Why Complaining About Men Does Nothing For Progressive Feminism

by Sarah Cooper

By now, we’ve all seen that infamous catcalling video showing what women go through walking the streets of Manhattan (and maybe any large city) on a daily basis. To date, the video has racked up almost 40 million views and started a growing trend of similar stunts.

We now have women spreading their legs on the train to highlight the "manspreading" issue, women purposefully not stepping out of the way on the sidewalk to highlight the "manslamming" issue and more women confronting and filming their street harassers.

Collectively, these stunts comprise a huge movement I like to call, “highlighting all the things men do wrong and how women suffer because of it,” which, let’s face it, is a long list.

But, the fact is, all we’re doing is focusing on the problem, not the solution. We point out these issues and expect the offending men to say, “Oh, I didn’t realize I was doing that. I’m sorry. I’ll stop.”

We think these stunts will make men change, when we all know that expecting change to come from something or someone outside yourself is usually a losing battle.

This has been a source of frustration for me. Over and over again, these stunts seem more like gimmicks to get attention rather than agents of real change. Their sole purpose seems to be to incite anger without giving us anywhere to go with it.

So, when I read an article about Geena Davis, Natalie Portman and Shailene Woodley launching a film festival to promote women and minority filmmakers, I breathed a sigh of relief. This spoke to me. In a statement, Davis said:

I have been an advocate for women for most of my adult life. The Bentonville Film Festival is a critical component of how we can directly impact the quantity and quality of females and minorities on screen and behind-the scenes.

To me, actions like this show how we can give ourselves a platform to grow stronger and support each other, instead of what we’re doing now, which seems to be tearing men down and playing the victim.

Obviously, Geena Davis isn't the only woman championing feminism in this way; there are a growing number of organizations focused on closing the gender gap at school, work and home. The majority of these organizations are founded by women.

Yes, these organizations highlight the issues women face on a daily basis and throughout their lives, as well as how these issues impact society as a whole. But, they don't stop there. They offer the solution; they are the solution. They're not just complaining, they're doing something about it.

Continuing to focus on the problem only leads to a dead end. It shames men into thinking they’re awful; it doesn’t get them on our side. And, making men out to be monsters only perpetuates that belief -- it doesn’t help us.

But, you don't need to start an organization to empower women and change the conversation from negative to positive. You could just work on being awesome.

There are so many incredible female role models out there who continue to astound others with what they've accomplished. Take a look at the bios of any female leader in technology, government or entertainment if you want to be in awe of what we're capable of.

These women have helped people, invented and built things, and made names for themselves in largely patriarchal and sexist societies.

In doing so, they’ve elevated women to a point far beyond what most people, male or female, have come to expect. By elevating themselves, they've elevated us all. And, they've done it by being awesome.

This is how we do feminism right -- not by highlighting what’s wrong with men, but by highlighting us. We do feminism right by being awesome and creating platforms for other women to be awesome, too.