When you say, “I’m not a feminist but…” I hear, “I’m a terrible person.”
I was at a fundraiser at my university this weekend talking to one of my good friends about feminism when he took a moment to make a clear distinction that he’s not a feminist but he believes in equal rights. Oh really? Tell me more, please. So he did, of course. He went on to tell me that there is a difference between feminism and equal rights. Okay. Good to know. Let’s take a second. I’m pulling up the dictionary (on my laptop because this is 2013). Merriam-Webster online (credible) defines “feminism” as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Wait, is that different than equal rights? My friend started trying to talk to me about how this girl he knew in high school was a really intense feminist and burning bras blah blah hating men blah blah blah. Of course, being the “crazy feminist” that I am, I tried to explain to him that unless he’s a terrible person, he’s a feminist. He walked away.
Last month, Katy Perry was awarded “woman of the year.” In her acceptance speech, she made it clear that although she was honored to have this award, she wouldn’t consider herself a feminist. In contemporary media and general representations, women who identify as feminists are still seen as people to not be taken seriously. They are either too passionate, or even worse, too nonconforming to the world’s ideals of how a woman should present herself.
A world of people like Katy Perry presents itself on my college campus. A place where there is so much potential for young activists, a generation of people attacked by slut-shaming politicians, a world of women at war with misogyny and patriarchy, and a population of human beings still treated differently because they speak “too loudly” about gender discrimination and discrimination in many forms. Bringing up topics like rape, the pay gap, body image and sex positivity is apparently too taboo or serious. Why are you talking about that? We’re just trying to have a good time? Yeah, well, so were we. And then you went and said that you don’t believe in my rights and I wasn’t having a fun time anymore. And then you went and remained silent in the constant struggle for me to be taken seriously with my body, passion, and opinions because I’m inappropriately labeled as “crazy” for being a feminist. Why is caring so crazy? And why is the world of feminism being consistently torn down by men who think we are waging war against them, or by strong women who don’t want to align themselves with passion and opinionated humans?
So this is me, trying to tell the world that if you’re a decent person, you’re a feminist. Feminism isn’t me refusing to wear a bra, or dresses, or makeup, or heels. Feminism isn’t me saying that all men are reinforcing patriarchy and hegemony simply by being men. Feminism is me saying that I work just as hard as you and that I deserve to get the same amount of pay. Feminism is protesting against violence toward women, not partaking in it, or even worse, blaming them for it. Feminism is not judging my credibility and ability based on my weight or appearance. Feminism is believing that the ~50% of the population that helps drive this world toward being a better, more functioning place, deserves to be treated fairly and equally.
This may be too harsh (although I hope you’ve gleaned by now that I don’t really care), but proclaiming to be above feminism is absurd. More absurd than the distorted images you have of my movement. While you might believe that you don’t have time for my latest feminist rant, you’re wrong. I don’t have time for you apathy. Our safety, respect, and security don’t have time for your apathy and general above-it-all attitude.
So, society, I pose a question for you: Is there a difference between simply believing in equal rights and calling yourself a feminist?
I don’t think so. But I could be wrong. I’m just a crazy feminist, after all.
Written by Anisha Ahuja
Feminspire recognizes that the feminist movement has historically been exclusive of some women, especially non-white and trans* women and understands that a fight for equality may not always be accompanied by a willingness to identify as a “feminist.”