Ever since the word feminism became apparent in my vocabulary, I have been exposed to the amazing things which the movement has done for myself, my friends and womxn across the globe. However, I have also noticed the hatred which attaches itself to the word for many individuals. Showing an interest in feminism can land you with the label of a ‘crazy feminist’ or a ‘feminazi’ regardless of the level and sub-category of your feminism.
What confused me when researching this subject at university was the way every feminist author or famous feminist said ‘feminism can mean something different to everyone.’ At first I enjoyed this analogy, regardless of its ambiguity. To me, feminism means equality of the sexes – which would mean the rise of womxn to the same societal position of men. This can so easily be translated to ‘she wants women to be better than men’ which is not necessarily the case.
Many men do not understand the privilege they hold; they thrive in a society which was built by men for men. Whether it would be nothing without a woman, it cannot be denied that this is a man’s world, or however that song goes. The position of women has been lower than men in all aspects of life for generations. Women have simply always been inferior. This however is something which most men will vigorously deny, but this is not an attack on men! We need to all understand, it is okay to have privilege. I have privilege, it comes from factors beyond our control. Accepting your privilege is the first step to understanding it and using it to help others who don’t have it.
Feminism is now argued to be experiencing its ‘fourth wave’ which began in around 2012. This wave of feminism focusses on more than just the simple male/female divide. It seems that now a woman can vote, drive, work, get a divorce etc just as a man can, that many people think that feminism is no longer needed. Because of course we are equal now. Right?
Unfortunately, the war on women runs way deeper than the gender pay gap and maternity rights. Fourth wave feminism shows us the rebel women who fight for the subjects nobody wants to discuss. Violence against women, rape culture, domestic violence, body shaming and many more issues are central to the new feminist agenda. Just because we have made progress (not complete, successful progress) regarding employment and women’s rights, does not mean that feminism has run its course.
The ambiguity surrounding the word feminism has been found to be a main factor as to the tightening reluctance to support the movement. Images of women throwing themselves in front of horses from the suffragette era and hairy, man-hating, free-bleeding protesters can all spring to mind when we hear the word feminist. But what about all the people who genuinely wish to fight for rational change. Should we all be tarnished with the same radical brush?
These iconic images of women have pushed the movement forward, as extreme measures often have to be taken for anyone to take notice of the struggles people are facing. Without the amazing yet completely insane measures women before us have taken, we would not have made such progress – there was a method to their madness. This is mirrored in the news over the past weeks and months regarding the BLM protests. Radical action must be taken when people don’t listen to your people’s message.
I work in a setting where men are primarily the main bulk of customers, typically generation X and boomers, though there are some younger gents too. It has been such an eye-opening experience being surrounded by males and masculinity. When talking to some of them about my studies, or books that I have been reading, I have often been met with ‘oh so you’re one of those man haters’ or ‘I didn’t think you’d be like that’. I always find it interesting to ask why they say things like that – it seems the connotation towards the word ‘feminism’ has become so loaded with negativity that when I explain that I wish for men and women to be equal, they become confused. Men seem to feel so threatened by feminism, as if they are missing out on something. But that isn’t feminism. Not for me anyway.
I think the hatred for feminism comes from a number of sources; I think that , like many things, the minority ruin it for the majority; the movement is not taught in our curriculum; and that the word no longer reflects its message. Research I conducted suggested that feminism is represented as something by women exclusively for women. Which is why when I tell you it literally means equality of the sexes, you become confused. As did I. It was only after extensive reading that I could understand that feminism was named because women needed to rise.
Now that women have made progress, the term ‘feminism’ seems a little female-centred to mean ‘equality’. ‘Feminism’ now holds negative connotations because of the pejoration the word has endured. However, for me at least, ‘feminism’ will always mean equality for womxn and womxn across the globe. Regardless of how equal we may all seem, this is not the case for every woman. This is why I continue and urge you all to continue to read, research and fight for every woman.