My brilliant friend Caitlyn posted this on her blog last week. It essentially posits the question, “Would more people be open to feminism if we simply called it something else?”
And I think… maybe? But is that really a good thing? Or more to the point, does that really mean we should call it something else?
Maybe this is a tinfoil-hat moment for me, but I think the hesitance to identify with feminism as a movement is an indicator of oppression. Think about it. Much in the way that a Muslim fears to identify as such in our society, for fear of being lumped in with terrorists and extremists by the average ignorant ass, so too do women fear identifying as feminists to avoid being lumped in with “a bunch of angry, unshaven man-haters.” I can almost hear the patriarchy going, “But you’re cool, right? You’re not one of those angry women, right? You’re not, like, one of those feminists who has a stick up her ass about rape jokes, are you?”
Why is it a bad thing for a woman to be angry? For that matter, why is it a bad thing for a woman to be unshaven? Or to have a stick up her ass, provided it’s her stick and she wants it there? Feminism, among many other things, is about a person’s right to not conform to stereotypes and expectations. And yet that nonconformity is used against us somehow, as proof of the invalidity of our stance. An angry, unshaven woman simply cannot be taken seriously.
So women who want to be taken seriously distance themselves from that image. And if the word “feminist” conjures up that image, then she’s not a feminist. Oh, no. That would wreck her credibility.
This is bullshit. Not because there are “I’m not a feminist – but” women out there; they are entitled to their choices, and frankly I can fully understand why they wouldn’t want to identify as a feminist if, for instance, it means she won’t be taken seriously in a professional setting or that she’ll catch hell from her male friends. The bullshit part is that there’s even a possibility she won’t be taken seriously, or that she’ll catch hell from her friends.
I mean, really. A majority of the population believes that there is an all-powerful man in the sky who personally created the universe and can’t wait to invite us to his really awesome party once we die; but it’s the folks who believe women and men should be treated equally that get the side-eye. Seriously?
As the article points out, we are “bending to the societal pressure that feminism is gauche.” Why? Why is feminism gauche? Why does it make so many people so uncomfortable? Is it because the word “feminist” conjures up images of angry, unshaven women, waving picket signs and shouting slogans? Is it because a feminist woman, by definition, will almost certainly not conform to your expectations of her? Is it maybe because a feminist woman breaks the rules, and we’ve been told that’s bad?
All this doesn’t even take into account the problems with being a feminist man. Is it really any wonder that society sees a feminist man as weak, effeminate, somehow lesser than his fellow man? Take a good look at the systematic way patriarchal society oppresses women, and tell me it’s a coincidence that those who speak out for the rights of women also get oppressed, laughed at, degraded, dismissed, made fun of. It’s all part of a system designed to keep the oppressed under the heel of the oppressor.
Right now, I am reading what I’ve just written and thinking to myself, “I sound like a loony conspiracy theorist nutbag.” And I think that’s part of the problem.
It’s like gaslighting, on a widespread societal scale. We’ve been conditioned not to trust ourselves; conditioned to question our anger, to mistrust our emotions. We abuse ourselves to save our abusers the trouble. We tiptoe around those in power, afraid to upset the status quo; afraid of the backlash bound to come our way if we stand up for ourselves. And when others point out how fucked up the situation is, we defend it. Oh, it’s not that bad, we say. Society’s just having a bad day.
Or century, maybe.
No, I don’t think we need to change the label. I think it’s more important than ever that we stick with feminism. I think it’s more important than ever that we stand up, have our say, make our voices heard – in the name of feminism. The more we fear to be connected with it, the more power we give to those who wish this whole feminism thing would just blow over. The more we hesitate to join ranks, the more power we give to those who believe women should “know their place.” Maybe they won’t take us seriously now… but if we don’t fight for equality, they won’t take us seriously ever.