An Unofficial Feminist

Image credit to bahamas.ihollaback.org

While sitting at a restaurant with my father, I was shocked to be presented with his question of whether I was a feminist, a question to which I thought there could only be one answer — okay, only one correct answer. I am, of course, a feminist — it’s a simple statement, but still it’s managed to pick up so many negative connotations over the years.

Now I’m sure that in the present day, most people are in favour of equality between men and women, but if this is true, why are they not willing to admit the simple fact that if they believe this, they ARE a feminist? That’s exactly what I asked my father.

His reply confirmed my initial suspicions that while there may be many people who believe in the ideas of feminism, there are almost as many who are unwilling to carry the title, a title for which countless people fought (and won) over the past century. But why, then, is there a stigma surrounding a word, if it’s helping pave the way to equality? Again, I confronted him with this question.

It must be mentioned that my father is a feminist; he believes in rights for women, just as he believes in rights for men. But he also believes the term feminist has been too closely linked to the radical side of the campaign for equality. A common feminist stereotype is a bra-burning, man-hating lesbian who, in fact, hinders the cause for women’s equality, a problem that did not arise from the cause, but instead from the name.

The term FEMinism can be misleading, often thought to be the campaign for women to supersede men. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Feminism is a common topic of discussion, but rarely do we get any real insight into what feminism actually is: “a range of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women” (as defined by Wikipedia).

Feminism is not the case of female domination, but instead equality for women and for men. What we are dealing with is Humanism, a title to include everyone.

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  • Guest

    Though simplifying feminism down into terms like humanism seems appealing and inclusive, it is in reality reductive. The term “feminism” is necessary because a movement that caters mainly to women shouldn’t be controversial considering the history of oppression of women throughout the world. “Humanism” and terms like it, such as “egalitarianism,” seem good theoretically, but erase both the history of women’s oppression and the steps that need to be taken to address it (e.g. working to pass laws that support more rights for women and dismantling systems that give men unfair power). An analogy for this is if one person has 2 apples and another has 10, you can’t give both 5 more apples, as egalitarianism would suggest. The person with 2 needs 8 in order to be equal, and we need a term that highlights this disparity.

    • Guest

      I thoroughly agree that more needs to be done to obtain the title of egalitarianism, but I maintain that the term Feminism is somewhat misleading. It is the campaign for female equality but yet the name in itself is contradicting the term equality if it is only relevant to females. I do think that the term is historically important in recognizing all that has been done and the sacrifices made for where we are today (still with progress to be made), but in order for further progress to be made I think that it is time for a less-exclusive name which doesnt exclude half the population. For me it is not a problem, I do, and will, always call myself a feminist, but for the campaign to grow and evolve to create further advancement in the cause, I think it is necessary that the term be accessibe to everyone; both females and males.

    • Sarah

      I could not agree with you more that the history of women should not be forgotten. However, if we compare ‘feminism’ as a word to other terminology concerning matters of equality then Susannah’s point becomes clear. There seems to be no word for someone who is not a racist, (only potentially one that stems from that word itself an “anti-racist”) as it is taken as the norm that the correct response is that one is not a racist. Furthermore even if one did have to identify oneself as an “anti-racist” this is a very neutral term, however it is the most widely used. We would all agree that not all races were equal, and yet this word does not take away from there history. For example it does not take away from the extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany. And although the more specific term for this inequality is anti-semitism, racist would still most commonly be applied to this case.
      Susannah is saying that if we want everyone to understand what feminism is we need to change the name to include everyone, and as I have demonstrated with the word racism this more general term does not take away from the history of the oppressed but include everyone in its discussion. If more people felt feminism was for equality they may be more readily helping to achieve it. A new name would simply rectify the pejorative connotations the word feminism has gained. A truly insightful article.

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