The feminists of the the 20th century helped to level the playing field for women in the West. Unfortunately, the gender struggle of the past decades has radicalized a subset of individuals. We need to realize that we will not get equality by pointing fingers and complaining about which gender is or has been the biggest victim of oppression. The result of the present situation, is that both genders currently face sexism in society; women because of troglodyte viewpoints, and men because of feminist backlash.
Perceiving everything in terms of gender difference is a method of divide an conquer, which keeps people from focusing on our common humanity, and from having empathy for one another. The problem lies specifically with the age-old dominion and oppression based world view. Both the extremes radical feminism and radical men's rights, matriarchy and patriarchy, imply an unethical domination of one gender by the other, leading to even more misunderstanding.
Both matriarchy and patriarchy represent a failure of the ancient egalitarian ideal. Contrary to popular belief, patriarchy was not always the dominant paradigm throughout history, and it need not be going forward. Patriarchy is flawed, and matriarchy is also flawed. Neither men nor women should game the system to their advantage, or try to unethically assert power or superiority over other people.
There is another way; egalitarianism. Egalitarians acknowledge that every person, male and female, has equal innate rights. No individual or gender is entitled to special privileges, because that would imply that one individual or group has rights that other humans do not have. The result of true egalitarianism, not one which is forced on people from the top down, is a partnership or equalitarian world view, where each gender's contributions are naturally viewed as equally important to society and part of a larger, all-encompassing whole. Each gender balances and compliments, rather than conflicts with the other.
What does this have to do with ethics, you ask? Much! The true source of domination does not emanate from some abstraction, such as patriarchy or society, but rather, it originates from within the individual. I concede that while oppressive societies can limit free will, individuals choose to promote domination or freedom by virtue of their beliefs and actions. People can choose daily to be ethical, not to use their free will to dominate others, and to eliminate any arrogant and irrational beliefs in their own gender's superiority. Then we will have truly equal partnership and respect between the sexes.
History's Biggest Lie
According to Riane Eisler in The Chalice and The Blade: Our History, Our Future,
the Minoans in Crete, the Etruscans in Italy, the Celtic Druids, Neolithic cultures in Sardinia, and other groups, were all partnership societies where women's roles were more or less equal to men's, and where women were admitted to the priesthood. The female creative force, and the male creative force, were seen as equal in terms of cosmological importance. Warfare was less prevalent, and equality the norm.
These discoveries have important ramifications for humanity, because they seem to refute the idea that it has always been human nature to create violent, divisive and and domineering societies from the beginning of time.
Even in comparatively more recent times, patriarchy and dominance was not always perceived as ideal. The Stoics of ancient Greece, and the Buddha, were among the first in written history to promote an egalitarian philosophy, asserting that everyone should be treated with respect regardless of their position within society.
The philosophy of egalitarianism in its modern form was presented by John Locke in the 17th Century. According to the Standford Dictionary of Philosophy, “As currently used, the label “egalitarian” does not necessarily indicate that it is desirable that people's condition be made the same in any respect. An egalitarian might rather be one who maintains that people ought to be treated as equals—as possessing equal fundamental worth and dignity and as equally morally considerable.”
While I happily acknowledge the advances that feminists in the 19th and 20th centuries made towards are a more egalitarian society, I also acknowledge that we are currently dealing with the backlash from some forms of feminism having become radicalized in the last 40 years. Just as feminism arose to combat women's oppression, the men's rights movement has grown in response to radical feminism, which irrationally paints all males as oppressive, and also because of certain antiquated laws, such as lifetime alimony, are still enforced long after women's liberation. Such laws are holdovers from a time when women were viewed as chattel. I think it is safe to say that there is currently sexism directed against both men and women in society today, whereas prior to the 1960s, it was directed more towards women.
The above is a statement of the unfortunate facts as I understand them, rendered to explain the current situation. It is not a statement of blame, or a manifesto for why women (or men) should view themselves as victims, or enjoy special privileges that they were previously denied. The past is history, and the entire world view which asserts that if its not patriarchy, it should be matriarchy, is historically inaccurate, limiting, and associated with a cynical view of so-called human nature.
What is Wrong With Radical Feminism and the Radical Men's Rights Movement?
While some radical feminists and MRAs claim that they are pro-equality, I argue that if equality is what you want, then you are going about it in the wrong way by identifying with team male, or team female, rather than team humanity as a whole. Their approach is oppositional and divisive, even if they don't intend for it to be.
Perception tends to become reality. By focusing on how contemporary society victimizes your gender, you will tend to see situations subjectively through the lens of gender oppression. These beliefs promote perpetual suspicion and a narrative of victimization.
Worse yet, some individuals routinely make irrational, sweeping statements, like “all men are irresponsible,” or “all women don't know what they want, and need to 'gamed' by men.” It is irrational to make sweeping claims that every member of a certain gender (or group) is a certain way. It is both a statistical impossibility and a statement which ignores individual free will.
While it is fine to acknowledge that individuals may be different in terms of their personality and abilities, it is unethical to treat one gender as somehow inferior to another, because despite any differences, all people have the same innate rights as human beings.
While not true of every radical feminist or MRA, there are certainly individuals within each group who literally hate and despise the opposite gender. This could be a result of focusing on gender differences too much, or because of projecting personal problems onto other people rather than responsibly taking ownership of them.
Both are collectivist groups which seek to impose “equality” onto society from above. I argue that individuals must choose the egalitarian perspective through their own free will, when they are ready, because of strong conviction, and not because they are afraid of seeming politically incorrect. Individuals must freely choose egalitarianism based on the acknowledgement of equal rights, without having it forcefully imposed from above, for there to be any lasting change.
Radical feminists are so extreme that they don't even seem to believe in personal moral responsibility. They believe in degradation on a social level and not a moral level, and don't seem to understand the difference between the two. Many are themselves sexist in the broadest sense, asserting that everything men do is necessarily oppressive. For example, a radical feminist will often assert that a prostitute is oppressed by men, implying that she has absolutely no personal moral responsibility for her actions or situation.
If you feel it is degrading to buy or sell sex, you are free to not engage in that activity. Even if the system sucks, that is not to say that you don't have responsibility for the choices that you make within it! While your free will may be more limited, it is not non-existent. A potential prostitute can presently take a job, or ask for assistance, rather than accepting easy money from a job that she views as degrading. This has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with moral responsibility. The same is true of male prostitutes. No one is free from moral responsibility and consequences.
Towards An Egalitarian Future
One way that this can be done is by refusing to participate in radical feminism or radical men's rights advocacy, and by rejecting outmoded labels. Because the innate rights of individuals of both genders are the same, we need a term, as well as a philosophy, which does not imply that one gender is special. The the term egalitarian, as well as the philosophy of egalitarianism, is inclusive of everyone.
Both the terms “feminist,” and “men's rights advocate” only include a reference to one gender, implying that gender is special. They are exclusionary terms by their very nature. I find that using the term egalitarian, in place of feminist or MRA, gets people thinking about gender in a non-divisive way.
I am a woman by birth, egalitarian by choice. I'm not on team woman or team man, I'm on team humanity. Plain and simple.
If you really believe in equality, choose to be true to the egalitarian ideal in your own life. Understand that it is unethical to treat someone differently or to assume anything about them solely because of their gender. Take ownership of any biases that you have, and try to transcend them in your relationships. Treat everyone respectfully and morally as fellow human beings, with rights equal to your own.