I know that on our campus, there has always been a stigma against feminism. Whenever I tell people that I am a feminist, they would roll their eyes and look at me as if I’m joking, since I don’t look very much like a man-hater or a person who would burn her bras to make a point (and seriously, no feminist burned their bras at the 1968 Miss America protest, it’s just a myth).
Having been in the States for only four years and not being aware of all the negative connotation of the term, I encountered feminism without prejudices and found it pretty cool. I thought that many people would agree with me and advocate for feminism. But obviously, that’s not the case here.
So I asked around to see why people don’t identify as feminists, and here are some of the responses I got (ranging from the very reasonable to just utterly ignorant):
I don’t want to be associated with the radical feminists. I want to change the stigma of the word ‘feminist’ but will not identify as one.
Hm… how can you change a stigma against the word if you don’t identify as one? It is like someone telling you that “Hey, gaming can be great and educational and you should play more games, but I am not a gamer, just saying”. There’s nothing wrong about this approach, but is it going to work? How credible can you be and what is the chance of you changing the stigma?
When you look up the definition of a feminist in the dictionary it states that a feminist is one who advocates for the social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men. I believe in the goals of a feminist, but I do not go about advocating loudly for them. That is the difference. that is why I do not consider myself a feminist.
While you don’t go out advocating loudly for feminism, I think you can still consider yourself a feminist just by believing in feminist values and being in charge of your life. You can definitely serve as a role model for others. It’s like in Buddhism, you don’t go out and try to convert people; you just practice your faith and others will follow in your footsteps as they see what you can achieve.
I am not a feminist because it is not the most inclusive movement. I prefer the term egalitarian to avoid the political baggage and because there are ways the system discriminates against men as well.
Thank you for bringing this point up because the general perception of feminism is so misguided that the term only concerns women and women’s rights. bell hooks has written a great essay on feminism for everyone and you definitely should check it out here.
I am not a feminist because it’s all about man-hating.
I am a feminist and I don’t hate men. And there are plenty of feminists out there who don’t hate men. Would you be mad if I said “I am not an athlete because all bros are stupid?”
Essentially, feminists feel like they’re not treated “fairly”, kind of like how black people still think they’re oppressed. I just don’t like the whole “woman power” notion that feminists throw out… we can do anything a man can, but you just have to try and do it. I don’t blame “the man” for holding us back. I blame the women who pity themselves and cry that everything is so “unfair” for them.
I think if you follow the news on a daily basis you would take back all that you just said.
So, overall, the biggest problem is that the term “feminism” is so vague that most of time, people are not so sure if they are arguing over the same thing. Some are afraid to be associated with the radical feminists and some prefer other terminologies. I myself wasn’t sure if I could identify as a feminist until recently, when I simply realized how inequality and sexism are so pervasive in this society that they affect literally everyone.
I will skip the part about why sexism hurts women, as there are just way too many to name. But sexism hurts men too! If you are a guy with some white-collar job, do you hate it when it is 69 outside and all the women get to wear dresses while you have to torture yourself in a thick unventilated suit? Do you hate it when you are expected to be the family’s bread-winner by default? And do you hate it when you do like playing with kids, but have to refrain from doing so for fear of being perceived as a pedophile? Aren’t you even tired of always having to look strong and calm and cool and hot-to-trot to everyone, so that people wouldn’t call you “gay”? That’s a few (among several) examples of how sexism hurt you as a male in this society and you may not even be aware of it!
For me, feminism simply means advocating for a happier world in which no one is judged, discriminated, or hurt by the genitals/skins/households they are born (or not born) with, what they choose to do with their life, and who they choose to spend it with.
In that sense, feminism very much sounds like humanism or egalitarianism or Buddhism or Unitarian Universalism or anything that fosters love and acceptance of people for who they are inside and not what they look outside.
But those other terms do not get the same scorn and contempt that feminism get, why is that so? Why is there discrimination even among all the terms that are meant for equality? What is wrong with “feminism”? And what can we do to change the stigma against it?