That’s Not A Real Feminist Issue


I see this comment made a lot in the comment sections of feminist pages. If a woman says that she was blamed for an accident because she’s a woman and the man who hit her was in the military, people will say “That’s not a feminist issue, it’s an issue with military power.” Yes, it is an issue with military power. People act as if people in the military can do no wrong. People in the military do have privileges that the rest of us don’t have (though I’ll happily keep my lack of military privilege in exchange for not having PTSD). But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t also a feminist issue. People don’t automatically assume that the bad driver ahead of them is male. They don’t tell women “you drive like a man” in a mocking tone when they mean “you’re a bad driver.” The perception that women are bad drivers because they are women is a feminist issue because the assumption is sexist and leads people to treat women differently than they treat men.

Likewise, other “not real issues” are in fact real issues, and they really are important if we want to create a world that is equal for everybody. Men taking up to much space is a real issue. Why? Because your dick does not need so much room that you get to take up two seats worth of space while I’m forced to squeeze into half a seat. I used to ride the train for an hour to school and an hour back home again 5 days a week for two years and yes, I did experience this issue. Transit seats are already too close together. On a full train, I’m already forced to sit of stand shoulder to shoulder with strangers. When I have some asshole sitting next to me putting his leg over the line dividing his seat from mine, that’s infringing on my space. And it’s something men do. Don’t believe me? Go take a ride on a bus or a train and look around. Most of the women will have their legs crossed and their arms resting over their laps. Why? Because women are taught from a young age that this is polite and this is how ladies sit. The men, however, will often have their legs spread out crossing the line dividing their seat from another, regardless of whether or not someone else is sitting in the seat. Men and women also behave differently regarding where they put their bags and how they talk to their friends on transit. Women put their bags on their lap unless they are too big. Men almost always put their bags between their legs, which is often in the way of people getting on and off. Men shout over top of people to continue talking to their friends, but women generally stop talking if they are separated from their friends in the train or bus. So why is this a feminist issue? Because it’s a matter of entitlement. Men feel entitled to the space even if they are negatively affecting someone else to use it. Women feel as though they must make themselves small so as to have as little effect on others as possible. This is how we are raised, and it is a problem. Men shouldn’t feel entitled to the space other people are in, and women shouldn’t feel as though they should disappear in order to make room for others.

Are these minor issues? Yes, but that doesn’t mean they have no roll to play in larger issues. The same issues that lead grown men to not realise how much space they are actually taking also play a role in the “boys will be boys” attitude that people use to ignore a boy’s aggression and in the belief that men can’t control themselves when women dress provocatively. It’s all the same issue of “men are aggressive wild beasts that need to be tamed” that hurt both men and women. And the military privilege is much the same. Women in the military are treated like infiltrators who shouldn’t be there. The privilege is mostly enjoyed by men because they fit the strong warrior trope that all men are supposed to fit (even if they actually don’t). So yes, these are real feminist issues. They are feminist issues because they are yet more privileges that men get to enjoy that are denied to women. They are feminist issues because they help create a world of inequality. And they are feminist issues because size doesn’t matter when it comes to inequality. If something is unequal, it’s unequal. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a little bit unequal. And it doesn’t matter if other people have it worse elsewhere. African women being raped because they want to go to university doesn’t mean that the inequality I face here doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. My inequality is still inequality. To say otherwise is to allow systematic inequality to persist. And small issues add up to create major issues. Personally, I’d rather deal with them while they are small.

Oh, and I can oppose that rape of African women, and other major inequalities faced by women, at the same time as I oppose the minor issues. So why would I have to pick one or the other? To say I should ignore minor inequalities because they are small is beyond ignorant. So, before you use the “that’s not real feminism” line, actually think about the issue. Think about what the person is saying about it, listen to their reasoning, and think about how that issue can play into other issues. And stop telling me that my experiences and my issues don’t matter.

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22 responses to “That’s Not A Real Feminist Issue

  • charlotteatkinson19

    Reblogged this on Byzantine Lipstick and commented:
    Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    Like

  • theprozacqueen

    Honestly I don’t take it upon myself to decide what’s a “feminist issue” and what isn’t. Some things-like the rape of African women you mentioned-are obviously related to women’s equality…seeing a woman as a person worthy of being treated better than someone’s sex toy. I think stuff like that should bother everyone, feminist or not.

