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I can’t tell you how many times well-meaning folks have started a discussion with me by saying “I’m not a feminist, BUT…” followed by describing their very feminist beliefs and thinly veiled reasons for not identifying as feminist.
It’s not just men, it’s women too. Both genders are guilty of this behavior.
You might be thinking, “Well, what’s the harm in not identifying as a feminist when you do believe in gender equality?”
Feminism vs. Gender Equality
To answer that question, it’s important to note the linguistic difference between “feminism” and “gender equality.”
First of all, feminism literally means gender equality. If anyone tries to tell you differently, they haven’t studied feminism on even a surface level.
Disclaimer: masculinity is NOT synonymous with men. Femininity is NOT synonymous with women. These are terms used to describe how society values certain traits and roles that we’ve happened to assign to the genders.
Don’t quite understand what that means? Here’s a thought exercise to demonstrate the social value of masculinity over femininity: who is given more respect in Western society––a woman who’s attracted to other women and expresses herself masculinely or a man who’s attracted to other men and expresses himself femininely? It’s almost always the masculine woman who will be better respected than a feminine man. Why? Because it’s not about gender––it’s about gender expression. And regardless of gender, patriarchal values will always dictate that masculine expression is better than feminine expression.
The reason the movement and philosophy have been dubbed “feminism” is that the problem AND the solution are built into the name. The problem is that the genders are not equal, and masculinity has been valued over femininity throughout human history. The solution is elevating the feminine to be equal to masculine.
The harm in saying specifically that you support gender equality but not feminism is an erasure of the history that’s led us to arrive at the solution of equality amongst genders. The feminine, which is overwhelmingly how most women identify and express themselves, has been attacked and abused throughout human history and we need a more feminine balance in this world in order to achieve equality.
That’s why the movement is called feminism and not gender equality. The solution to making genders equal is by elevating the feminine to balance the masculine.
Avoiding the Feminist Label Because of Hatred Toward Men
“But feminists are so ANGRY. Some of them even actively and outwardly express their hatred for men. I don’t want to be associated with an identity that hates men.”
Wow, look at you avoiding hatred. That’s just so very noble of you. I just… wow, *gives you a slow clap.*
Look, I get it. Nobody wants to be associated with hate. But the women who identify as feminist and also hate men are not real feminists. They are misandrists. They are the counterpart to misogynists. So they believe women should be valued above men. That’s not feminism. It doesn’t fit the bill. Those women aren’t real feminists, they’re just leeches.
It’s also important to note that misandrists make up a very small fraction of women in the feminist movement. They might be a loud minority, but they’re still a tiny minority. So refusing the label of “feminist” under the guise that you don’t want to be associated with misandrists is like refusing the label of “proud American” because the KKK uses the label to advance their hateful white nationalist cause.
If you’re going to let a marginal group of haters deter you from using a label, then you better stop calling labeling yourself altogether. Because you’ll never be able to find a label to describe you or your beliefs that someone isn’t also using to push a hateful agenda.
If you actually believe in gender equality, start embracing the feminist label.
Shying away from calling yourself a feminist in 2019 is, at best, suspicious. At worst, it’s a sign of some deep-rooted sexism that you’ve not yet extracted from your subconscious (it’s okay, we all still have some sexist beliefs stuck deep down that we’re working through). In any case, you’re all out of excuses for not identifying as feminist.
For the sake of advancing the movement and navigating the more complicated gender issues that we have yet to work through as a society, it’s time to stop avoiding feminism. Feminism IS for you. It’s for me. It’s for all of us. Embrace it. OWN it, baby. Feminism is the way forward.