It took me a long time to warm up to feminism. At first I worried that being a feminist might suggest that I hate men and don’t need them. It also seemed to me that feminists are so concerned with cleaving to a male-dominated society that they contribute to the devaluation of femininity. These points are untrue of feminism as a whole and of most feminists. Simply put, the feminist movement pursues equal power for men and women. Feminists fight to reform a society that is dominated by men and masculinity, seeking to strike a balance between men and women as well as masculinity and femininity.
While feminism strives for equal power between men and women, it does not necessarily do this by advocating for equal treatment. The call for equal treatment has been replaced with the call for equitable treatment: to be treated fairly, which is not necessarily achieved by being treated the same. There are two areas of concern for women that necessitate this distinction: 1) our physical and emotional needs and 2) our experience within a social context, both of which differ from men and require special consideration, just as the needs of men do. To be equal in power, women must be allowed to be womanly without an associated cost and we must be protected from abuses we are subjected to in a society that equates femininity with inferiority. What feminists want is an equal voice in the world. We want to embrace our femininity without being imprisoned by it.
From such a viewpoint, I truly appreciate men who are chivalrous and considerate, as well as masculine and protective. I’ve encountered many men who seek to provide, protect and show gentlemanly manners without regarding me as helpless or incompetent, which is what some assert to be the implication of such behavior. Not necessarily, I would say. When the female and femininity are fully valued and respected, the male and masculinity can also be celebrated and appreciated.