I've been called a lot of nasty names in my life, but misogynist isn't on the list, at least it's not one of the names I hear regularly from relatively well-informed people.
The truth is that I've always considered myself a male feminist and I've worked hard to that end. But, at the same time, I've found myself at odds with the traditional feminist movement and I've even grown to fear that feminism may be the very thing holding a lot of women back.
You see, I'm a feminist in that I'm an egalitarian. I believe that all people, regardless of race, sex, religion, etc. should have equal protection under law and equal opportunities in society.
With that in mind, it's hard to deny that women have been treated unfairly and, in many ways, continue to be treated unfairly today. I feel that it's important to support the notion that women, like everyone else, deserve a fair chance at life. I wholeheartedly support initiatives such as equal pay for equal work, equal access to education and other pillars of feminism that aim to expand the options and opportunities women have to further their happiness.
My problem comes when women's organizations try to decide what women can and can't do with that freedom, usually by taking up initiatives and objectives that have nothing to do with equality or fair play, but instead, personal choice.
For example, many feminist organizations frown upon “traditional” roles of women, including the role of the stay at home mother. Homemakers are frequently told that they should be out in the workforce earning money and building a career of their own and that, if they fail to do that, then they're dragging the feminist movement down and disrespecting those that are fighting for their right to do so.
The problem with this is that, just because a woman has a right and the capability to enter the workforce, that doesn't necessarily mean that she wants to. In fact, many women, and men for that matter, find that being a full-time parent is a very rewarding and challenging career. To deny them the right to be a full-time parent, or to even hint that what they're doing is wrong, even if it makes them happy, is no different than forcing women into the role.
A similar problem arises in the porn industry and adult entertainment at large. Feminists have long slammed the sex industry as being demeaning toward women and it's taken its aggression out largely on the women that participate including actresses, strippers and those that work in the business in non-sexual capacities.
Though the logic of “porn degrades women” is flawed on several levels, feminists have tried, often with reckless abandon, to regulate and hinder the sex industry. Though it's true some of the women that wound up in the field were forced into it, this is an issue for law enforcement and not raging political activism. Most of the women who get on stage or in front of the camera do so willingly and to deny them their profession because of a general fear that it “demeans women” is very telling of the feminist movement.
Basically, what it shows is that many, if not most, modern feminists have no interest in erasing gender stereotypes. Instead, they want to carve out a new one that mirrors the traditional male roles. They conclude, quite erroneously, that the true path to equality with men is to place as many women as possible in traditional male roles, even if it requires some degree of force.
Personally, I see equality and freedom as going hand-in-hand. Unless there's freedom, someone is being subjected and as long as someone is being subjected, there's never true equality.
If feminists want to center their movement around the idea of pushing women down paths they don't want to go, that's their prerogative. But while they might achieve equality in the eyes of the law and the workplace, they'll have done nothing to secure true freedom for women and will have only replaced one type of sexism for another. Worst of all, they'll have done very little, if anything, to further the overall happiness and richness of women's lives because they'll be denying many women the path that is right for them.
In the end, the only true way to embrace the idea of feminism, or any movement that is pressing for equality, is to first embrace the idea of personal choice. Because the minute we start telling people what they can and cannot do with their life, we find ourselves replacing one type of oppression for another, thus creating a “chasing the tail” scenario by which little is gained and nothing significant is accomplished.
That's something that we can't risk allowing to happen, equality and fair treatment is something that is too important to jeopardize over personal disagreements. At some point, we have to realize that freedom means people sometimes doing things we don't like (though, personally, I have no problem with either stay at home mothers or the sex industry) and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Basically, there needs to be a realization that feminism can't be about the vision of utopia shared by a few, but instead, about the freedom of all. That's the only way real progress can be made and any idea of fairness can be reached.
And, in the end, isn't fairness what feminism is supposed to be about?