No, not that “F” word, the other one: feminism.
The word feminist has about as many dirty and immediate connotations as the word atheist. People instantly judge you if you call yourself one or the other. I don’t readily label myself either term, but I’m more inclined to call myself an atheist than a feminist, which is silly. Based on the dictionary definitions, I’m actually more of a feminist than an atheist:
Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
Atheism: the theory or belief that God does not exist.
Really, when it comes down to semantics, I’m not an atheist. I’m agnostic just for the simple fact that there is no incontrovertible proof that god doesn’t exist. There’s no absolute proof that he does either, but that’s a story for another post.
As for feminism, I firmly believe in equal rights for everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual preference or any other measure of human beings. As Depeche Mode said in the song People Are People, “I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man.” Yes, I just quoted Depeche Mode. Deal with it.
By definition, I am a feminist, yet the term makes me cringe. Why?
There are a few reasons. I’m not much of a joiner. I don’t belong to any clubs or groups or gangs. I never really have. I do my own thing and I try not to hurt anyone in the process. I am responsible for my actions. I am not all that fond of labels or sweeping generalizations. I try not to apply them to other people and I don’t like them applied to me. I can and do only speak for myself.
Feminism is such a broad term. It’s not like saying I’m left-handed. If I say I’m a lefty, that means that my left hand is dominant. There’s no gray area there. If I say I’m a feminist, it could mean anything from believing in equal rights to men bashing. The definition is too open-ended. There are some murky ideas lurking at the bottom of feminism with which I take issue. I am not a man-hater. I don’t want women to rule the world; I just want us to have an equal shot at doing so.
Even though I’m not much of a joiner, there’s no overarching feminist group anyway. If I were to say I’m Catholic, you would have a pretty good idea what that means. Even if it’s an ill-informed idea, people are aware that there’s an organization called the Catholic church that adheres to certain ideology. There are tenets defined by the church that Catholics should follow. There’s structure and a shared sense of community. There is no such thing with feminism. There really is no proper noun feminism with a capital “F.” Sure, there are organizations devoted to women’s rights that have proper nouns, but feminism, in and of itself, is not a proper noun. You can’t pay dues and get a membership card to Feminism.
Above all though, the reason that I don’t label myself as a feminist is because I don’t like people speaking for me. All those dirty connotations I mentioned that surround the word? Yeah, those. I don’t like those. When you tell people that you’re a feminist, some of them picture this bullshit:
The image on the left could be labeled a feminazi trope, which is just about the most abhorrent term anyone has ever created to dismiss the female gender. To compare advocates for women’s rights to Nazis is disgusting and shameful, and fuck you.
So, now that I’ve just enumerated all the reasons why I don’t call myself a feminist, let me tell you why I am a feminist.
In some very strange ways, it’s almost the antithesis of the YesAllWomen nonsense, but comparing #YesAllWomen to #WomenAgainstFeminism is kind of like asking which is the more crucial women’s issue in 2014: hair spray or mousse?
Good for you. No one is saying your shouldn’t love your husband or that being a full-time wife and mother somehow demeans women. Well, maybe some idiots are, but they’re wrong and should be ignored. The point is that you can choose to be a stay at home mom or a CEO.
I don’t see how advocating equal rights for women demeans men. Equality is not a seesaw where, when one gender goes up, the other goes down. Equality is, you know, the state of being equal.
I’m happy for you, but how does that have anything to do with equal rights? Is your boyfriend your boss?
Ugh. So, you’ve never been stereotyped, discriminated against based on gender and you love your husbands/boyfriends. Well, good for you. Really, that’s awesome. I’m sure Elizabeth Cady Stanton would be very happy to hear that. But, none of that, even making a sandwich for your nice boyfriend, has a thing to do with equality for women.
That disgusting cartoon above? That’s not from the 1950’s; it’s from 2012. Malala Yousafzai was shot for believing that girls have a right to education the same year.
Just this year, a successful discrimination suit was brought and settled by a woman in China. It was the first time a woman ever sued for discrimination in that country and it’s 2014.
Just because you live in a nice first-world bubble where you are allowed to speak your mind, dress how you want, marry whomever you choose and work where you want, that doesn’t mean that everyone has those rights.
While you may not need feminism, there are millions of women around the world who do. There are countless women who don’t have any of those freedoms you are so blithely taking for granted with your signs, so please, don’t dismiss their fight just because you have the freedom to do so. In some places, taking a selfie with your hair and your ideas showing is enough to get you beaten or killed.
While normally I am loath to label myself a feminist, in the face of your trifling Women Against Feminism arguments, I am choosing to label myself the “F” word, in all caps even:
I AM A FEMINIST.