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I am a feminist. I hate men, I am offended by everything and anything, and I am disgusted by the thought of wearing pink/dresses/high heels/makeup/anything remotely feminine that the patriarchy forced on me. If you read that sentence and understood I was being sarcastic, from all feminists worldwide, thank you. You know your stuff. If you read that and didn't think I was being sarcastic, this article is for you. I hope I can change your mind. It gets tiring, trying to justify that yes, I'm not out to make female supremacy a thing, and yes, I'm allowed to shave my armpits and wear skirts. If I can make my life a little easier, and the lives of many other feminists a little easier, then I've succeeded.
None of us have burnt a bra in our lives, probably.
The association between feminists and burning bras was made in an article in the New York Post about a protest outside the Miss America contest in 1969. Members of the New York Radical Women organisation burnt hairspray, makeup, corsets, and girdles in protest of the pageant's reduction of women to humans valued only for their attractiveness, but onlookers reported that nobody, at any point, burnt a bra. However, the headline stuck, and the anti-feminists got another reductive thing to throw at us and put us down. It's true, some of us don't wear bras for whatever reason, for gender identity reasons or because we'd just rather not, but whether you wear a bra or not doesn't really have anything to do with feminism (unless you want it to). Feminism isn't about rejecting everything feminine—and most of us just put our old bras in the bra bank anyway as we'd rather not cause a fire hazard. Besides, we have bigger fish to fry than giving a lazy cliché the time of day.
No, we don't hate men. I'll say it again. We don't hate men.
Some men have screwed us over, sure. We're talking about the men who have controlled what women can or cannot do with their bodies by law, who have harassed, raped, abused or murdered women. But of course, this isn't every men alive. We're not trying to get revenge on mankind for oppressing women. Revenge doesn't end in universal suffrage, legal access to abortion and contraception, and the end of Page 3 (in The Sun, at least). And when we say we're fighting for equality, we mean it. "But why don't you call it 'equalism' then?" the sceptics cry. It's called feminism because creating gender equality is often about lifting women up, because it is them who have faced greater oppression. Men have nothing to lose. Feminism is not and should not be about tearing them down.
The world still needs us.
Another bug bear I have with opponents to feminism is the idea that because women are equal to men on paper, we don't need feminism anymore, especially in developed countries like the UK. This comes from a place of ignorance and wishful thinking. People are still murdered, even though that is illegal. Women are raped, abused, and harassed, even though those are all illegal. We need feminism because an 18 percent gender pay gap still exists in the UK, and it widens for working mothers and women of colour. We need feminism because sanitary products are taxed whereas razors are not, and only using one of those products is a choice rather than a biological need. We need feminism because a certain orange git in a big white house is getting funny about what women can do with the bodies that men are fine to grab by the crotch without consent. We need feminism because we want to walk home at night alone feeling safe, without the fear of strange men lurking in alleyways putting us off (while also demonstrating a total misunderstandings of how most rapes happen—someone is far more likely to be raped at home by someone they know). We need feminism for all these reasons and more.
We care about men's issues too. Just don't use them to silence us. Please.
Sometimes in a conversation about a feminist issue, we'll be interrupted with the likes of "Men get raped too," "Men are abused too," or "Men get objectified too." Of course, these are legitimate problems in society. We agree with you. We never said they didn't exist. However, we can't turn every conversation about women's rights into one about men's rights as if men are the permanently oppressed ones, otherwise we'll never get to shouting about the problems that actually affect more women than men. Acknowledge that you have generally had life a bit easier than some of the rest of us—and hey, some of us feminists have to check our privilege much the same as you. I haven't had my sexuality fetishized or my ethnicity exotified, and I show compassion for those who have instead of shouting over them. Besides, fighting against women's oppression will also make life easier for men. For example, men's suicide rates is something that's often used as a deviation from the women's rights conversation. We blame toxic masculinity and "boys-don't-cry" narratives (as we rightly should). Crying is stereotyped as a woman's thing because obviously, women are more emotional, emotion is weakness, women are weak, and men can't be associated with that because femininity is seen as bad. Challenge this notion that being feminine is somehow lesser, and voila—you have a positive multiplier effect.
Feminism is for everyone. Even you.
So men can't be feminists, huh? Firstly, Kurt Cobain, Sadiq Khan, Matty Healy, John Legend, and Prince Harry all say no to that one. Secondly, you don't have to be affected by an issue to feel passionate about it and fight against it. I'm straight, but I support marriage equality. We donate to Children In Need when we're not children or in need, and we don't know any who are. The issues we fight against aren't just women's issues. They are society's issues. Everyone's issues.