Letter to the Editor: A Response to Third-Wave Feminism Is Unnecessarily Radical

Letter to the Editor: A Response to Third-Wave Feminism Is Unnecessarily Radical

~For the original article, check out Volume 86, Issue 7 of the Wolfpacket!~

As a white, straight, cis, male living in America, born into an upper middle class family, I recognize that I occupy a position of privilege. When it comes to social issues concerning an individual’s ability to exist in society, free of oppression and restraints that withhold them from a prosperous existence, I realize that people like me already exist in the given conditions. I am also aware of the fact that there are people who do not share the lived experience of the fundamental right to a prosperous life, including persons of color, impoverished persons, and for the focus of this letter, women. All human life should be accompanied by a right to a prosperous life; women are not granted this fundamental right in the United States. To prove this, I will analyze the following three points: domestic violence, economic inequality among genders, and de facto oppression towards women.

On domestic violence in America: total domestic violence rates in America (pertaining to the given categories of men and women) show that men make up 43 percent, and women make up 57 percent of total domestic violence in the U.S. While the statistic is true that one in three women and one in four men experience domestic violence, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) defines this as the most general form of domestic violence, applying to all forms of violence. However, as the severity of the violence increases, the number of males who encounter it decreases drastically, while the number of females who encounter it decreases only marginally. As the NCADV defines it, one in four women experience severe physical violence while only one in seven men experience the same phenomenon. Continuing, one in seven women experience domestic violence to an extent that they fear they will be killed, and only one in eighteen men experience this same phenomenon. While these statistics by no means negate the effects of less severe forms of domestic violence, they clearly portray the fact that women do experience domestic violence more often than men, and in far more drastic situations. All of this data supports this claim, while not even analyzing statistics of rape in America. Again, according to the NCADV, one in five women are raped in their lifetime. In the same circumstances, one in seventy-one men are raped in their lifetime. All of these statistics apply to the US alone, and are miniscule when placed next to global statistics. It is clear to see, that while men and women both experience domestic violence, women encounter severe forms of domestic violence, particularly those in which they fear for their lives, far more often than men.

On the issue of the wage gap: The wage gap in America cannot be summarily dismissed as ‘the way things are’ or justified through simplistic explanations. All too often in analysis of the wage gap, critics acknowledge that women are paid less than men for equal work, but blame this effect on women. They argue that women do not have the same social standings as men (“occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week”), and they have to take time off to pacify family and household needs. These mediocre conclusions fall short of the final step which is needed to understand and explain the wage gap. The questions that critics fail to ask is: Why are women at different (lower) social standings than men? Why do we, as a society expect women, more than men, to take time off of work to support their families? Why do we accept the fact that it is women’s job to take time off of work to “be available for their children” and to tend to the duties of their households when it is known that this sentencing will be detrimental to them? Studies have demonstrated that in the workplace, bosses and co-workers value and respect married men with children most, whereas,  married women with children are valued and respected the least. We sentence women to a life of taking care of children and being the “mother woman”, and yet we do not reward them for it, at times penalizing them because they need to take time off of work to appease household needs. Any individual who is responsible for the majority of the household work and taking care of a family will be hindered in their efforts to pursue a prosperous career. The US department of labor shows that women make 74 to 82 percent of what a man makes (measured weekly, not annually). As critics claim, this may be a result of the fact that women take time off of work to tend to family issues. It also may be because women are simply are paid less because they are women. Either way, there is an issue that needs to be solved. Even if the current wage gap is justified by the fact that our society expects women to be hindered because it is their duty, this is unacceptable and cannot be upheld any longer.

Finally, on the issue of de facto oppression of women in America: De facto oppression is defined by oppression that is not set in place by law, but rather by the social structures present in a given community. This is a central issue that third wave feminism attempts to address. The argument can be made that there are no longer laws set in place that oppress women, but it is undeniable that social systems that oppress women are still in place. Whether microaggressions or blatant acts of misogyny and sexism, de facto oppression is present in America and is exemplified through instances such as catcalling, blatant stereotyping of women, and the delegitimization of the feminist argument. (To address the latter, anyone who deems third wave feminism and anyone partaking in it to be a large group of “feminazis” who get offended too often and are out to get men, clearly does not possess a sound understanding of what third wave feminism is.) Manspreading most certainly falls under the category of de facto oppression; there are visible hierarchies of social space that benefit men and disempower women. Women are taught to be small, confined, to have as little effect on the world as they can beside serving the husband. Men are taught that they are the domineering force. Males are taught to be large, to be strong, and to be superior. Manspreading propagates the oppression of women because it reinforces this masculine-dominant ideology.  

The questioning of third wave feminism only reinforces the need for it. It in the U.S. women are in a better state than they were 50 years ago. This is no assumption; it is fact. But there is a false perception about the state of women in the United States today. At face value, domestic abuse may seem to be nearly equal among the sexes, the wage gap may appear to be the result of women’s choices, and manspreading may not seem like a big issue. But when these three components are truly analyzed it is clear to see that men rule the home, the workplace, and public spaces. This pervasive male dominance creates a dynamic of female oppression. Third wave feminism is not a radicalized group of “very loud people” going to “great extremes to complain about every little detail of the world that seems to be against women.” It is a movement that is well justified in its claims and demands, that still very much fights for the economic, political, and social equality of the sexes.