You Might Be Feminist…You Just Don’t Know It

It’s time to reclaim the word ‘feminism’.

And I don’t mean by plastering it on mugs and t-shirts and tattooing it on our foreheads. By ‘reclaim’, I mean that the time has come for people to shout out what the term truly means and stop all the man-hating nonsense that most people think it is. Feminism isn’t about women stomping on men while we raise our fists to the sky.

loo brealeyI’ve seen a lot of news in the media regarding celebrities and their feelings towards feminism, and not all of it is positive. Kudos to Ellen Page, Louise Brealey, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for shouting out that it’s amazing and necessary and wonderful to be a feminist. We need more of that.

But then I see women in the spotlight, women who keep saying that they don’t consider themselves feminists. And while everyone around me is saying, “Well, that’s a damn shame”, I’m looking at my hands in distress because I don’t think that anyone is actually pinpointing the real problem.

The problem isn’t that people are saying they aren’t feminist. The problem is that many people already are, but society has stigmatized the term so heavily that they can’t relate to the word. But without knowing it, they do relate to the ideology. So, bottom line, there are a lot of people out there who are feminist, they just don’t know it yet.

Example A: Shailene Woodley. I’m sure you’ve read her comments on being compared to Jennifer Lawrence, and if you haven’t, you need to. She’s got one hell of a point and I applaud her for saying it because we need to hear it. But even though she says she isn’t feminist, everything that she’s saying is aligning with core feminist beliefs.

Example B: Pharrell (though Blurred Lines definitely pushed some boundaries).

The list goes on.

Lady Gaga said she didn’t consider herself feminist, saying, “I love men, I hail men”. Taylor Swift doesn’t think of things as “guys versus girls”, yet she seems to be misinformed because that’s not what feminism is. But Carrie Underwood takes the cake with her quote, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a feminist, that can come off as a negative connotation. But I am a strong female.”

Carrie, you have summed up the feminist issue of the day: connotation.

feminism definitionI’m going to tell you right now that dictionary definitions don’t really matter. If you call someone a faggot, no one is going to think you’re labeling them as a bundle of sticks. If you call someone an ass, you’re not saying they’re a donkey. So, bottom line, it doesn’t really matter that the dictionary definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. And that’s not because feminism is much more and includes minorities and the LGBTQ community (times change after all; this isn’t just about women anymore), but because no one reads the dictionary. You aren’t going to carry one around with you to prove that feminism isn’t what everyone thinks it is.

It’s about talking and communicating and speaking with other people about what feminism really means. If everyone continues to associate the word with negative connotations, we’re not going to get anywhere. As a child, I sat in the back of my grandmother’s car and heard my mother and grandmother say that feminists hated men. I silently swore that feminism wasn’t for me, and it took a long time for me to realize the truth. Word of mouth is powerful, especially coming from the people you love.

Taylor, this isn’t about guys versus girls, though many people want you to think so. Gaga, I also love men and celebrate masculinity. Being feminist isn’t about casting American male culture aside, so keep reading, because I promise that this works out for everyone.

smash patriarchyThere are going to be some people who say that feminism isn’t necessary. A guy that I thought was pretty cool recently posted a comment on Facebook implying that “patriarchy” and “rape culture” weren’t real. Long story short, he’s actually not so cool and doesn’t have my respect, but what he does have an outlook that many men have: ‘if it’s not my reality, it’s not real’.

News flash: just because rape culture and patriarchy are not evident or visibly present in your world does not mean that they don’t exist. Of course there are going to be men that claim those issues are invalid because their positions in society ensure that they don’t worry about being raped on the way home from work. They don’t earn $0.70 to another gender’s dollar. They don’t walk home with keys between their fingers. Those are issues they aren’t confronted with, but to say those issues don’t exist because they don’t exist for them is akin to me saying that disability access is unnecessary because I’m not wheelchair-bound.

I want you to look at women who are burned with acid for turning down wedding proposals, women who are beaten to death for refusing a date, little girls who are married off and raped, and say to my face that we don’t need a movement to change the way that women are treated and perceived by society.

feminism is for everyoneAnd yet, the magic of feminism is that it is not just about women. I say this over and over, but no one seems to get it. Please see my rant regarding Nick Adams for more information on how feminism benefits men, because the benefits are so numerous I could write another whole article about it. I don’t want to hear men say that they can’t be feminists anymore because this is about everyone. You can’t exclude yourself.

That being said, we have to have patience. Patience with the movement, patience with people, and patience with all the baby feminists who are waking up to realize they can really change things. Looking back, I realize that patience was one of the best things my feminist friends could give me. It took me a while to process things and to finally understand what goes on behind the scenes. This is going to take time.

But use that time to your advantage. Tell people what feminism really is. When someone has a misconception, correct it. Feminism is just as much about moving to fix problems as it is about identifying them. So speak up, because a movement that starts with the people, ends with the people.

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6 thoughts on “You Might Be Feminist…You Just Don’t Know It”

  1. This is a very well written article. Thank you for obviously putting so much time and thought into it.

    I have several small reasons for not calling myself a feminist – I prefer not to identify myself by accidents of birth (gender being one), I had an incredibly bad experience with ‘feminism’ in college and I think it’s more akin to an advertising campaign than a philosophically consistent system in many ways.

    However, I really only have one big reason and that’s because if you put a gun to my head right now and told me to define feminism, I wouldn’t be able to. I literally don’t know what it means.

    1. Hi Ben!

      Thank you so much for commenting and I appreciate your feedback!

      Feminism is really the ideology of believing in equality. That’s it. But that equality doesn’t just extend to men and women. It’s very much about intersectionality, which is a fancy way of saying that our identities are connected to what makes us who we are: gender, ethnicity, race, sexuality, class, etc. So it’s about equality for everyone, whether they are gay, bisexual, transgender, low-income, or anything else. It isn’t just about women anymore, even though that’s how the movement originally started out!

      Bad experiences with feminism can make it hard to really get to the core of the movement, especially when some people who are against equality try to smear the ideology. At times, I think feminism can seem like an advertisement, but I also don’t think that’s always a bad thing and it can seem very philosophically inconsistent because as a movement, it’s still very young. People still have different ideas about issues within feminism (porn-positive feminsits vs. porn-negative feminists, for example), but the core of feminism really is about equality and tearing down barriers. If you’d like me to explain further or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Thank you again for reading and commenting!

      Allix

      1. Hey Allix,

        I’m not so sure feminism really is equality, or that it even should be about equality. I wrote an article about this very issue and, especially in the realms of sex and violence, I think equality would probably be pretty awful for women.

        The root of the confusion I see, I think, is a fear of “essentialism,” in the sense of people wanting to say “a woman is essentially ~.” I understand this fear, since essentialism is and has been a very effective tool for holding women down in the past.

        However, avoiding essentialism and then acting rationally in response to violence and sexuality is, in my observations, completely impossible.

        As for my terrible experience, let’s just say my “Women’s History and Feminism” class spent 5 months expecting me to believe that patriarchal oppression made the average woman shorter than the average man. :/

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