“It Could Always Be Worse” – An Excuse That Could Not Be Worse

It is a common scene in movies and television shows that the protagonist is down on their luck and everything is going wrong for them, and then they or their side kick utter the phrase, “It could always be worse,” which is then followed usually by a torrential downfall of rain.  We’ve seen this time and time again, and we usually laugh at the ridiculousness of the scenario.  Is, however, this really that ridiculous?

All of my life I have been told this line by many people – parents, teachers, friends, myself – yet I did not hear it nearly as much as I have since becoming more involved in feminism and transgender rights issues.  Now I hear some version of this line on a near daily basis, and I have to say I’m pretty fed up with it.

In recent times I have heard the line used in regards to the protests and police brutality going on in various parts of the United States such as Ferguson and more recently Baltimore.  “Oh, well, at least black people aren’t being treated as badly now as they were 50 years ago.  Progress!”  “The cops were just killing ‘thugs’ at least they weren’t killing innocent people.” (Debatable in some of these cases, and a non violent criminal act does not justify murder at the hands of the law in any case.) “Who cares that a few people of color were killed by cops, more white people are killed by cops.” (The latter is true, but the claim is misrepresented as even though more white people are killed by cops in total, far more black people are killed by cops per capita.)  But, it doesn’t stop there.  I’ve heard the line applied to LGBT people multiple times, most recently, “Gay people aren’t persecuted in the United States by not being granted rights, you should see the countries where people get put to death for being gay.”  And even when it comes to women’s treatment and rights, “Women have no more issues to face in the Western world, feminism should only concentrate on the third world where women have less rights.”  (I don’t completely disagree, at least I do agree feminism should focus more on the third world.  However, it is naive and foolish to say that there are not still a ton of gender inequality issues in the first world, and nay-Sayers usually ignore the fact that most of us don’t have the money to travel to other countries to help directly, rather we have to rely on electronic support which is limited).

All of these cases are people (usually opponents or critics of the group or cause) taking a separate situation and comparing it to the situation at hand to make it seem that the current situation is not important.  This however, is in itself a fallacy.  Just because one thing is important does not mean something else is not.  Just because there are countries where queer people can be publicly hanged and executed for their sexual orientation, does not mean that we should just be happy with being second class citizens in a country where we can not be legally killed for it.  It’s utterly ridiculous how many cases this excuse is applied to, and even more ridiculous how many of the people oppressed by this line of reasoning cling on to it as true.

Now, I’m not saying that there is absolutely no merit to saying that it could be worse.  Sure, that’s probably true on an ultimate level in all cases (just take about any situation and set anyone on fire), but it is not true many times in a practical sense.  Yes, we, as a people, do need to prioritize in some cases.  Thus why the hashtag #blacklivesmatter instead of #alllivesmatter, when both statements are equally true.  However, it is not all groups that are equally being oppressed or harmed, thus we do need to prioritize some to focus and heal on areas that need it most.  That is not to say that it should come at the expense of everyone else, but in most cases it really does not.

Let’s take a look back at my first example of the ongoing police brutality and murder of people of color.  As I stated before, some will point out that numbers wise more white people are killed by cops.  They say this as a way to downplay people of color being killed by cops, when really they should use this as more fuel to the fire to help change things.  If a lot of white people are being killed by cops, why is that a reason to stop fighting police brutality?  If anything this statistic should unite people of all race’s against a system which gives the police far too much power and far too little accountability.  Yet, instead of uniting people, people use this statistic to point out how it could be worse (once again mistakenly if going by numbers per capita which is more important) and fight each other instead of uniting against a common oppressor.

This excuse has to stop.  Who are we really helping by saying it could be worse?  Are we making things better for ourselves or for the people we are comparing our situation to?  No, not at all.  Instead by making this excuse we are sitting around ignoring all that is going on because, “It could be worse.”  Yes, it could always be worse, and we must always be grateful for and aware of the advantages and privileges that we do have.  But, that is not to say that we need to settle for mud because we could have shit.  We should still strive for gold over mud, that is why today things are better in much of the world than they ever have been.  Because our ancestors did strive for more because they saw where things could be worse, but they also saw where they could be better, and instead for settling for what they had, they aimed for the better.  We could still have better though, and I personally will strive for that better instead of being content things aren’t worse.

Perhaps the phrase it could be worse does have some application when teaching a child to be grateful for what they have or when things are not going in one’s favor, but when it comes to changing the world, truly, “It could always be worse.” is an excuse that could not be worse.

