I didn’t always call myself a feminist.
Despite having considered myself a feminist for many years now, I’ve only recently come out of the closet with the term because- well, I was worried about the reaction it would incur. Men shut down or become defensive and aggressive; other (conservative) women shy away from the word/subject as if it’s some kind of bad juju. And now that I am raising a son in a very conservative part of the country, my political and personal beliefs are judged even more harshly.
The term “feminist” is still one that is often equated with a ball-busting, unshaven, loud-mouthed, crush-the-patriarchy female who is ready and willing to eat anyone that opposes her viewpoint alive. Despite the fact there is nothing inherently bad about these traits, they make for a pretty intimidating image. It also presents a blanket stereotype that most people tend to apply to any woman claiming to be a feminist.
In reality, there are many different types of people (male AND female) who consider themselves feminists, and most of them don’t actually fit this rage-fueled stereotype. I recently read an interesting and witty article here about the different types of (modern) feminists out there, and it completely meshes with the idea that different types of feminism means that there are naturally more than just one brand of feminist.
There are five main feminist theories: radical feminism, socialist feminism, cultural feminism, eco-feminism, and liberal feminism.
Radical feminism- or at least some form of it- is what most people picture when they hear a woman declare herself a feminist: someone who has declared war on the male species, patriarchy, and traditional gender roles. (You can check out more info on this subject here!) In reality, this is merely one facet of one branch of feminism; applying this ideology to every feminist out there is not only ignorant and narrow-minded, it also makes fighting for equality that much more difficult.
So, why does being a feminist have such a bad rap? Well, anti-feminist males are the obvious answer; but I think that other feminists (and a glaring gap in equality education) are to blame as well. People beyond the millennial generation tend to hear the word “feminism” and instantly flashback to the 60’s with its mass bra burning and body celebration movements. While I still think that the initial feminist movement was absolutely necessary in itself to jump-start the revolution of the gender equality movement, I also believe that it is important to recognize the changes that have occurred socially, politically, and economically since those days.
At the end of the day, feminism is about a fight for equality between all genders and all people.
This was the intention of the movement when it began in the 1950s, and that mindset is still very prevalent today. Equality is still just as necessary now as it was then, not just for women but also for LGBTQ people as well as people of color. Despite the belief of feminist opposition, feminism is not an anti white male establishment, nor is it solely a pro-women establishment. Feminism done correctly is equality, plain and simple.
Feminism is extinguishing the wage gap because pay should be based on ability not on gender or race.
Feminism is teaching both boys and girls about consent because both genders should be held responsible for their actions towards others.
Feminism is about telling my niece that she can be a firefighter when she grows up because jobs should not be dictated by race or gender.
Feminism is about teaching my Little Man that he can wear pink shoes to school if he wants because colors are not gender specific.
Feminism is about justice for rape and assault victims because everyone deserves justice for crimes committed against them.
Feminism is about my husband being able talk about how much he enjoys baking or wants to be a stay at home dad without fear of being told that those desires are immasculine because masculinity and femininity should not be defined by society.
Feminism is about teaching my Little Man that everyone is worthy of love and kindness because no one should be treated negatively based on their gender, race, or sexuality.
I realize that declaring myself a feminist may open myself up to all kinds of negativity and criticism. But at the end of the day, I want to see positive change occur so badly that if I can influence even one tiny smidgen of it, then that’s a risk I am more than willing to take. There are women across the globe who risk so much more than I will ever have to on a regular basis. Isn’t it my duty to take this personal risk, for them, for my son?
So if anyone asks me if I want to raise my son as a feminist, I will happily tell them “Hell yes!” Because feminism is not just about females. And we need men on our side just as much as we need other women. After all, equality means “for all”.