There has been a lot of tension recently around the word “feminism”, ranging from celebrities disagreeing on whether to identify as one in public to various whiteboard campaigns with students outlining why they are or are absolutely not a feminist. The word has become divisive, and if you exclude anyone with particularly unpleasant views, the divide is between the line of “equality” and “feminism”. I’m not going to argue that viewpoint at all here by the way; I just want to look at this divide.
Disclaimer: I am 100% a feminist. I believe firmly in equality for people of all genders and none, it just so happens I believe feminism is the way to do that. As long as you want the same thing, I can probably be your friend, and if you don’t want that and that’s why you’re anti-feminist, well this post isn’t really for you at all, go away.
What this post is for is for feminists who are becoming downhearted by how many powerful, independent women are loudly proclaiming that they aren’t a feminist.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am under no delusions. Every time someone says they don’t need feminism, not only are they hurting themselves but they’re hurting the whole feminist movement, as the only way we can move towards equality is by working together.
However, rather than sighing and feeling a little bit more crushed every time someone declares this, I try to remember a few things:
- You need a lot of people to support a movement to have something so public against it.
5 years ago, there would have been nothing like this, no one would have taken a photo with a caption saying why they aren’t a feminist, because very few people were saying that they were. The explosion of third wave feminism over the last few years (possibly thanks to the power of social media, but that’s another discussion) is only exemplified by this push back.
- The fact that so many girls firmly believe there is nothing stopping them from getting to the top is fantastic. There are girls who refuse to identify as feminists, because they think there are bigger issues for people of any gender identity and they don’t feel particularly oppressed compared to others. While my personal view is that too many people are socially conditioned to just not see how they are oppressed, I still think this is a massive step forward. 50 years ago women wouldn’t have imagined reaching their full potential; even the belief now that they can, regardless of whether there are invisible barriers that I believe they aren’t able to see, is something to be celebrated.
- Every time someone posts about not being a feminist, there is immediately a barrage of responses from people outlining why they are. The feminist movement pushes back for empowered women with more and more strength every time this happens, which leads onto my final point:
- Anything that opens a discussion about feminism and equality is only a good thing. Yes it’s frustrating when someone says they aren’t a feminist because they believe in something that is a fundamentally feminist viewpoint, but every time they put their unique, valuable voice out there it creates a dialogue, a space for people to reply with why they are a feminist, or for people to read it and disagree, or in the case of anti-equality posts, to become enraged enough to do something about it. Anything that generates more conversation around feminism and equality can only be a good thing, provided it doesn’t generate hate.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if women and allies all around the world could get up and unite behind one cause. But I’d love it if any oppressed community and allies could do the same. I’d love it if there was absolutely no need to. I’d love it if we could all just get along and bake a cake out of rainbows, or whatever the quote is.
What I’ve got, however, is a world where not everyone identifies as a feminist, and for the time being, that’s what we’re stuck with. Hopefully remembering things like this can help you keep going and help anyone who wants any kind of equality to keep working towards something positive.