While on social media sites, whether Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I frequently come across posts that describe how recent generations have deviated from norms that have been embedded in society for centuries. In particular, the norm that my contemporaries seem to greatly defy is an adherence to the traditional roles of women and men. Women in 2014 live drastically different lives than they did in the mid 20th century. With hit TV shows such as Scandal that has a female lead and Beyoncé’s release of “Run the World” and “Flawless,” two songs that highlight women’s empowerment, it seems that we are transitioning into an era in which women are becoming more comfortable with asserting and embracing their independence. It’s no longer uncommon for a woman to establish and sustain a source of income based off of her own skills and education. It’s no longer uncommon for a woman to seek and gain visibility in the public sphere. Overall, it appears that millennials are more accepting of women taking on roles that expand past the traditional ones of wife and mother.
Instead of all viewing this as growth, some perceive the shift as a downfall. In the last past week, I’ve encountered a significant amount of posts that discuss how a woman displaying independence is a disadvantage to society. She (an independent woman) is destroying the nuclear family unit by embracing autonomy. She is “emasculating the man” by trying to be self-sufficient. She is ruining her children’s lives and is one reason why males become trapped on the pipeline to prison. Though these statements may seem far-fetched, they are ones that I’ve read and also heard in conversations. Apparently (though not surprisingly and definitely not new) there are people who believe that women’s empowerment aka feminism is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: at first glance it appears to be advantageous (especially coming from a time when women couldn’t vote or own land), but in actuality, it’s a threat to the lifestyle that our society has become accustomed to for years.
The lifestyle that feminism is so threatening to (and what some people are trying to salvage before there is “total destruction”) is one in which men subjugate women. When people argue that “women should let men be men and stop trying to take on their role, ” they are really saying, “let’s uphold patriarchy and keep women in a subordinate position.” Though it’s often phrased that feminism is a threat to the well-being of families and children, it really is seen as a threat to men and men only. This is because in order for women to have autonomy, men must give up some of the privilege and power that they have always held. They must agree to the social, economic, and political equality of women and recognize and accept them as their own agents. Feminism, just as other ideologies that aim to eradicate injustices, challenges a system that people have assimilated into for so long that some will guard it off in order to maintain an order that is not only deeply rooted in society, but in minds as well. Therefore, a change can be viewed as an affront even if that change is for the freedom of a group of people who have been devalued and dehumanized by the system.
When I hear or read about individuals asserting that women need to stop emasculating men with their independence, I realize how manipulative the system of patriarchy is. It tricks individuals into thinking that the ones who have been victimized are the perpetrators. It suggests that women’s empowerment is crippling and a disadvantage to men even though they are the ones who have historically maintained power and control. It shows that injustice is acceptable because when men declare independence they are praised, but when women do it they are castigated. Instead of asking women not to emasculate men with their independence, let’s ask men to relinquish some of their privilege and commend women for seeking recognition and freedom after being disparaged for centuries. In reality, patriarchy is detrimental to both women and men as it confines everyone to a rigid position with no room to move or grow. Feminism liberates us from that space and allows us to develop as individuals.