    As for other problems-well, it’s up to each person how we respond to something. If you want to make it [“manspreading”, etc] into a feminist issue, it’s a feminist issue-for *you*. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks because *you’re* the one dealing with it. It’s up to each person to decide which battles they want to fight.

    (tangent)
    I’ve never dealt with the “manspreading” issue. In fact, I never even heard of it until someone on a debate board I help host asked for the “Christian opinion” on it in an effort to mock Christians, as though we are expected to have an opinion on Every. Little. Thing. That’s not my assumption-it’s this person’s M.O.

    I wish we had more of a public transit system here.
    (/tangent)

    Sorry to get off track. Anyway, issues are as “feminist” as you want them to be.

    Like

    • theprozacqueen

      ….
      And LOL next time someone makes a crack about women being crappy drivers, ask them why men (on average) tend to pay more for car insurance than women. I don’t know how it is in Canada, but car insurance companies in the US tend to charge men more because they are statistically more likely to be aggressive drivers, take stupid risks and thus cause more accidents. This isn’t to say women don’t cause wrecks too, but having a penis doesn’t make someone a better driver.

      http://www.autos.com/auto-insurance/car-insurance-rates-men-vs-women
      http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2014-07-25/car-insurance-women-have-more-fender-benders-but-men-pay-more

      Sorry, off track again! 🙂

      Like

    • hessianwithteeth

      An issue cannot be a feminist issue only for a particular person. It is not a feminist issue because a person deems it so. A feminist issue is any issue that deals with the systemic treatment of women as being less than men. If women in general are harmed by an attitude or a behaviour to a greater degree than anyone else, then it is a feminist issue. The assumption that men are allowed to take up space even when it is occupied by another and that women should take up as little space as possible is a systemic problem that hurts women to a greater degree than it hurts men. This is not a matter of mere opinion, it is a matter of what beliefs and behaviours harm women and prevent women from being seen as equals in society.

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      • theprozacqueen

        I guess I was just thinking that it wouldn’t be up to me to tell someone else that something isn’t a “real feminist issue” or that their concerns aren’t real just because I don’t share them or because people have it worse somewhere else. There were a few other comments implying that the whole “manspreading” thing wasn’t a real problem, but you’ve experienced it and I haven’t, so it’s not up to me to say that it’s not a “real issue”. I’m just glad I live in an area where men are usually polite enough to give someone else room to sit if they can. Consideration for other people overrules what someone is “allowed” to do.

        As for the rape issue, perhaps I’m naive but it bothers me that *anyone* would think it’s okay to rape someone. That’s definitely a women’s-equality issue, but it’s also a *human* issue. I can think of a lot of men who wouldn’t call themselves feminists but would gladly kick the ass of anyone who so much as *tried* to harm their mother/sister/friend. Every woman is someone’s mother/sister/friend, I just wish more men realized that.

        I apologize if I misunderstood anything. It’s been a long day! Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2015 04:33:13 +0000 To: sha_angelico@hotmail.com

        Like

  • That's Not A Real Feminist Issue | Christians Anonymous

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  • roughseasinthemed

    I thought this was a good post, and summarised the issue of subtle sexism that is reinforced by both men and women in daily life without most people even realising it.

    I’m not getting into a dispute with ‘faith’s’ comments on a blog I don’t know, but the whole behavioural pattern whether on public transport or elsewhere isa feminist issue.

    What people who either don’t understand, or have no interest in feminism, fail to grasp, is that women can display sexist behaviour and use language too because we all live in a society that has patriarchal values and women are taught to behave in a certain way. Taught to carry handbags, wear high heels, wear make-up, perfume and hairspray for their oh–so-sexy hairdo.

    But try explaining that, on top of everything else? Nightmare. However much you use small examples to illustrate the bigger picture, many people will reject the overall message and focus on the detail without looking at context.

