Scared of crazy feminists? You should be - but not for the reasons you think.
|When I first found out what the word feminist meant, I didn’t think there was anything negative about the term. ‘Woman who fight for equal rights between both sexes? Cool!’ And that was it. I was proud to consider myself a feminist, that I believed in equal rights too.
After checking out the book Feminist Fight Club, by Jessica Bennett, my interest in the topic increased. I was determined to create my own feminist fight club; a group of girls to hang out and talk about social injustices with. Oh, and also to watch romcoms and get Chinese take-out with - that was another top priority.
Whatever my intentions were, I would soon realize that the word feminist is not always seen in a positive light. Scrolling through the internet and trying to find out what cool feminist groups were out there, I did not only find large communities of feminist - I had also found women who did not like to associate themselves with it.
I couldn’t understand why, until I did some more research. Now I understood - feminist was not always seen as a group of brave women fighting for equal rights against a world built on male supremacy, but instead a group of radical women who hated men and would do anything to tear down the structure of society and create their own.
Why do people feel this way? Why do people give ‘feminism’ a negative connotation? Well, it’s because people don’t know exactly what the term means, or have a seen a stereotypical, demonized form on it. According to an article from Harper’s Magazine, “‘Feminism’ has become a term of opprobrium to the modern young woman… the word suggests either the old school of fighting feminists who wore flat heels and had very little feminine charm or the current species who antagonize men with their constant clamor about maiden names, equal rights [and] women’s place in the world”.
In reality, the term simply refers to a person who believes in equality between genders. A feminist can be anyone - your mom, teacher, co-worker, friend, etc. The problem is not that people do not want to fight for equal rights - it is that they are scared to be seen as a radical activist.
An article written by Women’s E-News states that “In a survey of registered voters, a majority thought that women are not treated equally in the workplace (63 percent), in politics (63 percent), in the armed forces (55 percent) and in the press (54 percent). But only 14 percent considered themselves a feminist and only 17 percent would want their daughter to be one”. As “Time magazine once argued, ‘[h]airy legs haunt the feminist movement, as do images of being strident and lesbian,’”. Being ‘manly’ or lesbian were widely disapproved during the 1900’s - therefore, the stereotype stuck, even as we became more progressive in the early 2000’s.
Coming back to the main point - should we, or should we not, use the term ‘feminist’? In my opinion, there is no straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. The best solution is to, for a short time, stop using the term. The word ‘feminist’ or ‘feminism’ to the public, no matter how much we try to convince them otherwise, will always have a negative connotation. Repeated and continuous use of the word will scare people away; thus, we would lose more people willing to stand up for the feminist cause.
Instead, we must educate people, not on ‘feminism’, but on ‘equal gender rights’. Though they may be generally the same concept, people would be more willing to learn about ‘equal gender rights’ since it includes both ‘gender’ and ‘equality’.
Take, for example, the moral exclusion phenomenon: it is defined as “a psychological process where members of a dominant group view their own group and its norms as superior to others, belittling, marginalizing, excluding, even dehumanizing targeted groups”. In simpler terms, the general idea is that when one group specializes in only the benefits and problems of their own members, people outside of the group may have the misconception that the group sees their benefits and problems as more superior. When people hear topics such as ‘Black Lives Matter’, or ‘Praisin’ the Asian’ and are not of these particular ethnicities, they feel excluded. Then they feel the to rebuttal with their own topic, such as ‘White Lives Matter’.
So, what should the public fear from feminists? Well, certainly not because we will take over the world, make men our slaves and have them hand-sew pads 24 hours a day (we won't, we promise). They should, however, be afraid of how strong our passion and compassion are.
Women have always struggled with inequality between males and females. However, we should not be afraid to be feminist. Educating the public will lead them to become active in this movement. People will become more accepting of feminist and feminism as a whole. In the past, woman wearing pants was weird, but now look at us! They will come to see that feminists aren’t scary, and will accept us, no matter how hairy our legs are.