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It's sad to say that many people, including women, don't believe in feminism. However, if you were to explain to these people the principles and ideas behind the movement, many amongst this group would agree that they too hold the same beliefs- they just don't want to be included under the title. More and more reasons, excuses and somewhat bizarre ideas as to why people don't want to label themselves as feminists have come to light during this "modern" wave of the movement.
Here are my responses to ten reasons I've (personally) been given as to why someone wouldn't call themselves a feminist...
- "My voice would hardly make a difference." When you witness injustices, do you always stay silent out of fear that you won't be heard? Perhaps if everyone were as brave as feminists, societal change would happen at a much faster pace. Your voice isn't on its own, it's amongst millions of men, women and everyone that falls in-between across the globe who all believe in the power of our voices. Of course, we don't expect you and your voice alone to shake some sense into the world, just one person is more than enough.
- "It's too political for me." You are aware that politics shape our society and the world we live in, right? Politics is the only way that the people who really live in this world can have a say about how things are run; I'm talking about the people who experience the consequences of the decisions made by the elite, who don't have to face the harsh realities of the real world—I'm talking about you. I'f you're not doing what you can to protest against discrimination, you're part of the problem; get on the right side of history!
- "There's a negative stigma attached to the word 'feminist'." Of course, we've all heard the same; "Feminists are angry. Feminists are aggressive. Feminists are ugly. Feminists hate men. Feminists are all lesbians. Feminists just want women to dominate the world" narrative, but have you ever considered that the negative stigma attached to the label 'feminist' is part of the problem? This is why feminism is needed to begin with; women can't even advocate for equal opportunities without being stigmatised by society, labelled and shamed. Not only has the entire female population been oppressed for centuries, but when women finally use their voices to oppose this oppression, they're insulted and forced back into their place... crazy, I know. Besides that, try to think about who it is that you're afraid of thinking you're a feminist. Which person in your life would be full of shame and embarrassment at the mere thought that you believe women shouldn't be abused by patriarchy? Perhaps it's them that's the problem.
- "I believe in equality, but third wave feminism is a bit much." More and more people across the world are vocalising their opinions on gender equality every day. Third wave feminists are loud, proud and continuing on the legacy that our sisters and ancestors started. We've come a long way from protesting for women's rights to vote and rights to work (besides the few countries that still need some work, of course), society has evolved and third wave feminists are only pushing this barrier further. You don't think third wave feminism is 'too much', you just don't believe that protesting for a woman's right to wear what she wants (without being vocally or physically harassed), is as important as the original work that began this movement- but it is. We seek all benefits from the fall of patriarchy and misogyny—big or small.
- "Feminists hate men." For the last time, we don't hate men, we hate patriarchy. But yes, sometimes our hatred for patriarchy may extend towards those men who abuse their privilege and assert their power over marginalised people. We're allowed to hate men who sexually harass and abuse women, narrowly escape the law, and go on to become an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court... Feminism isn't about fighting or eliminating men, it's about systematic inequalities that put women across the world in harm's way.
- "The world has bigger problems on its hands." Global warming is real, the ice-caps are melting, animals are going extinct, natural disasters are at an all-time high, half the global population doesn't even have access to clean water or clean air...I could go on forever about all of the things that are wrong with the world. The bad news? These aren't going to go away overnight, not even in a year, probably not even within our lifetime. The good news...we aren't limited or constrained to only addressing one issue at a time. None of these problems are more important than another, they're all big and gender inequality is a huge issue that the world faces.
- "Feminism is for women." Feminism is the liberation of women from the patriarchy and misogyny that has been systematically oppressing them for centuries. Feminism is the belief that women are human beings who deserve rights and respect in the same way that men always have had- nowhere in this does it state that only women can advocate for this cause. In fact, men are encouraged to be allies within this movement and use their power and privilege to make a difference. Feminism is here to help men too, here to help little boys express themselves in any way that they feel comfortable, without the restraints of society teaching them 'how to grow up to be a man'. It's here to help reduce the significantly high male suicide rates across the world because men are taught to suppress their emotions rather than express them in the way that girls are encouraged to. But of course, getting men to see that feminism benefits them too in order for them to want to be part of the movement, is also part of the problem...think about it...
- "Patriarchy is just a conspiracy." Unfortunately, we live in a world where people need to experience oppression themselves, in order to acknowledge that other people have privilege. Instead of diminishing patriarchy because you can't see it, nor can you see the way in which you benefit from it, try listening to the millions of people across the world who are screaming that it's real and that it affects them every day.
- "I believe in equality. Feminists believe in female superiority." I think we've established that a world in which one gender is superior to the other, doesn't work out well for anyone. We aren't looking to be superior to men, we're asking to be recognised as valuable human beings in the same way that men are. We believe in creating a society where future generations of women aren't targeted and oppressed by misogynistic ideas, implemented into society and the law. The uplifting of women doesn't mean the fall of men, everyone can flourish at the same time.
- "Feminists promote the idea that all women are disadvantaged and all men have privilege." Intersectional feminism exists purely to highlight and emphasise that not all women experience oppression to the same extent and at the same frequencies. Feminists understand, perhaps more so than others, that narrow ideas of gender restrict everyone. We understand that other factors such as race, sexual orientation, gender identity and not being able-bodied contribute to being oppressed—however, that doesn't eliminate the fact that a certain amount of privilege comes from being male.
Feminism is not a dirty word. Whether you want to proudly admit it or not, believing in gender equality is feminism—chances are you are a feminist.