You might have seen a blog a couple weeks ago full of women holding up lists of reasons why they don’t need feminism. You may have also heard of actresses like Shailene Woodley claiming reluctance to call themselves feminists.
The funny (and by “funny” I mean “kind of heartbreaking”) part is that these statements tend to follow a pattern:
“I’m not a feminist, but I believe in X, Y, and Z feminist beliefs.”
“I don’t need feminism because (results of decades of feminist activism).”
I think people are afraid to refer to themselves as feminists because of the widespread misunderstanding of what feminism really is. Feminists don’t hate men. Feminist women don’t want to be better than men. If you say you don’t need feminism because you’re your husband’s equal, congratulations! You’re a feminist. If you think you don’t need feminism because you can vote, well, you have previous generations of feminists thank for that.
Men seem to be particularly afraid to identify as feminists, again forming their opinion on an untrue belief: that feminism is only for women. It isn’t, just like the civil rights movement wasn’t only for racial minorities. (And while women usually like having the platform to ourselves for once, we do appreciate it when someone else stands up for us.) If you are a man and you believe women deserve equal pay, the ability to choose what they want to do with their lives, and freedom from street harassment, congratulations! You, too, are a feminist.
So if feminists don’t hate men, what do we hate? Here’s my list – you might be surprised at what you have in common with a feminist.
1. Sexual inequality. We hate that women still earn less than men. We hate gender double standards. We hate that one parent is viewed as more skilled or better at parenting than the other. We hate being bullied into embracing unwanted gender roles. It’s a long list – feel free to add to it.
2. Paper cuts. They’re the worst, right?!
3. Racial inequality. When the book “Lean in” came out, it stirred up a lot of controversy because of its portrayal of one white, cis-gendered, upper-middle-class woman’s experiences. There is no one-size-fits-all feminism, and when we try to act like there is, many women get shut out. This is where intersectional feminism comes into play, taking into account the varying experiences of women from different races.
4. All other kinds of inequality. Intersectional feminism also addresses the experiences of women from different classes, gender identities, ages, and levels of ability. Feminists don’t want any woman to feel shut out.
5. Having food go bad. You’re finally going to eat healthy and have salad for dinner, only to discover that the lettuce has turned into brown goo. And that fancy cheese left over from that party? Yeah, you should have finished that by now. And don’t even get me started on that last half-inch of milk with a five-day-old best-by date that everyone is too afraid to test.
6. People who don’t pick up after their dogs. We went to the beach on Saturday and twice I saw people leave their dogs’ poop right there in the sand. You know people are walking barefoot in that sand, right? And kids are playing in it? Just checking.
7. Having our words disregarded or ignored. Whether it’s a long-hidden story of abuse that someone was afraid to share out of fear of not being believed, or an instance of street harassment that someone just wants to vent about, nothing riles up a feminist more than wanting her (or his) words to be heard and not having the space or freedom to say them and have them be taken seriously.
8. Being sick. Especially when that space between your nose and your upper lip gets all chapped. Not fun.
9. When something goes wrong with your laundry. I just tried to wash our pillows and mine came out looking distinctly un-pillow-like. Sigh.
10. Trolls, apologists, deniers, devil’s advocates, derailers, etc. The events in Ferguson have been widely discussed this week – but I’ve kept my opinions to myself, because as a white girl from the Pacific Northwest, it’s not my place to weigh in. If you’ve ever made an issue somehow about you when it wasn’t; if you’ve ever played devil’s advocate simply to have something to say; if you’ve ever made excuses for someone’s behavior even when it was pretty definitely wrong; if you’ve made a joke to “lighten the mood” or to get a rise out of someone, you probably made a feminist angry at some point.
Sometimes, like Ferguson is not about me, the issue is not about you. Please leave the floor open for someone directly affected by it to share what’s on their mind, without being interrupted by jokes or explanations, no matter how well-meaning they might be, because that person may not get much opportunity to do so otherwise. Just sit back, take your hands off the keyboard, and listen for a while. You might be surprised at what you learn.