First things first: I am technically a feminist. I support any woman’s right to be whatever the hell she wants to be and to do whatever the hell she wants to do without judgement, criticism or unfair treatment.
However, I am not crazy about the term “feminist.”
Controversial, I know. I’m a woman who doesn’t like the term “feminist.” Surely that makes me the spawn of Satan, a traitor to my gender. At least, that seems to be everyone’s reaction.
I remember a seminar that I was in where we were discussing feminism and I said that I much preferred the term “gender equality” over the term “feminist.” Suddenly, I found myself on the receiving end of a highly emotive explanation of why I was wrong. It was intense. I felt like I had said something truly heinous. It was as if I had said that the concept of feminism was crazy and that a woman’s place really was in the kitchen and, of course, women should be paid less and actually they shouldn’t work at all because they should be at home having babies (sentiments that I do not share in any way at all).
Why the intense reaction? Why was I suddenly the devil because I think that there are better terms that we can use, ones that are more relevant for our generation?
I understand it to an extent. I get that feminism is a touchy issue.After all, how much backlash has the feminist movement faced and how hard have women had to fight for the rights that we have now. How much harder do we still have to fight? So, I understand why any comment that sounds like it could be negative gets pounced on. But that attitude can also be destructive. It doesn’t leave much wiggle room for open, constructive conversation around the big issues.
I have major respect for the feminist movement and everything that it has achieved. Of course I do – I am a woman. I recognize that I only get to enjoy certain privileges because of the women who came before me, women who were feminists and who recognized that our gender has been on the back foot for centuries. I know that I owe those women. I know that I owe this movement.
However, that definitely doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that other feminists say or do. In fact, there a lot of women that I disagree with and who I think are hindering the process for gender equality, not helping it. I don’t like every single woman in the world. I hate man-bashing or anything that suggests that there is a right or wrong way to be a woman (which, sadly, sometimes comes from women). I hate judgement of any kind. I don’t like it when men are left out of the conversation or when the conversation comes across like a tirade. I feel that there are issues with the way feminism is discussed sometimes.
I am a feminist but I think that we need a new platform to speak from if we want to keep making progress.
The problem, for me, is that the term “feminist” has gained such a negative connotation since second wave feminism came on the scene in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Even for me, a huge supporter of gender equality, I hear the term feminist and I cringe a little inside. The term makes me think of man-hating, of anger, of a shouting match. It doesn’t welcome an open conversation about gender to me. It slams the door in its face. And I don’t think that I am the only one who feels that way.
Gender equality, on the other hand, is a term that I love. To me, it feels inclusive, open and safe. Whether you are a woman, a man, transgender, non binary or anything else at all, gender equality applies to you. It is about letting us all do our own thing without judgement or prejudice. I feel that it makes conversation possible because we can all bring our own issues to the table and deal with them in a safe space. Woman have long been silenced and forced into corners – gender equality allows us to talk about that. Little boys are taught that it’s not okay for them to cry or to express their emotions – gender equality opens the door for that conversation. There is still a lot of misunderstanding around what it means to be transgender or non-binary – gender equality means that we can start educating. Gender equality is open. It is inclusive. It is about all of us.
I am a feminist but, unfortunately, I feel that the term “feminist” can close the discussion and shut down people’s hearts before its vital message is even shared. Maybe it is time for a new conversation.