Call me narrow-minded, but I simply can’t comprehend why anybody would actively dislike feminism. What’s not to like about being united? What’s not to like about people working together to create a happier society on equal terms? WHAT!?
Because this is all that feminism is, basically. Yet, I still get asked really dumb questions about it on a daily basis. Questions which beg for a sane, logical answer. In fact, questions which beg even just an iota of common sense.
So I thought I would share them with you, and my answers. Let’s iron out these misunderstandings. Really dumb misunderstandings.
1. “Like, isn’t feminism done now? Haven’t you gotten enough?”
Amount of times I’ve been asked this: Several million
Reaction: Slow 360 degree head-turn, mouth agape in disbelief
A lot of people seem to believe that “feminism” is now a dated concept because of the following reasons:
a) Women don’t need to throw themselves under a horse to make their point. This, really, is a standard human right, so you would at least certainly hope that we’ve achieved this by now.
b) We can vote.
c) Women can now have a variety of jobs, including those which are powerful and influential.
d) Men and women (supposedly) have access to equal education.
Yes, these are all great things to have achieved, and shouldn’t be undermined. But it is sorely narrow-minded to think that this is enough. For one thing, these things have largely only been achieved in our western society. So what about the rest of the world? And what about class feminism, interracial feminism, the prevalent “glass ceiling” that, sure, is a little higher now – but is still there? What about Anita Sarkeesian getting death threats for writing about feminism in video games? What about latino women earning only 53% of what western men earn doing exactly the same job? What about women subjected to genital mutilation in Egypt? What about our continuously blase rape culture which proves that many men are continuing to believe that it is “in their right” to touch any woman, catcall and whistle at her or consider them “game” based on the length of their skirts? What about the fact that we’re still living in a culture in which, apparently, “no” actually means “yes”?
Feminism still has a lot to do.
2. “But what about romance? I don’t want guys to stop opening the door for me!”
Amount of times I’ve been asked this: More than the amount of fingers that I have – thus, too many times
Reaction: *Gesticulates wildly towards shelf of DVD’s containing inordinate amount of cheesy romcoms*
There is a distinct difference between misogyny and chivalry. Feminists do not want to KILL ROMANCE. In fact, if anything, we want to better the structures within the concept. Like, it shouldn’t be expected anymore that men always pay for dates. Women have purses too. Men shouldn’t always have to open the door for women – we have arms, too! Men, similarly, shouldn’t have to feel like they must make the first move in asking someone out – women have lips, emotions and a voice, too.
Our romantic notions simply need some good old-fashioned modernisation (I’m aware of the contradictory nature of that statement – however, it seems fitting). It appears that, at the moment, we are cultivating a society in which men are made to feel “less manly” when they are the ones who are asked out, as opposed to the other way around – as though making the decision to pursue a romance is a distinctly “manly” thing to do, which is ridiculous. There are always two people involved, and as a result, two people should be doing all of the hard grind (and fun grind – euphemism intended). Sure, ladies, of course it’s nice to be the one who’s asked – but you shouldn’t feel like you can’t also be the asker. Romantic relationships (from my experience, anyway) are much improved when both parties have the total freedom to instigate gestures and gifts. The much abused cliche – ‘love has no rules’ – is definitely significant, here. And it’s absolutely a two-person game.
3. Why is it called “feminism” instead of “peopleism?”
Amount of times I’ve been asked this: Several – but to be fair, it is not the most ridiculous question out of these. I used to ask it myself, when I was younger and less informed
Reaction: Friendly hand on questioner’s shoulder, a classic pose for when you are about to dispense wisdom
Okay, so modern feminists did not create the word ‘feminism’. How are we supposed to answer that? You cannot blame modern feminists for a term that they did not coin. I understand that the word has exclusivist connotations, but when feminism was beginning to be an actual thing equality between the sexes was predominantly a female issue (and arguably still is). Men didn’t need shit back then. The implication was just.
Further, is it even really a problem that the word suggests that females continue to bear the biggest brunt in the inequalities-between-genders issue? Statistically, it looks like we still do. Feminism – though it’s about straightening out the inequalities within and between both genders – isn’t really a misleading term with its emphasis on ‘fem’. We do have more problems within the ‘fem’ side. It does need ‘femphasis’.
