Feminism, like any human movement, is bound to have its pros and cons; its destructive elements and its healing elements.
Earlier this week I wrote an article exploring the dark side of modern feminism which understandably received a lot of criticism and hostility.
To me publishing such an article was an interesting experiment: we all like to feel secure and assured in our convictions, but once they are challenged in the slightest or most extreme way, we become frantic, argumentative or even enraged.
Most of us have a very strong sense of being “right,” and because our identities are so finely entwined with our societal ideologies, dogmas, philosophies and beliefs we become extremely unsettled, offended and resentful when we are shown that the very thing we have invested so much emotional and psychological energy into isn’t always pure, noble or well-intentioned.
This is the problem with allowing your sense of “you” to get wound up in external ideas, principles and movements: your sense of self will always be shaky, defensive and guarded because you will eternally feel the need to “protect” something. You will eternally feel the need to defend your mentally constructed sense of self, rather than merging with the divine, unconstrained Self.
How to Appreciate the True Benefits of Feminism
I learned long ago that the only way to truly appreciate anything in life is to look at it with honesty: to honor both sides of the equation rather than alienating one and worshiping the other.
This is the true value of shadow work; we can not only apply it to the unconsciously shunned elements of ourselves, but we can also apply it to any external person or movement. Feminism is not exempt from this process, and in reality the more you honestly assess its detrimental impacts, the more you can honestly appreciate its true benefits without involving bigotry, black-and-white thinking or extremism in the equation.
As I mentioned in the “Woman Against Feminism” article, I am neither for nor against feminism – I am neither a feminist nor an anti-feminist – and in failing to identifying with either side it is much easier to remain objective and centered.
While feminism can be undeniably dogmatic, divisive and aggressive (particularly in the west), it can, and has been extremely supportive, revolutionary and advantageous to not only women, but also to men and those not identifying with gender.
9 Diverse Benefits of Feminism
How has feminism benefited us, other than the obvious improvements it has brought us (i.e. the right to vote, enhanced workplace equality, the pill, political presence etc.)?
1. Feminism is one of many paths towards self-love and respect.
Being beaten as a child, forced to fulfill limited roles, harassed, shamed, pressured, belittled, sexually abused and disempowered both within the family, culture and society has a way of making many females hate who they are from a very young age. Feminism provides females of all ages, beliefs and races the opportunity to reclaim that personal power that has been lost; the promise that life becomes better when you begin to step up and take responsibility for who you are and how you react to what is thrown your way. Because of this, feminism opens a much needed door to self-love and self-respect.
2. Feminism often promotes a sense of belonging.
Women looking out for women = a sense of community and belonging. Many secular and spiritual “sisterhoods” have their roots in feminist philosophy and activism and provide an open and (often) accepting place where women of all nationalities and orientations can feel accepted.
3. Feminism helps us to embrace the taboo.
Topics like sexuality, sex, rape and menstruation are often explored openly and unashamedly by feminists who argue that such topics shouldn’t be kept in the dark. By bringing light to these topics that are often shunned or completely ignored in society, feminism helps the fragmented female develop more inner wholeness by exploring shadow elements that have previously been repressed.
4. Feminism helps us to honor the divine feminine.
Although feminism is generally a social and political movement, it is also a spiritual movement in that it helps us to reconnect with the powerful, wise and nurturing roots of the divine feminine. By honoring and promoting the innate strengths of the feminine, feminism has helped to expand our patriarchal concepts of what divinity means.
5. Feminism helps men spend more time with their children.
Women aren’t the only ones to have a long history of social, political and religious “roles” and duties. As of 2009, women have represented half of all U.S. workers as opposed to the one-third they made up in 1967. This means that men experience less and less pressure to be the “primary” breadwinners for their families, giving them the freedom to stay at home with the kids should they desire to.
6. Feminism allows men and women to enjoy sex more freely.
Thanks to feminism making the contraceptive pill a viable option for women, both sexes can enjoy the pleasures of sex more openly and freely without the fear of unwanted pregnancies, and therefore unwanted duties and responsibilities.
7. Feminism helps to promote equality in relationships.
What is healthier; a relationship that is defined by traditional roles and an imbalance of authority, or a relationship that is defined by freedom and equality? Thanks to feminism, women experience more equality and therefore more respect in their relationships. According to a study conducted by Laurie Rudman and Julie Phelan in 2007, men who date feminist women actually experience more stable relationships and greater sexual satisfaction. This is unsurprising because when both partners in a relationship perceive each other as equal human beings, the relationship is built on mutual respect, rather than on neediness or control.
8. Feminism helped to broaden the definition of hate crimes to include LGBTQ and disabled people.
Along with other organizations, The National Organization for Women – a feminist movement – was responsible for changing the definition of “hate crimes” in American law. Before the law was passed, only acts committed against race, religion and nationality were considered unlawful. Since the act was passed in 2009, acts committed against those possessing certain gender identities, sexual orientations and disabilities have been included in the definition of hate crimes.
9. Feminism has helped encourage men and women to be more authentic.
Both males and females are born into cultures all throughout the world that have certain standards of what “appropriate and acceptable” gender-specific behavior looks like. Thanks to movements like feminism, our gender stereotypes are constantly being challenged, analyzed and turned inside-out. In western countries particularly, men and women are granted more freedom to embrace their anima and animus (male and female) energies, rather than enhancing one and ignoring the other. This might be one of the greatest causes for the rise in popularity of gender fluidity; or not identifying exclusively with either “male” or “female.” Because of this, both sexes feel more comfortable with exploring who they are wholly and completely.
There are many other benefits of feminism that could be mentioned in this article, but aside from the obvious benefits, these nine stand out.
I hope this article, as well as my previous article, helps you to build a more honest and balanced understanding of 21st century feminism and the way it can potentially impact you for gain or loss.
How has feminism inspired or helped you?