I was recently inspired to do a series of posts on my personal brand of feminism, and here is the first one, the cornerstone of my feminist beliefs: I think feminists should call themselves feminists, I think all women should call themselves feminists, I think everyone should be proud to call themselves a feminist. If you’re not, I think you’re either misunderstanding the meaning of the word or being very rude.
For whatever reason, the word ‘feminism’ has gotten a bad rep over the past years. Feminists are often viewed as irrational or silly, and the word ‘feminazis’ is used to describe the craziest of all. I was disgusted to find that there is now a movement that proudly calls itself: ‘Feminism Is Cancer.’ Apart from the fact that the word ‘feminazi’ is very disrespectful to survivors of the Second World War and their families, and that equating a deadly disease with a political opinion is very harmful to victims and survivors of this disease, I also think the rhetoric used to vilify feminists is despicable in its own right. As usual, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has phrased it more eloquently than I ever could, saying:
“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists)
Just as the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ recognizes that black people have been oppressed throughout history and ‘All Lives Matter’ glosses over the painful history of racism, so does ‘feminism’ indicate the problems society is facing and ‘equalism’ deny their seriousness.
An eighteen year old political activist that supports the ‘Feminism Is Cancer’ movement has a very negative view of third-wave feminism, although she recognizes that the first and second wave have done a lot of good. She says:
“Modern feminists don’t think about equal rights they just think about women.”
I disagree. I think modern feminism is also concerned with the way gender stereotypes and inequality are making life harder for men, perpetuating ideas of toxic masculinity, a need to be financially responsible and ‘chivalrous,’ whatever the hell that means. Modern feminists recognize that gender stereotypes are harmful to us all, and ending them will make everyone’s lives easier. Note how Gloria Steinem defined feminism.
“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
― Gloria Steinem
I don’t feel like I did a lot of arguing in this post. I think other people have done it better. But please, please, just call yourself a feminist. The only way to undo the negative connotations ‘feminism’ has now become charged with is to reclaim the term. Own it. Appropriate it. Use it the way it was originally intended. Or, to end with another brilliant quote from a brilliant feminist:
“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”
― Caitlin Moran,