Also, feminists have a lot better things to do than petition for the word ‘feminism’ to change to ‘peopleism’. I even think that if the idea were pitched to the OED, they would respond with a less than enthusiastic facepalm.
4. “I can’t be a feminist because I don’t hate men.”
Amount of times I’ve been told this: Too many to justly claim that we live in a level-headed society
Reaction: There are no words
I have genuinely heard this before. I think my ears bled. Being a feminist certainly doesn’t mean that you hate men. Men are brilliant. Feminists are just trying to make sure that women are recognised as equally brilliant (seeing a trend here with that word)?
5. “People think that all feminists are bra-burning, angry nuns so I’m too embarrassed to call myself one…”
Amount of times I’ve been told this: Less than the amount of fingers that I have, which is still too many times
Reaction: Comfort-eating several soft baked cookies at once, in effort to protect myself with small extra level of flab which may guard me from further stupidity
People thinking that all feminists are bra-burning angry nuns says far more about people than it does about your being a feminist. It says that people are painfully narrow-minded, and know worryingly little about what feminism actually means.
You would hope at the very least that all people would be wise enough to know that no woman in her right mind would burn her bra, because bras are very practical and frankly, we need them.
6. “Women are physically meant to be weaker and less intelligent than men. Men are just better than women, naturally.”
Amount of times I’ve been told this: About three times – and all from men. Cheers, guys!
Reaction: Small volcanic eruption within head
This argument is totally defunct. What, so because you have stronger biceps and a phallus you’re allowed to earn more than me in our identical office jobs? Yeah, right! Who cares if men are naturally physically stronger than women? The amount of muscle you have in your body shouldn’t tip the scales of how much you’re respected as a person. Furthermore, in our society it’s pretty much all about the space between your ears – and there is absolutely no limit to the potential of either sexe’s intelligence. Thus, there is no excuse to penalise women for being, well, women.
Recently, I was told of the existence of a reality TV show in which men and women were left stranded on a desert island (I swear there are thousands of reality TV shows now based upon this premise… seems like we have an awful lot of spare islands floating around on the planet) to see how they would survive. My friend who enlightened me as to the existence of this programme also mentioned that the stranded women lay around all day, tanning themselves and eating their rations, whilst the men built sustainable habitats and hunted their own fish. This, they claimed, was supposed to be an accurate representation of how men and women act, “naturally”.
Of course men and women are not naturally like this. Women are not naturally self-proclaimed princesses and lazy. Men are not naturally the most resourceful sex. The people who ran this show clearly went out and hand-picked individuals that would fit within these gender stereotypes to make for “good” TV viewing, substantiating the damaging belief systems in place which indicate that women are helpless damsels and men, natural survivors.
It’s not rocket science to acknowledge that these are terrible gender stereotypes to enforce. On enforcing them, we solidify the danger that the next generation will continue to believe that women are naturally more helpless than men, that they forever will need the protection of a man. But there are both lazy men and women. There are both efficient men and women. The people who act these ways do as such because of their psychological perspective, not because of a gendered biological predisposition. Neither sex is naturally and conclusively “better” that the other.
7. “If we ignore the structures of patriarchy, then they’ll go away. Noticing them just confirms their existence.”
Amount of times I’ve been told this: Only once. Thankfully
Reaction: Discordantly emitting various confused noises (“Eh? Eugghh? Waughhh?”)
Yeah, and if we drive on the wrong side of the road and pretend not to notice the other cars, we won’t hit them. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. Noticing the problem might vocalise its existence – but the problem would exist either way. And it won’t get solved if we pretend not to notice it.
So these are my definitions of feminism. These are my “rules”. Being a feminist doesn’t mean that you hate romance and boys. Feminists want to promote that women are just as good as men, not better than. Feminism is relevant and necessary. You can’t judge society based on a desert island. Patriarchal issues still exist. The topic needs further ‘femphasizing’. Feminism is about equality between the genders, which means equality for boys, too. Don’t be misled by the title. Don’t be offended by it.
And feminists wear bras, too.