By: Megan Graves, Columnist
“Of course I believe in the equality of women and men, but I’m not a feminist.” This is something I’ve heard a lot of people say.
Any rational person believes that the equality of men and women is imperative to progressing in society, but why are so many people reluctant to call themselves feminists? After all, author Bell Hooks simply describes feminism as the equality of the sexes. So what’s the problem?
Whenever someone tells me that they believe in equality but aren’t a feminist, I ask them why. I’ve gotten a few responses, but here are a couple of the most popular.
Some people say they don’t want to conform to a movement that has such a bad name.
At which point, I suppose, the question turns into, why does feminism have a bad name? I’m always directed to misandry, the hatred of men by women. It’s “too extreme” or exclusive. Many people think that feminism and misandry are synonymous, but they certainly are not.
However, as I discussed in one of my recent articles about privilege, we must always look at power dynamics in these situations. It isn’t okay for women to be hateful toward men. But it is, unfortunately, understandable. Women have been oppressed by men for centuries. There is going to be undeniable resentment, whether anyone likes it or not.
But, as I said, this is not a particle of feminism. It is simply a byproduct and response to years upon years of oppression.
The second response I hear is that they, particularly men, feel excluded.
After all, the word itself has “fem” in it. I understand why men could feel excluded from feminism. It can be uncomfortable for someone to be involved in a movement that works to gain power back from the exact demographic that you are. You may feel like you’re intruding.
However, this, too, must be viewed from a global perspective. If you believe that the movement is attacking you as an individual person, of course you’re going to feel uncomfortable. But the thing is, unless you are sexist or homophobic or racist or anything spawning from hate, the movement is not against you.
As for the word having “fem” in it, why is that such a bad thing? I mean, women have to refer to themselves as “mankind” for goodness sakes. Many professional titles include the word “man,” despite the amount of women that fill those roles, such as “policeman,” “mailman,” and “handyman.” You could argue that anyone could simply change the “man” in those words to “woman,” or “human,” but let’s be honest; nobody does.
Men shouldn’t be afraid to take on a title that has the word “fem” in it, especially if that title fits their beliefs. We as a whole, women and men, should not be afraid to call ourselves feminists.
As Aziz Ansari puts it, “If you believe that men and women have equal rights, and then someone asks you if you’re a feminist, you have to say yes. Because that’s how words work. You can’t be like, ‘Yeah, I’m a doctor who primarily does diseases of the skin.’ ‘Oh, so you’re a dermatologist?’ ‘Oh, that’s way too aggressive of a word, not at all, not at all.”
So the next time someone asks you if you’re a feminist, embrace it. You should never be ashamed of believing in the equality of the sexes.