also a little because I hate the idea of someone being able to control me because they hold the purse strings. I have this problem regardless of whether or not I’m in a committed relationships
Feminism has afforded a lot of amazing things to men and women. One cost of it is that women are now in positions were behaviours associated with “toxic masculinity” could surface. Internalised misogyny is a common side effect of living in a patriarchal society and reports of women bosses exhibiting bullying behaviour and discriminating against female colleagues are common. Lacking the ability to seek help from a lover or significant other could be another side effect of feminism.
In my opinion feminism was originally about empowering women to realise that they were capable of the same greatness as men. However whist achieving this we may have ignored the “side effects” of said empowerment and those side effects could undermine the whole movement
Are women really empowered by feminism or will the cost of levelling the playing field be too heavy a cross to bear?Is there a way to celebrate the achievements of feminism whilst discussing the negative elements of it? Or would this discussion be premature?
Should we wait for the movement to mature because this may undercut what it’s trying to change? Should we be proactive or reactive?
Hopefully all these questions will be answered while feminism continues to develop.