Are you a Feminist?
For some, this is a very loaded question. Perhaps naively, I did not realize how polarizing the word feminist is until I went to college. And although college is a place where one’s ideals and beliefs are challenged and molded and reshaped, the first time I heard a man claim to be against feminism, in a room filled mostly with women wanting to further their horizons through education, I was floored. This was one belief that I could not imagine being challenged in a place of higher learning, again, perhaps naively. And in my senior seminar, when a fellow classmate did his presentation on the importance of racial equality in the military, while also vehemently denying being a feminist, I was more than annoyed. To me, equality is equality is equality. And I wonder, if that room had been filled with Persons of Color, would anyone have dared admit to being racist? But instead, although there were mostly women in both of these instances, neither man seemed the least bit concerned with their claims. And I couldn’t understand why.
Another eye-opening experience has been the realization that there are women who don’t consider themselves feminists. Now you may be wondering what rock I’ve been living under but it’s true. More and more I am aware of the negative connotations attributed to feminism and those who support the movement. Man-haters is thrown around quite a bit. And that is one of the tamer terms. So I wanted to take this opportunity to clarify what I mean (and what I think the majority of people mean) when we call ourselves feminists.
For starters, feminism is the belief in gender equality. The idea that regardless of gender, people should be afforded the same opportunities and rights. Now, there are many different sub-genres of feminism and in no way do I mean to simplify it too much, but this is the very core of the movement. I don’t hate men or want to rule over them. Nor do I think this is a conversation in which men have no place. Men are impacted by gender inequality too. If women are allowed to be strong, men won’t always have to be. If men are allowed to be nurturing, then their duties as parents won’t be considered less important than a mother’s. It works both ways.
Now, I know there are those out there who are totally against feminism because they see it as a threat to the status quo. And true, change can be frightening. But change we must. However, I am not necessarily concerned about them at this moment, although I do realize the harm they have done and their ability to twist something good into something sinister. But what concerns me more are those who believe in gender equality and yet, continue to distance themselves from feminism or to consciously fight against it. Yes, I understand that, like every other movement, feminism has its fair share of radicals. But we can’t discount ideas because of those on the fringe who take things too far. If we did, progress would never happen. But to some, feminism conjures up images of women enslaving men and I think this is unfortunate. This is not what I believe in, nor what the vast majority of feminists believe in, but still the title breeds fear. And to quote Hermione Granger, fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself. So we need to talk about feminism, not just with women but with men too. This issue belongs to all of humanity, not just half of it.
So, are you a feminist? I am. And I suspect many of you, whether you like the title or not, are too.
(Also speaking of Hermione Granger, you should check out her UN speech about the Heforshe campaign. It’s pretty great!)