Despite how far we’ve come in women’s rights over the past century, there is still a great worry around the word “feminism”. Somehow I feel like I still have to convince people that it’s not a bad word, and recently I got into a conversation (more like blistering argument) about the word with a man who told me his objection with it came from it being “hijacked by women who hate men”.
I sighed deeply as he said this, rolling my eyes so far back into my skull that I thought I might just start wailing profoundly, like a grumpy whale. Somehow, even after all this time, there’s this prominent idea that we should be doing everything we can to not alienate potential allies; like we should be super-duper nice to every person who isn’t a feminist, so feminism doesn’t get bad press. Basically, we’re not allowed to be angry at sexism because us being angry is the problem, not the sexism. In that moment I didn’t know what to do other than get irritated and, I’m sure in his eyes, prove him right. But here I am now with a bunch of smart paragraphs up my sleeve, writing down all the things I should’ve said.
To decide not to support a human rights cause because someone within it is a bit mean and says they hate your gender is absurd, especially if you come from a place of privilege. You don’t support a human rights cause because of what it can do for you. You support a human rights cause because that is the morally right thing to do and because inequality is one of the greatest injustices that has caused so many of the other great injustices. Problematically, people never ask why there are some women who hate men. They’re more upset about those militant feminists saying mean things than they are the reason behind them existing. Funny that.
Male privilege has men believing that there are more pressing issues than the ones feminism deals with, like the problems of almost half of humanity should not be addressed. Hearing “I hate men” shouldn’t stop men from believing in equal rights for men and women. Hearing “I hate white people” shouldn’t make white people stop opposing racism. Your support for a human rights movement shouldn’t be based on how nice and easy it is for you, especially if you’re not the oppressed in that situation.
Anyway, the people who are put off feminism by a few people being a bit mean and cheeky are the kind of people who aren’t really interested in feminism in the first place. Or if they are, it’s an interest conditional on feminism making them as comfortable as possible, but since feminism is a social justice movement, we’re all going to have to put up with the discomfort. Change is an uncomfortable thing because it means shedding skin and growing a new one, and that stuff is weird and confusing and unsightly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth our time. So, use the damn word. Call yourself a feminist if you think the way women are treated in this world is wrong. What’s the worst that could happen? We could actually change the world?
Written by Rochelle Asquith