Feminists have thumped the dictionary definition of ‘feminism’ countless times in defense of the feminist movement. According to most dictionaries, feminism is the social, political, and economic equality between the sexes. However, dictionaries are more prescriptive than descriptive. The term ‘feminism’ was coined in the nineteenth century, a time when women did not have the same rights as men. Therefore, first-wave feminist leaders fought for women’s suffrage. The nineteenth amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was passed by Congress in 1919 and enacted into the law the following year. Following World War II, the second wave of feminism started and focused on family, workplace, and reproductive rights. In 1963, the Equal Pay Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act as an effort to eliminate wage disparity on the basis of sex, and in 1973, the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalized abortion.
With the exception of reproductive rights, there is societal consensus that the first two waves of feminism were beneficial to society. However, third-wave feminism shifted from promoting equality of opportunity to equality of outcome. Despite numerous economists, including feminist economists, debunking the gender wage gap myth, feminists and the Democratic Party continue to promote the myth every election cycle. The infamous ‘women only make 77 cents for every $1 a man earns’ claim is simply the average earnings of all men and women working full-time; it does not take into account occupation, position, total hours worked per week, tenure, or education level. Once these variables are controlled, the gender wage gap almost entirely vanishes.
A common feminist theory is that men have privilege over women; hence the term ‘male privilege.’ To back up this claim, feminists commonly point to rape statistics. However, they fail to acknowledge that men are more likely to be victims of all violent crime. Men also have higher rates of suicidality, homelessness, and incarceration, and they receive longer prison sentences for the same crime. Additionally, men are less educated and have shorter life expectancy. If men have to check their privilege where they have collective advantage, shouldn’t women be required to do the same? Nonetheless, men and women are more than just their group identity; they are comprised of individuals with their own unique story and are not opposing teams with collective interests.
Another common feminist concept is ‘toxic masculinity.’ Toxic masculinity describes traditional behaviors of men in western cultures that are associated with negative societal effects. However, there is no level of masculinity that causes one to be toxic; there are only toxic behaviors, and they can be committed by anyone along the entire gender expression spectrum, ranging from very masculine to very feminine. It is true that men commit a higher rate of violent crime, but this high rate can be attributed to differences in testosterone levels; it has very little to do with societal expectations of gender.
Lastly, third-wave feminism embraces the concept of intersectionality, which is based on the theory of biological privilege. Intersectional theory suggests that a black woman experiences greater oppression than a white woman, but a straight, black woman is more privileged than a black lesbian. Essentially, intersectionality is the oppression olympics and forces society to see people belonging to collective groups rather than individuals. This collectivist thought originated a few decades ago when many feminists argued that feminism had too strong of an emphasis on white women. According to intersectional thought, white men are the most privileged and should listen to members of groups they have subconsciously oppressed. Additionally, anybody who dares to question intersectionality is accused of being part of the problem and told to check their privilege. This theory encourages the victim complex, giving an excuse for members of so-called marginalized groups to vilify white men, a deemed privileged identity. This regressive, divisive theory paved way for higher education to provide safe spaces for students who have been “marginalized,” and incoming freshmen are now told what words they should say as an effort to prevent microaggressions.
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