Addressing The Opposition: How Do I Explain Chivalry Isn’t A Privilege?

Feminism is an unpopular position to take, throughout history feminists have struggled to stand up for the rights of the oppressed. Fighting the opposing viewpoints which support many forms of oppression such as sexism, racism and homophobia has always been the most meaningful part of my experience with feminism. While many movements and activists enjoy protests, I’ve always held a special place in my heart for one on one conversation in the hopes of changing a personal opinion. As someone who loves to address those who disagree with me, I have become quite familiar with their arguments. Many believe feminism isn’t for equality but for female supremacy, and one of the most common positions I hear is that women are not only equal but have more privilege. What privilege is that? Chivalry, apparently:

1. Men are the ones who have to pay for dinner and dates.

Well, feminists don’t believe men have to pay because they are men, and actually this is insulting to many women because it contributes to the idea that women cannot and are not capable of paying for anything because they are women and women must be taken care of like children. There are a lot of women and men who believe men should pay, but if you ask me, it’s because they have been taught that this is the way things are supposed to be, and it’s rude to behave otherwise on a date.

2. Men are the ones who get drafted.

Women have never been drafted, but women have also been restricted to certain positions in the military and aren’t allowed to do everything men are permitted to do in times of war. Do i believe women should be drafted? No, but i don’t believe men should be either.

3. Men are expected to do the heavy lifting.

Again, women are being treated like children and are never seen as capable of  having the same strength as men. Girls in some schools have less expected of them in gym class, but in some schools they can’t play on the football team because they are girls.

4. Men are expected to be the major breadwinners.

Society dictates this primitive idea that men must make the money, but it has little to do with what’s happening in most households. In these days, husband and wife both work, but the wife is the one who is given the most responsibility for children and domestic work. Many wives and mothers work all day like their husbands and come home and start working on their second job, while many husbands sit on the sidelines in this area because it’s emasculating in their minds. ( I say many husbands and wives because it’s common, but I’m definitely not saying that’s how it always is.) My mother works twelve hours a day, compared to her husband’s eight, but she does all the housework and he sits on the couch after work.

5. Men have to pay child support and women never do.

This just isn’t true. I know women who do pay child support and the father has primary custody. I’ve heard people say women are commonly given bias in custody trials and i honestly can’t say whether or not that’s true because i’m not very familiar with it, but i wouldn’t be surprised if it did happen, as this directly reflects values feminists fight against, a woman must care for the child and a man must give sole financial support.

6. If you want to complain as a woman, you must come into a man’s world because a woman’s position in society is easy.

This is one that really gets to me because of all the effort feminists have put in to get women into a  “man’s world” and to be taken seriously in it, as well as getting it to be called something else. The reality is women are working, going to college, and making a difference in the world right now but a lot of these women are discredited and disrespected in their fields because of their gender. The position women have in society is still reinforced even though women have been stepping away from it for a very long time.

7. Women can hit men, and men can’t hit women.

It’s not okay to abuse anyone regardless of gender. Men shouldn’t hit women and women shouldn’t hit men, period. Feminists know that sexism hurts men too, and feminists want fairness for everyone.(Men can be feminists too.)

The bottom line is this. Society says men are stronger, smarter, and more capable of handling tough situations. Because of this some men are annoyed at women’s rights movements, because what more could they want? Women aren’t taken seriously in the world and fight to be but their fight is deemed meaningless.  Every argument here says women have more privilege but i’m sick of being seen as a delicate little flower who can’t take care of herself. I’m sure everyone here has had this type of conversation and therefore, reading this post may feel redundant and for that, i apologize. But i needed to say this in order to formulate my argument as best as i could. And i also wanted to know, how often does saying this make a difference in your experience? For me, it always depends on whether or not the person is the type who don’t call themselves’ a feminist but they support equality, if they don’t, my effort feels wasted. How do you reach out to those who would support and agree with you but haven’t yet out of ignorance? Do you spend time on people who are truly against equality, and if so, why? And what do you say?  Should i try to change sexist opinions, one person at a time or should i spend my energy on those who are open to learning more about feminism? I don’t know how to make the biggest difference, but i keep striving for change and i would really appreciate some feedback on what you find is best.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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