A few weeks ago, I did a couple of posts on Sexism. One thing that the ensuing discussion made me think about is why more men don’t care about feminism, which reminds me of a joke they did on Cheers years ago. Rebecca asks Sam why “more men” don’t send flowers. Airheaded Sam replies, “Mormons can’t send flowers? I didn’t know that. Maybe it’s against their religion.” Asking why more men don’t care about feminism actually yields similar answers to why (some) Mormons don’t care about feminism.
In no particular order, here are the reasons I think (some) men (and some Mormons) don’t care about feminism:
- Angry feminists. Women who are casualties of sexism flock to the cause, and some of those women have a strong distrust of men as a result of their mistreatment. While it’s clear that these women have a stake in feminist outcomes, they often make it an unwelcoming movement for men and even for women who have not been so mistreated or cannot match their outrage.
- Unexamined privilege. The most obvious reason for men to not care about sexism is that they benefit from it, or IOW, they are not directly harmed in ways they recognize by disenfranchizing women. At times, you can hear these same men whose silence was so deafening in championing the cause of women crying out when programs like affirmative action seek to equalize opportunity. Ah, the cry of the disenfranchized white male!
- Complexity. Sexism isn’t a simple issue with a clearcut solution. There are many causes, most of them not created in our current generation, and the solutions may be difficult. For example, if women are paid less, is it because they are in undervalued jobs – or are some jobs are undervalued because women have traditionally done them (and accepted less pay)?
- Fragmented cause. Within the feminist movement, there are many schools of thought, and there is some infighting between them. Depending on the kind of feminist you are, you could be viewed as a part of the problem by other feminist schools.
- Women who don’t care. Men who are not interested in feminism often like to view women as content without it. This is the most common reason I see in the church that men don’t care about sexism; because most women don’t question it or recognize it when they see it. Or perhaps it is like pornography: we all “know it when we see it,” but we all see it differently. And in fairness, some feminists do seem at war with the women whose rights they are out to protect if they dislike their choices.
- Outcomes unclear. There is a lack of clarity in what the “end-game” is with feminism. When can we declare equality? When do we re-enter the Garden of Eden, hand in hand? When does this war end?
- It won’t get them laid. This is the secret reason I believe most men don’t care about feminism. It is unlikely to get them laid. Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure they care about women being sex-positive and it being okay for women to express sexual desire. It’s just that talking angrily about how society has disadvantaged women is a bit of a wet blanket. And we’ve all heard the misogynistic secret of how to get women to like you: subtly undermine their self-confidence. Unfortunately, it seems to work.
When applied generally to why many Mormons don’t care about feminism, these seem to be the most common from the above list: 1 – feminism got a bad name in the 70s when it was a cutting-edge movement with a lot of anger fueling it, and the church made a strong stance against it at that time; 2 – given that the church calls itself a “patriarchy” without a hint of irony, unexamined privilege seems a given; 3, 4 and 6 – because this is not a “core issue” for the church, I think its complexity makes it something better dealt with by society than the church directly. As we know, where society goes, the church will eventually follow; 5 – this is a major problem in the church, women who don’t care about sexism, even when they have daughters; 7 – oddly enough, I think this is an underlying motivation for why the church doesn’t care that much about sexism: equality reduces family size; BICs boost our ranks far more than converts.
There are those who would say I’m not a feminist, and I have often considered myself as a post-feminist, someone who benefits from the actions of feminists who preceded me, but who can largely go forward and live an equal life; I generally don’t feel that my sex is a disadvantage to me. For me, the items on the list above that make me shy away from the feminist label are 1 – angry feminists: I’m angry about what I’m angry about, but I’m not always angry about what they’re angry about; 2 – my own unexamined privilege: well, I’m examining it, but I still have it; 4 – fragmented cause: I don’t like the infighting, and I’m not sure where I fit in or if I do; 6 – outcomes unclear: I’m probably unwilling to go to war over it anyway, but I’d like to know what the end game looks like. On the list above, what DOES stir me in the cause of feminism is #3 – I love to explore and unbox the complexity, and #5 – I dislike the complacency or ignorance some exhibit about sexism. I’d rather get the issues out on the table in dialogue and debate, civil dialogue and debate.
So, what do you think? If you are a man, does one (or more) of these reasons describe why you don’t care about feminism? Do you care about it? If you are a woman, how do you feel about it? Do you distinguish between being against sexism and being for feminism? Discuss.