So today I've been having conversations about the word 'Feminist' and whether or not it's still necessary and relevant to today's society. The word is so heavily (and falsely) loaded with negative connotation that it can seem like an attractive idea to ditch the word 'feminist' and just roll with 'humanism' or 'egalitarian' instead. And sometimes it can get really tiring to hear the same old phrases again and again... 'You're a feminist? Why do you hate men?' or 'You're a feminist? Why do you only care about women,' and everything inbetween, so I can understand why people get bored of these conversations.
Feminism is about equality between genders, and usually gender is the key issue that feminists try and tackle. Since feminism is about obtaining equality between all genders, it's important to note that men's issues and men's rights are also part of the feminist movement. In areas where men are not equal to women (for example, the criminal justice system when their rights regarding children are involved) then I fully support as a feminist for these changes to take place so we can have a system that is fairer to men as well as women.
Humanism or Egalitarians usually define themselves as caring for the rights of all humans for whatever reason; and this is a useful term because you can use it when talking about human rights in general and those rights that don't directly relate to gender.
But why do people choose to not identify with feminism? Well, as I said, the word is already heavily loaded with negative connotation and even though this is factually incorrect information, it's enough to put people off because they don't want to deal with the social stigma of being a 'feminist.' The reason I feel this is problematic is because this makes the movement supporting equality between genders seem either trivial, misguided, unnecessary or unfashionable. People use the excuse that feminists believe X and Y to make them seem crazy and irrational and undermine the value of the equal rights movement. I think people are intimidated by the world feminist and therefore want as few people to use it as is possible. Don't you think it's a problem when a word that advocates equal rights becomes a social stigma?
So what do I say to that? Fuck them. Feminism means none of those things. Feminism and Humanism can co-exist because the two ideologies are not at all conflicting; in order to tackle complex world issues then we can break humanism down into different segments. This doesn't mean we only care about those certain issues, it just means that specialising in them makes it easier to tackle those issues at hand. It's very difficult to persuade someone to join a movement if you only know a little about a lot of movements. It's more realistic to expect that someone will research a particular issue, such as gender, instead of trying to be jack of all trades and failing at it.
A good analogy I saw from Everday Feminism was:
'Saying that we can’t have feminism because we should only focus on general human rights is like saying we can’t have oncologists because some doctors are general practitioners. It’s like saying that oncologists are bringing so much attention to cancer that no one cares about typhoid or influenza anymore, simply because oncology exists.
It’d make more sense to say that by specializing in the field of oncology, some doctors are more equipped and informed to fight cancer, though they also care about the health of all people and are still highly informed about the state of general medicine. Likewise, oncologists share their cancer expertise with the entire medical field. The same could be said for feminists (or womanists, or LGBTQ rights activists, or anti-racists, or reproductive rights activists). Focusing on the problems facing a specific set of people, especially when these are problems you are passionate about solving, doesn’t mean forgetting that all other problems exist.
It means being so informed and focused in working with a specific population that you can be a resource for the population you serve and for people who are doing more general work.'
So while my focus is feminism, because it's something I know the most about, doesn't mean I have no care at all for any other human rights movement.
Another reason, and probably my strongest reason to call yourself a feminist is because if logical, reasonable and essentially normal people don't call themselves feminists, then feminism will continue to have the facade of the 'crazy, irate, middle-aged, unmarried (so what?), man-hating women.' I keep the label because I want to make sure that I am actively trying to create an situation where feminists are seen as reasonable, logical and as open to discussion as anyone else (hopefully!). If I just let the tide of extremists file in and use the feminist label to spread hatred against men that what kind of equal rights advocate am I? Should I just take their shit because I can't be bothered dealing with people's misconceptions about my ideas? If someone thinks wrongly of you, then you set them straight, not politely step outside of your own beliefs because you are afraid of offending someones delicate sensibilities.
Some people find the term 'FEMinism' to be outdated because of the female element of the word itself. If you don't want to advocate equal rights between sexes because of the structure of the word itself then I think you aren't looking at the big picture. HuMANism has man in it, better NOT USE IT ANYMORE LOLOL. No.
Finally, I can understand why people may have a problem identifying with modern feminism. A lot of the things that get publicised by the media are what could be considered less important issues to some of the other work that feminism is doing. The media likes to sensationalise issues and rarely represents feminism in a postive light anyway. I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about these issues but unfortunately the outside perception of feminists is that we 'whinge about everything and usually things that don't matter.' Arguably, no matter how small, these topics matter, but I really want to start a movement where we do things that actually change the world for the most deprived women. If you feel that feminism doesn't represent your views anymore, then don't just shrug it off, change it. If you think that the modern feminist isn't talking about things that matter, or are are wrong about certain topics, of their approach to problems isn't what you support or expect, then question it, write about it, ask other feminists about it, and make they change their minds.
So I ask you, if you support equality between all genders, then please use the term feminist. Then we can get away from the awful stereotype and actually set to work changing the world for the better, for all genders and all people.
Please feel free to comment and rip this stuff apart. I love have discussions like that and you are welcome to say whatever you like here. Argue away my friends!