Feminism has never been an easy movement to be allied with. If you're not labelled as an unshaven, bra-burning bitch, you've probably been labelled as an angry ball-busting lesbian. It seems people will do anything to undermine both the ongoing battle and the ever present need for women's equal rights.
Tough as it may be to live with the day-to-day slag from the uneducated who were quite content with the non-speaking, non-voting, butter-churning version of the female, nothing really beats the et tu Brute syndrome. I suppose self-denigration is a risk in any movement that includes radicals, but dammit, I really wish the radicals that undermine a movement from within wouldn't do it so loudly.
Last week, the Famous Five Foundation declared war on the national anthem, targeting the line "In all thy sons' command." By kicking important issues to the side (like salary discrepancies, workplace discrimination and the two to one ratio of men to women in places of higher learning), these brave but misguided souls have decided the line must now be changed to read "In all thy children's command."
I don't for a second disagree that the little battles are just important as the big ones (see Emporium, Bad Kitty's Snack), but it's clear that some focus on the big picture has been lost here. While women can still point to critical issues such as the double work day, female genital mutilation and the body beautiful media portrayal, issues such as a word in a song aren't really critical. While a woman can have her life destroyed by spousal abuse or date rape, what woman can really say their life has been negatively affected by the word "son" instead of "person" in the national anthem? Can you really pin misogynistic behaviour on over-singing of the anthem as a child? Would the original Famous Five really consider this a worthy expenditure of time and money in light of their battle just to get women out of the kitchen?
We may want to say that we no longer live in a patriarchal society, but we'd be kidding ourselves. The idea of the "weaker sex" persists the world over, and the word "son" in our national anthem is but one manifestation of that patriarchy. Changing the lyrics will not result in equal treatment of men and women. The real battle lies in adjusting fundamental societal constructs so that gender is no longer a differentiating factor. Once those changes take place, then the little things, like "sons" instead of "children," will take care of themselves. Making a ruckus and signing petitions over such a minute detail will accomplish only one thing: to show skeptics of the movement that feminists are not serious about the real battles.
No, feminism isn't an easy movement to be allied with. If it's not the anti-feminists beating down from above, it's the ultra-feminists chipping away from beneath. The challenge lies in balancing belief with
reality and recognizing when crusading zeal is impeding genuine progress. Feminism is a valid cause that meets a valid need--but feminists need to find valid modus operandi. Singing "In all thy children's command" won't mean anything if women still get paid less than men. Regardless of the words, we'll still be singing the same old tune.
Ruth Davenport can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.