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You Should be Defensive of Feminism; Not Defensive Because of It

Writer Scarlet Hannington is tired of hearing excuses, as men too frequently switch the blame back onto women and try to justify themselves with: ‘Not all men…’

The media has been lapping up gender inequality issues recently. An Everyday Sexism post has been trending – which contains interview questions women have been asked, proving that ‘non-discriminant’ policies aren’t so non-discriminant when it comes to gender – plus there’s talk of provocation surrounding sexual harassment and short skirts and, of course, there was the women’s march. Consequently, women have been called out on being ‘too sensitive’, needing to ‘lighten up.’ If we speak out, we’re affectionately branded as ‘femi-nazis.’

We’re just looking for something to kick up a fuss about, apparently.

1 in 3 women are sexually harassed and, on top of this, there are plenty of issues we’d like to tackle: the gender pay gap, victim-blaming, workplace discrimination… we could go on. Girls are still also growing up believing that they must work twice as hard to get anywhere near where a man can get in the male-dominated industries of today. But, whatever. In the eyes of the critics who think we’re just whining women who need to pull ourselves together, none of this is worth mentioning.

When women do mention any of the issues above, men usually get defensive. They take it as an attack, suggest women are generalising, become aggressive and interrupt with, ‘But what about *insert issue concerning men here*?’

Quite frankly, I am sick of hearing excuses, switching the blame back onto the woman and following it up with not ‘not all men’. We know that not all men to blame, but when you mention this to argue about victim blaming – and then go on to label a woman as slut, or grope her, or claim her clothes practically begged to be removed  – well, it’s difficult to take you seriously.

I’m still waiting for the day an insult starts being used in relation to a man’s sex life (of course, I’m forgetting that men are wired this way and can’t help themselves, while women have no sexual desires!). And, yes, there is an awareness of what hardships men can face, and we are trying to tell you that a culture has been created whereby both sexes are damaged through stereotypes. But women are facing more, hence the larger focus being on them. Throughout history, men have been the focus, they have been in control, whilst women passively wait to be told what they’re allowed to do with themselves. So when women ask to be listened to – for the focus to shift to us for a fraction of the time that it’s on men – don’t swat what we say away like an annoying fly, or brush us under the carpet.

In doing so, you only prove our point.

When such issues circulate, and become the point of discussion, it isn’t a man-hating exercise. Blame isn’t being placed on an individual basis but the boxes society have given us to fit into, the treatment that is received based on gender, and the injustice of it all. As women, we’re continuously being taught to please men, be it aesthetically or through our personalities. It is drummed into us that we need male validation; somehow, without it, we aren’t worth what we could be. Despite gender-induced issues facing males, which are actively being worked on, focus must be placed on the issues facing women… without apologising afterwards and trying to make up for it by shifting public interest back to men.

If you’re still convinced that women take things too personally, come back to me when you get rejected from a job purely because you have a partner and then, when you try to raise the issue, people dismiss you. Or come back to me when you’re told you ‘want it’ because you stepped out of the house in shorts. Feminism doesn’t involve actually wanting men to go through these things, nor does it involve blaming them for having not experienced them. But it is asking you to not make excuses, to not take things personally, or refuse to be educated, remaining ignorant because you can’t separate yourself from society. If you’re sick of feeling generalised, we know how that feels.

Images via Instagram @wegomarching

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