That Dirty, Nasty, Horrible F-word
Come on, you had to know I was going there.
…Ok, I apologize for the cheap marketing trick.
But, in all seriousness, there are few neutral identity words that receive quite the same aversion as “feminist”. I’ve heard intelligent, strong women talk about the need for women’s equality, but often with the tag at the end of “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist”. When talking about the wage gap, the double standard of the word “slut”, the media’s representation of women, the conversation often starts out with “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but…”. And oftentimes, both men and women will tiptoe around the word, avoiding the term “feminism” when addressing women’s issues and say, “It’s more of a people issue, not a feminist issue” (I do actually agree with that to a degree, but the point here is that it seems people use this argument more to avoid using the word “feminism” rather than to have a discussion about societal ills as a whole). Even Scarlett Johansson, who has recently been vocal about the shallow attitude towards women in her industry, has been averse to using the f-word (Natalie Portman wasn’t though. Natalie Portman kind of kicks ass). Though the word stands for women’s equality, women avoid it, and though the term “fem” in the word may simply cause men to not pick it up because it seems to fit an identity that’s not theirs, it appears a lot men do not simply forget about the term, but run full speed away from it… while throwing rocks.
I suppose it’s no surprise, though, that this aversion is here, primarily because “feminism” comes with a lot of negative stereotypes. I think this video sums it up pretty well:
Stereotypes of feminists being hairy, unattractive, obnoxious, loud mouthed, unfeminine, lesbian, man-hating bitches runs rampant. To be a woman who identifies as a feminist, you open yourself to these slew of insults (not that half of these terms should even be considered as insults, but that’s a whole other story).
To be a man that identifies as a feminist, you open yourself up to the criticism of being too much like a woman (one of the hugest insults out there for men, as I touched on here), times, about, 100, because you’re actually actively identifying with them.
These insults are enforced in comedy, media, and in everyday society. These stereotypes, though, are more the product of propaganda, rather than actual observations. Let’s look at a little history:
In today’s age, most people think women having the right to vote is a pretty obvious thing, and it seems archaic that just about 100 years ago, it was widely accepted that women shouldn’t have any voice in politics. However, political cartoons of that era often depicted the suffragettes as just angry, mean, ugly ladies who’s main issue was that men didn’t find them attractive, instead of women who were fighting for the basic right to be treated as equal and have their voice heard.
Today, the same tactics are used to trivialize the struggle for women’s equality by reducing the argument to something petty, and to silence those who might want to stand for it by attaching a variety of negative connotations to the word, despite the fact that feminism is about equal rights, and any person on the wide spectrum of humanity that believes in equality may, in fact, be a feminist.
However, sadly, it’s not the “powers that be” that are enforcing these stereotypes, but rather all of us who simply don’t know the myths to be false, and believe one of the biggest myths out there: That feminism is about hating and being superior to men. This is one of the most false, and yet most detrimental myth to the women’s rights and feminist movements. Feminism, in it’s most common form (because of course, I won’t deny that there aren’t extremists, as there are in EVERY subsect of society) is about equality. Feminism is the movement that allows us to speak up about gender inequality, on all sides of the fence. Though it may have started focused on women, it has gained ground on supporting gay rights, father’s rights, trans rights, and men’s rights. It challenges the notion that our gender defines who we are, and what we can and can’t do. It opens our eyes to inequalities and hierarchical structures in all facets of society. It’s time that we challenge the stereotypes we hold about feminism, as well as all other struggles for equality and happiness, so that we can progress as a society and give everyone their fair share of opportunity.