By Sarah Tegenfeldt
Feminism is an ever-changing and evolving ideology that is dependent upon on personal experience. There are those that see feminism as a beacon of hope for moving towards a world of equality, and there are others that see feminism as detracting from the instituted patriarchal values of our grandparents’, and even great-grandparents’, generation.
As a 21-year-old female, feminism to me is simply the idea that men and women should be socially, politically and economically equal. In a world ruled by misogyny, Dennis Prager would have you believe that feminism is destroying values instead of empowering women. And in the ever-changing rules that govern modern relationships, women’s desire to simply be equal is the root of the degradation of romance and intimacy.
Meanwhile we have extraordinary women, such as Abigail Rine, who now spends more time defending the word feminism than actually fighting for women’s rights. We hit a stalemate where the word “feminist” is no longer inspiring to women and where feminist stereotypes portray women as “shrill, angry, neo-amazons.” Women are no longer willing label themselves as feminists due to the increasing negative connotations associated with the title. So how, in a world of full Dennis Prager’s, do we take back feminism and redefine our generation’s movement towards gender equality?
In an article titled “Why Is There a Hookup Culture?” Dennis Prager uses his own special form of “mansplaining” to discuss Donna Freitas’ book “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.” According to both Prager and Freitas, the proliferation of a “hookup culture” is leaving women unfulfilled in relationships, but where they differ is in the explanation of the cause of this modern day issue.
Prager believes that “feminism, careerism, and secularism” are the reasons that our society is pressuring young adults into hookups over long-term commitment. Thus, in his analysis, Prager dismisses the feminist movement as idealistic and false. His condescending tone implies the idea that women cannot be truly fulfilled by career and casual sex.
Yet men, as they have been for centuries, are applauded for their steadfast career aspirations and their ability to not let a relationship interrupt them on their path to fulfillment. While Freitas’ book emphasizes a shared fault between both sexes of our generation and the previous generation, Prager focuses solely on women. He resolves that it is not only feminist teachings, but also feminists themselves that have destroyed relationships. In his conclusion, Prager even goes so far as to mock Freitas and her advanced degree stating, “I suspect that it is her very Ph.D. that prevents her from understanding either the roots of this human tragedy or its solution.”
This is the mentality that feminists such as Abigail Rine are currently trying to combat. In a recent lecture Rine gave in a college classroom, she admittedly spent the first half of the lecture trying to defend the word “feminism” and debunk the current stereotypes associated with a movement that has been around for numerous decades.
The idea of feminism is no longer helping to recruit young adults into its ideology. Instead it is now used as a scapegoat for people, such as Prager, who are desperately clinging to their archaic patriarchal values and need something to blame for the progressively liberal path that our nation is taking. Feminists spend more time now defending their work when that time could be spent trying to open lines of communication and establish new alliances in the struggle for equality. Yet this is the reason that the feminist movement exists and continues to persevere, and gives motive to women like Rine to continue to fight.
Earlier this month, she wrote, “it is the most insidious inequality that remains, the misogyny that is coded into our words and behavior, that fuels rape culture, and the sex trafficking pandemic, and the ‘pornification’ of sexuality.” As long as there are inequalities there will be a reason to continue the struggle for justice. Thus, in his judgment of the feminist movement, Dennis Prager actually renews the reasons for its existence.
I shamefully admit that I never identified myself as feminist, believing for some reason that feminists were innately radical. But upon reading Prager’s article, I felt a twinge of defiance—a desire to don a “this-is-what-a-feminist-looks-like” t-shirt and take to the streets armed with a picket sign. Our generation’s movement towards gender equality may not be defined as feminism, but it is certainly shaped by the people who propagate misogynistic ideas. Those that wish to tear us down only strengthen our resolve. This is what defines my struggle and my generation’s movement towards equality, feminist label or not.
Photo By The U.S. National Archives