A little disclaimer before I begin, I do not hate men, nor do I believe that men do not have problems. But that is a different topic for a different time. Furthermore, the essay I’m about to write was inspired by many, many months of contemplation and I decided to write about this after inspiration from one of my English lit teachers after a pretty awesome conversation about Bridget Jones’s Diary, so if you ever read this, hi!
When people ask “Are you a feminist?” and I reply with conviction, “yes,” I receive an array of responses. There are people who agree, those who are indifferent, those who make a joke (the kitchen joke perhaps being the most commonly used and it really isn’t that funny, am I right?) and those who say something along the lines of, “ugh, why?”
I mean, really???
And as though their reaction isn’t enough, they bombard you with reasons not to be a feminist or why feminism is ‘stupid’, at least, to them. However, the most exasperating question that follows is, “so, you hate men, then.”
When you look up the definition of the word itself, feminism is defined as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Nothing about that statement exactly screams “man hater”, so why is it that some people think that?
If anything, I don’t think there’s a decent human being who can not agree with the definition of the word.
Responding to sexism with sexism achieves nothing except even more sexism. Just like you can’t respond to a fire with even more fire. It’s perhaps the most common misconception that all feminists are angry, men hating women. Sure, I get angry sometimes (who doesn’t!?) but feminists certainly don’t hate men. I am a feminist and I don’t hate men. Women aren’t just feminists, but men are too. In fact, male feminism is equally as important as and should be equally as encouraged.
Quite honestly, in my opinion, of course, the people who respond to feminists with such a critical or perfunctory response do so simply because they can not be bothered to look up the definition of the word itself or do not recognise that even in the society we live in, sexism and gender inequality in various different areas is still an astounding problem.
Feminism does not advocate sexism towards men, man-hating, prisons for men or any other preposterous notion of the sort. It does what it says; advocates equal rights for men and women, a notion that really isn’t that radical. In fact, it’s astounding that in the twenty first century, in a world so technologically advanced, a world that perpetually speaks of freedom and liberty and being able to achieve whatever you want, that women in all walks of life, all over the world are not perceived to be equals to men.
What is it that makes women inferior to men? Spoiler alert: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
There isn’t anything a woman can’t do.
We have women running for President, a notion that is so profound in 2016 because a woman is ACTUALLY a front runner to be President of the United States. It’s incredible that we celebrate this to such an extent in 2016; it should not have taken this long for a woman to have come this far. If anything, Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President has raised questions about sexism and gender inequality that previously have been swept under the rug. Regardless of where you politically align, some of the blatant sexism Hillary Clinton has endured over the last year quite honestly is disgusting. Donald Trump, the Republican man running for President said himself that “the only thing she’s got going is the woman card.” That comment is not even on the same level as others, for example, one person said that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to run for President because “With the hormones we have, there is no way a woman should be able to start a war…being the President, that should be left to a man, a good, strong, honourable man.”
You know who said that?
Yeah. Pretty disconcerting.
(To swiftly move along…)
We can not speak of living with democracy, freedom and liberty when there are women (and some men) who are suffering genital mutilation, forced marriages, who aren’t perceived to be equals socially, politically or legally or even respected, which all humans deserve to be, all over the world.
Feminism is about changing the mindsets of people’s perceptions and attitudes towards women and gender and encouraging and inspiring women to believe in themselves and to aspire to whatever they want to be, while challenging the barriers that have been set for them, just because they were born a woman. Feminism is about improving the situation for everybody all over the world, regardless of race, religion, age or gender, and working to change the social norm in come countries that make women suffer or allow certain rules in detriment to women (which is actually an inherent problem in many countries and I believe should have more attention given to it).
It’s about living in a society where we do not slut shame: judge people’s style/weight/looks/body; where men and women are treated equally and have the same opportunities politically, in the work place and in other areas; where having a baby doesn’t limit the opportunities that should be available; when we don’t persecute or scathingly attack women who choose to have an abortion (because does it really affect YOUR life if SOMEONE ELSE decides to have an abortion?); where we can recognise there is a genuine inequality problem and rather than pretend it doesn’t exist, we work for a solution to solve it.
It’s easy to speak polemically and distastefully about the movement that has achieved so much and if anything, the response that feminism receives only reiterates why it should still be such a prominent movement in the twenty first century, as idealistic as it would be to believe that we don’t need feminism.
We should stop clouding such an incredible movement and important term with such negative connotations, when it should be received with nothing but positivity. Feminism is about aspiring to one day live in a world where men and women are treated as equals in all aspects of society, and we no longer have to discuss gender inequality as something of the present, but of the past.
After all, it is a movement for everybody.
What’s so wrong about that?