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Feminism: As Nazi as Matza

As a self identified feminist I hear people use terms like ‘feminazi’ very often.  I also hear people who compare feminism to Nazism quite often.  In fact this comparison between feminism and Naziism is so prevalent that it’s not just whiny anti feminists who think women’s only job should be to make them a sandwich.  You hear the comparison from all directions including women, former feminists, and people who are feminist in ideology but refuse to think of themselves as such because of the extremism now so commonly associated with feminism.

As a feminist, I believe this is something we should take into consideration and look at.  I know a lot of my fellow people who call themselves feminists point out that the definition of the word feminism is, ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.’  The last part is key, ‘equality to men’.  Not superiority, not inferiority, not situational equality, just equality.  I take it one step further and define it as the equality of all people regardless of gender.  True feminists know this definition and that is what we use to define our movement.  And, by that definition we stand proud and true to the feminist label, even though some have a negative connotation with the word and movement.

Still, is it wise to completely ignore the association of Nazism to feminism?  Obviously, the feminist movement, even the most extreme and radical members are not really comparable to Nazi’s.  Nazi’s systematically killed millions of people.  This is not a sentiment any true feminist would share, and even the most man hating, trans bashing, womyn born womyn only far right ‘feminist’ radical probably isn’t out to set up concentration camps to put all non cis women in (not that I would ever want such a person to hold a seat of power where they could attempt to do so).  But, while we can rest fairly assuredly that feminists are not literal Nazi’s, for all the negativity the word has, should we as feminists move away from the word ‘feminism’?

First of all, let’s look at the main alternatives: ‘egalitarianism’ and ‘humanism’.

Egalitarianism is ‘a philosophical thought system that emphasizes equality and equal treatment across gender, religion, economic status and political beliefs. One of the major tenets of egalitarianism is that all people are fundamentally equal.’  Okay, so this looks promising.  That is very much what I believe.  However, while egalitarianism is great, there is something missing.  That being a lack of purpose.

Egalitarianism is the goal that feminism and many other similar philosophies strive for.  Any true feminist who wants equality for all people regardless of gender could probably be also considered an egalitarian as well – assuming that they are inter-sectional, at least.  However, while egalitarianism is awesome and a great goal to strive for, we must realize that in order to build the whole car you’re going to need to make sure all the parts are functioning.  Oh, sure, the body of the car could look amazing, but if the car has no wheels, it’s not really a car then, is it?

Feminism could be considered the wheels of the car in this very bad analogy that I am making.  Egalitarianism could be considered the car as a whole.  When all the parts are equally working together to make it go.  But, you don’t just make a car out of thin air and out of one block of metal.  The car has many parts.  I don’t know what all parts because I do not know much about cars other than they are expensive to buy and maintain and I would rather take the train most places, but I do know they are made out of multiple parts that make them work and one main part is the wheels.

In the same way egalitarianism may be the end result, the full car.  But, we need the different parts to make that.  The car can’t drive with out wheels.  Just like we can not have egalitarianism with out equality between genders.  However, in the world there is an overwhelming amount of power given to men.  In less developed countries women are often treated completely as property by the law.  In more developed countries we are not usually treated as property by the law anymore, but we used to be, and because of that there is still some problems left over, meaning that while the patriarchy may not be (in the West) what it once was, it still exists.

If you don’t believe that the patriarchy still exists in the West, let’s take a look at femininity.  By the majority of Western society ‘femininity’ is considered weak, frilly, and not a valued or respected trait.  Masculinity, however is considered strong, and is valued by most people, men and women.  Despite the fact that femininity is considered negative by our society, women are still expected to be feminine.  That says something.  It also says something that women are allowed to take on masculine roles (as long as they don’t get ‘too masculine’, whatever that means) and be respected for being able to partake such a role, but men who may be more inclined to take on more feminine roles (even if they aren’t ‘that feminine’, whatever that means) are demonized and looked down upon.  There are also problems for women such as the pay gap, rape culture, and anti choice proponents.  As well there are ways in which men have it uniquely hard too that are also caused largely by traditional patriarchal mindsets and customs.  Such as being expected to be tough and emotionless, being often considered lesser parents than women even though that’s often not true, not being taken seriously about domestic violence or being raped, and being expected to do ‘tough’ jobs like go to war that while we are letting women do now, we are not expected to do, while your average man is.   These are just a few problems that men and women face because of the patriarchy.  A very short list indeed, and this is only addressing a couple things with men and women, I didn’t even start to address the multitude of problems unique to gender non conforming people because of the patriarchy.

