The Problem with the word Feminism
I could have sworn that we were living in the 21st century, that we had come to live in a world that was slowly, (but surely) getting past anachronistic notions of misogyny, bigotry and sexism. It continues to simultaneously surprise and anger me that there are people out there who think the word "feminism" is a bad word. A leper of the modern language to be avoided and steered away from to maintain any sense of self-dignity and self-respect. I've spoken with both men and women who swear they will never identify as a feminist. It's said with so much gusto, reflected upon as a fact that is utterly so ridiculous that I'm the crazy one for even suggesting it.
My partner is a self-proclaimed feminist. And he is very proud of that fact (As am I). However, in many social situations, he is met with shock, side-eye and the occasional "you're not serious" by some of his fellow men and some women. Of course, I place emphasis on some, because there are men and women out there who identify as feminist, so this article isn't speaking about them.
What is feminism, really? There are many definitions out there are and many different manifestations of the idea. For me, feminism is about the equality of social, political and economic rights for all sexes. For me, that is the basis and to what could one honestly object to about this notion?
The other day I was in a conversation with an uncle of mine. He vehemently told me, "I am not a feminist! C'mon, that's just ridiculous!" We'd been speaking at length about Beyoncé's brand of feminism and how it benefits women of colour. Interestingly, he agreed with her message. However, when it came to the label, he was staunchly in opposition. I decided to ask him a number of questions:
1. Do you believe everyone should have the same rights?
2. Do you believe that everyone should have the same opportunities e.g. education, jobs, social security, child custody?
3. Do you believe that women should not be defined by the men in their lives, but rather have their own identities?
4. Do you believe that women have the right to govern their own bodies?
To all of these, he answered yes. So I said, "So uncle, you are a feminist." His face dropped, confusion took over his face, then denial. To this day he won't adopt the label. Though evasive and unclear about his reasons, I could tell that for him, the word had a negative connotation, something which I've found to be prevalent in many other opponents of the term feminism.
As far as we've come with advocating for women's rights, there still appears to be a dissonance within the discourse on how we can best label the idea of seeing women as people . Further to that, anything that resembles a hint of feminity is seen as negative. President Barack Obama recently publicly stated that he was a feminist at the United State of Women Summit. The attendees at the White House applauded, but some people on the internet were not too pleased. Some people on the internet reacted in a way which, in my opinion, was completely laughable. Reactions ranged from questioning POTUS's sexuality to outright outrage.
I'm curious to speak to my uncle about this, now that President Barack Obama has publicly stated that he is a feminist. I wonder if my uncle will have the same reaction as some of the men on the internet. It appears that the President of the United States of America calling himself a feminist coincidentally undermined his manhood.
That said, the feminist movement has been tainted by the so-called "feminazis" and man-hating. And, in trying to figure out what to label this movement, we have alienated some, something which then becomes problematic as it takes away from our solidarity.
Is it that we need a rebranding for the movement?