Photo by Garret Oledzki
The tragic massacre in Isla Vista has ignited a widespread and impassioned discussion about violence against women, sexism, and perceived male entitlement. I was moved to tears a few weeks ago reading through hundreds of #YesAllWomen tweets, about the individual experiences of women. I was confused though, at the negative responses to the hashtag, which ranged from defensive (“Not all men rape!”) to hostile (“Man-hating feminists have caused this violence!”).
Of course, everyone has been quick to pacify men by assuring them that, indeed, we know that not all men rape. We also know that not all men leer, harass, or even remain passive about casual sexism. Thanks for being you, good guys.
What has bothered me repeatedly (among other things) is the misuse of the term “Feminism.” Feminism is simply the belief that women should have equal rights and opportunities as men. That’s it. If you believe this, congratulations! You are a feminist. And now, for some fun facts about Feminism.
1. Feminists do not hate men.
Feminists DO hate unequal treatment. That’s all. Many feminists enjoy the company of boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers, male friends, even sons! There is nothing in the basic ideology of feminism that favors women over men. You may be confused because many of the outpouring of #YesAllWomen tweets have referenced mistreatment by men. It’s true that most circumstances where women, say, feel afraid on the street involve fearing violence committed by a man or men, but that doesn’t mean that it has caused us to blame, or *hate* all men.
2. You don’t have to be a Democrat to be a feminist.
This is one of the neatest things about feminism. No matter your opinions on gun control, economics, gay marriage, yes, EVEN reproductive rights – you can still be a feminist. There are many women’s rights issues being raised in politics, but the idea is that feminism transcends politics. You can be a gun-toting conservative and still want to make as much money as your male colleague. At the end of the day, if you are an advocate for gender equality, you are free to be whatever kind of feminist you want!
3. Men can be feminists too.
There’s nothing sexier than a man who believes in equal rights for men and women. That’s a man whose manhood isn’t threatened by women. It’s a man who respects women and values them as productive members of society. People who say that male feminists are somehow unmanly (to replace some of the more colorful expletives used) are incorrect, and often insecure. **Side fact, equality doesn’t mean that men will lose any of their rights!
4. Not all feminists are angry nor do they all feel victimized.
Many women have been saying that it pisses them off that “feminists” want them to feel “victimized.” [http://thoughtcatalog.com/christine-stockton/2014/05/i-am-a-woman-but-i-am-not-a-victim-can-feminists-please-stop-telling-me-im-a-victim/] Not so. Your experience as a woman is different than that of every other woman, and you’re entitled to your own reactions. Do I consider myself a victim? In general, no. Am I angry? Sometimes. I get angry when I think about the people who were needlessly killed at Isla Vista. I get angry when I think about domestic violence towards women. Do I feel angry every time a drunk man who I’m not attracted to won’t stop hitting on me at the bar? No. Annoyed, sure, but angry, nah. **Side note, please stop doing that, drunk men.
5. You don’t have to be an activist to be a feminist.
It’s true that it will take action to change the general perception of feminism and implement laws that protect the rights of women, but if you don’t want to involve yourself, you absolutely don’t have to. You can still believe that you had just as much a right to the front seat as your brother when you were ten.
Or the right to be touched when and by whom you please.
The idea is, feminism comes in many shapes and colors. Your feminism may be drastically different than mine. We can agree on almost nothing, but as long as “equality” is at the core of it, we’re both feminists. If we can embrace the term, the stigma will eventually fade. Feminism is not a dirty word.