Forgive the digression, I knew that there would be challenges to my claim that patriarchy still exists, therefore I had to put forward examples to provide evidence for my claim.  But, back to what this has to do with egalitarianism…

With this patriarchal system, and obvious gender inequality in multiple directions, just saying everyone is equal and leaving it at that helps no one.  If everyone said that and truly believed and acted like that, we would be an egalitarian society that would not need movements such as feminism or civil rights.  We are not that society.  Therefore to try and accomplish the goal of egalitarianism, we must work to fight inequalities through various methods, including gender inequality.  Fighting gender inequality is, well, feminism.

The other word recommended to replace ‘feminist’ with is ‘humanist’.  But, humanism is already it’s own philosophy completely distinct from feminism (I am actually both a feminist and a humanist).  Humanism means, ‘an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.’  Basically, humanism is more of an areligious moral and philosophical concept than having to do with equal rights.  So, that would not work either.

At this point in time the only word that truly defines feminism is in fact ‘feminism’.  Once again, and I can not stress this enough, ‘feminism’ ultimately means the pursuit of equality of all people regardless of gender.  Once we look at it for what it is, there is no reason to change the word.  There is no reason to be ashamed to call oneself ‘feminist’.

Still, despite the fact that the word ‘feminism’ is fine in essence many people fighting to hurt others have used ‘feminism’ as their excuse.  I’m a trans woman.  There is an entire section of feminism known as ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists’ or TERFs for short.  These TERFs tend to hate trans people with a passion to the point that they deny us basic human rights.  They refuse to see trans women as women, but they do for whatever reason see trans men as women, which makes no sense to a person who is not completely clueless.  TERFs are one of many groups that give feminism a bad name because they actively fight against anyone who isn’t a ‘womyn born womyn’.  They don’t believe in equality, they believe only in their own power and rights.

But, those people are not feminists by definition.  Perhaps they are ‘feminists’ as they call themselves such.  But, does this mean that feminism is evil?  Because of a few whack job extremists who are full of hate and malice?  Let me ask a question, are all Catholics evil?

Hitler was a Catholic.  He was in many ways a very devout Catholic, and from his writing and speeches he seemed to truly believe what he was doing was ordained by God, yes the Christian God.  The second this is brought up, a lot of Christians and Catholics will say, but Hitler was not a ‘true’ Christian.  Well, looking at what feminism has done for the world, and looking at what Christianity has done for the world, I can conclude that Christianity has probably done far more harm than feminism (though  certainly it has done a lot of good as well, let’s not dismiss the good things Christians have done in the name of their faith).  But, besides Hitler being a Christian, the multitude of pedophile priests, the many Christian hate groups (including anti feminist ones), and lovely little points in history like the crusades and the inquisition, most Christians will still call themselves Christian even though they themselves may be completely horrified by what others in their religion have done.

I am horrified by what some people who call themselves feminists have done, and are trying to do.  But, they are the minority.  Yes, there are feminists who are white only.  Feminists who hate men.  Feminists who hate trans people.  Even feminists who would kill said people if they had a chance.  But, those ‘feminists’ are rare.  They are the most vocal of feminists, because the most horrendous people tend to be the loudest (says the girl writing a blog).  But, should we dismiss all of the good feminism has done either?

With out feminism I would not be able to write this blog today with out facing a lot of harassment over it.  Women would not be able to vote in most countries with out feminism.  Men would still be considered the sole providers and warriors even if that was not their path, but a woman who wanted that path could not have it.  Feminism in itself is a great thing.  The equality of people regardless of gender is a great thing, and ‘feminism’ describes both the philosophy of this equality as well as the action taken to reach this goal.

Feminism is not bad.  And, feminism is not Nazism.  Nazism is the belief that one group of people – particularly white Aryan straight cognitively and physically able and “normal” gentiles stands above everyone else by divine right.  Feminism says ‘no’ to this concept, and in feminism no means no.  Feminism says ‘no, all people are equal, regardless, and we must fight for this by uplifting those who have been down trodden.’

That is what feminism is.  And, that is why I will stand by it for the time being.  After all, why should we let hateful people and anti feminists define our movement for us – as the latter says ‘feminism is evil’ and the former give them proof for their claim?

We should not.