    It’s still a good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  • OpheliaMorse

    Being female and all that entails is a feminist issue. Anything that adversely affects women is a feminist issue. Large or small. I’ve written a bit about day by day victories, that are all key to winning the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Ros

    ‘Oh, and I can oppose that rape of African women, and other major inequalities faced by women, at the same time as I oppose the minor issues. So why would I have to pick one or the other?’

    I think this is absolutely right. Sexism is still an issue in the Western world, as articles like this one make abundantly clear:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/10490727/Britain-ravaged-by-sexism-women-know-your-place.html

    And it’s not just about women ‘knowing their place’ it’s also about men ‘knowing their place’ and hence not being trusted in a career that doesn’t match that place.

    I can’t comment on the manspreading because I rarely use public transport. However, the driving issue is a hugely complex one. Traditionally, all sorts of jokes have been made about women drivers. Yet, for some time, insurance companies in Europe have held a very different view. And legislation was eventually required to prevent them from acting it out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12606610

    This is just one example of some of the massive changes that have taken place in the past 30 years. Back then, I failed to get a place for veterinary training largely because I was a woman. Similarly, medical schools were only just reaching the stage of accepting equal numbers of men and women. Now the situation has reversed and there are far more women than men entering both professions. This has had some worrying consequences in the case of vets because the original contention has proved correct. Fewer women than men end up wanting to work with large animals and the farmers need them to do just that. It’s one of the cases where some hard thinking needs to go into how to attract people of both sexes to do the jobs that need doing without resorting to gender stereotypes.

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  • saoirsefaith

    I have to admit that I am struggling with this a little bit… The idea that small issues should not be ignored because other people have bigger problems is of course completely correct; it’s unfair an unhelpful to undermine someone’s feelings just because comparatively it may not look so big after all, however, the exact examples that have been brought forth here feel very one sided and blatantly ignorant of other factors.

    Sure people say “you drive like a woman” but I have also heard “you drive like an: idiot/retard/rig pig/macho man/loser/pin prick” as well as “bloody immigrant! Where did you get your licence? A cereal box? Did you trade in your rickshaw for a car as soon as you stepped off the boat??” and countless more tactless, racist, classist and sometimes straight up inhumane comments. So while the fact that the phrase “like a woman/like a girl” is still equated to something negative is of course very hurtful with a widespread societal impact, the way it is presented here, makes it look as though it’s the only insult used in traffic and that there aren’t countless other
    slurs and insults (some of them by far more hurtful if you ask me) being thrown around.

    To boil it down, the fact that “like a woman/like a girl” is still considered negative is absolutely a feminist issue, the fact that we as a society however have an undeniable tendency to insult one another for being in any way different and be aggressive drivers to boot, is a completely different problem in and of itself.

    The bus scenario on the other hand, is slightly different. Sure some men take up quite a bit of space on the bus with their legs wide open and such, but given that I don’t drive and have taken the bus & train for the past 10 years and still do today, I have to say that I have been the “victim” of way more handbag bashings, high heel scrapings and silly party girls spraying perfume and hairspray on a bus choking the air out of people, than of any man’s “spread ’em” complex. The same thing goes for the shouting… Some guys, sure, they’ll shout at each other over a crows, but the women/girls that I met do it just the same; they cackle and squeal and get incredibly high pitched (especially if they’ve been drinking) and they do it just as much as the men do. But this does not apply to all women, same as it does not apply to all men; it’s an incredibly road brush being used. Even though I understand your frustration toward loud & leggy male commuters, your writing proposes that women are dainty little flowers who never misbehave in public. What is being described here is not a feminist issue, it’s a “people don’t know how to behave in public issue”. We should not be infringing on other people’s space, we should be courteous and considerate when sharing public spaces and on the same token we should not tolerate people being rude and causing trouble.

    Please understand that I don’t mean any disrespect; it’s just that as much as I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment about not belittling someone’s issues just because there are bigger problems out there, I don’t feel like the examples here are fair or suitable. They allow readers to presume that women never do anything wrong, and that in and of itself is a sexist issue.

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  • The Brain in the Jar

    “Men taking up to much space is a real issue” – And where is the evidence that Manspreading is done mostly by men, and targeting women?

    Notice how your claims women do X and men do Y lack any citations?

    At best, Manspreading is a symptom of entitlement, which is as unique to males as it is to females (If you expect to be beautiful just the way you are, you’re feeling entitled)

    Something is feminist issue when it targets women. Feminists, at the end, is fighting misogyny

    African women being raped (Or women in Islamic countries being abused because they’re just viewed as inferior) doesn’t erase your inequality, but it’s a far more pressing issue. You can live with Manspreading. You can live with ‘microaggression’. Women in the Middle East cannot live when they’re viewed as “tilth, so approach your tilth when and how you will”. The silence regarding what goes in this countries is sad
    .

    I’m in the Israeli millitary, so I don’t know much about how the privileges go there in the US. If anyone ever tells me I’m privileged though, I’d have to agree – I have the privilege of serving 3 years instead of 2, barely seeing home and a degraded mental health.

    I do feel entitled because of it, by the way. That’s because for once in my life I’m sacrificing a lot for something bigger than me. That’s just here.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      You can live with a lot of things, that doesn’t mean you should. You can accept your lot in life, or you can try to make it better.

      Again the point of this post if you not limited to combating one or the other, you can point out both and combat both in many ways.

      Like

      • The Brain in the Jar

        You can’t. Time sent on one thing is time not spent on others. You have to choose your battles.

        If manspreading is a serious issue, it’s time to admit we madr huge progress and help those who can’t even ride on public transportation

        I’m still not convinced manspreading is even a feminist issue.

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        • hessianwithteeth

          And you don’t have too. Isn’t it wonderful?

          Though to avoid more snark, since that probably isn’t fair of me (You can decide). I will make the point that manspreading in a symptom of a large problem, though drawing attention to mens general lack of knowledge about how they take up space and assume others will avoid them or make space for them is a more important issue then manspreading alone.

          This is also coming from a man, who to some extent does this behaviour. I’m not terribly egregious about it, but I do it and I try to be aware of it.

          That said it isn’t that men should be allowed to spread their legs to be comfortable. It’s that men (or anyone for that matter) should force discomfort on other for their own comfort alone. To be aware about how ones actions affect others and to show some basic courtesy and respect to those around you. Part of that is being aware of how your actions, and in a more feminist context how, your privilege affect how you think about things and how if affect your behaviour.

          But while is taking on manspreading important in this context? Because if you don’t confront men about how they use space then how will they ever start to think about it. Certainty some with happen upon it naturally, but not everyone is so thoughtful or observant.

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          • The Brain in the Jar

            Where is the evidence thisis such a male-centric thing? Why are we making a public transport issue into a feminist one?

            Women are not targeted. Entitlement is not unique to men. Feminists’ weird aggressive collectivism is far more alarming and dangerous – they call that intersectionality, but I see a hierachy where the most oppressed wins.

            There are more pressing issues. Women have much bigger troubles than this. Manspreading is selfsatire

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          • hessianwithteeth

            There we go it seems you decided where you fall in regards to this argument.

            Now If your interested in going further we will need to discuss privileged (and as an extension entitlement) and how it manifests. As a teaser anyone can have privilege, and privilege come in several forms.

            Though since you think Manspreading is selfsatire this will be the point I will remind you and those reading, that you do have to choose that battle as your own. Next to no one is going to get upset in you don’t think that’s a priority issue. I know I’m not.

            Like

          • The Brain in the Jar

            I agree about the privilege thing, although I’m less interested in what I have than what women don’t
            For example, I have the privilege of not fearing sexual assault so much. This should remain. What should change is that a lot of women fear

            Again, how does manspreading target women? Why isn’t women with a lot of bags not an issue either?

            Like

    • hessianwithteeth

      I’m largely meh on that story. I’ll admit it’s largely because it strawmans the atheist argument (by assuming the is a single argument and making all atheists look pig headed). It has some nice idea’s, but in my eye’s the message probably hasn’t aged well just as the website.

      Edit: Perhaps you commented here by mistake, but this post had nothing to do with religion. We appreciate if things remain topical.

      Liked by 1 person

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