When I talk about feminism, I never know what sort of response I’ll receive from the people around me. Most of the time I feel a mixture of fear and hope, fearing the person will devalue my opinion and label me as a “feminazi” (a term which I have to admit has grown on me) and hoping that they’ll be open, interested, and actually understand what feminism is, rather than seeing feminism the way society at large does.
Tensions are always high, especially when I’m talking to a man. I’ve heard statements of all kinds from the male perspective, from “I love feminism, a woman who thinks for herself is a sexy woman,” to “feminism isn’t needed anymore, women have equal rights,” to the dreaded, “I don’t agree with feminism, I think we should all just be egalitarians.”
Feminism is often misunderstood. I was talking to one of my professors about this a few days ago and she told me that one of her old students, in a paper written on feminism, wrote that she is “not a feminist because she likes to burp, drink beer, and is not offended by men who open doors for her.”
I found myself wondering if the people who disagree with feminism, the men who are threatened by it, the women who think it’s stupid, were just misinformed or misguided by the way our media and society presents the feminist movement to us. So, I asked friends, acquaintances, and posted a question on the place with all the answers, the internet.
“What do you think about feminism, what do you think feminism is, and do you think we, as a society still need it?”
These are some of the answers I received.
- “I think feminism is bull shit. I think we don’t need a concept to support woman. I think all people should be supported and celebrated.”
- “Yes, we still need it. It’s a lot of things… To me, feminism is making sure that women are treated equally to men not higher not lower and I think that a lot of people think that feminist want to make men feel bad for being the way that they are but honestly it’s not really about that it’s about making women feel equal to men because in society we’re taught that women are below men.”
- “Yes it is still needed. I think feminazis tainted America’s idea of feminism so that people are completely against it even though they have no idea what it really means. Feminism is not about women alone. It’s about all of us no matter how one identifies their gender.”
- “Personally, for me, feminism is the female being having rights to be equal to the male being. The only thing that separates them is the human form but our spirits are all the same… we have been told that they are more important but we are actually equal.”
- “Feminism, to me, is a tough subject to judge. Because depending on who you talk to, they might have a different idea on what feminism actually is. If we’re talking about equality, then I’m all for it. I believe everyone should be treated equally. As a man, I do feel that if a woman can perform my job, just as well as I can, then she should receive the same pay. Now on the other side of that, I do believe some feminist get a little greedy with some things. As I just stated, if a woman can perform my job just as well as I can, then she should receive the same pay. However. If a woman and myself have the same job title, work the same amount of hours, yet she is not capable to perform the same tasks that I can, then she should not receive the same pay because she is a woman and she believes she should be paid equally to me. There comes a point where you’re not looking for equality anymore, and you’re expecting to be treated better. It reminds me a lot of “affirmative action” in some ways. Even as a black man myself, I don’t feel I should receive a job over someone else, simply because of my race. I should have to earn that spot. I’m all for women’s rights and equality. I just feel that its about time where we simply focus on the simple fact that all people should just be treated equally, and not always have things broken up into different groups like women’s right, gay rights, and civil rights for minorities. How about we just strive for total equality?”
- “I don’t think we need feminism now a days. For one reason it seems its evolved from empowerment for women to a blind hate for men and our evil penis’. Really the only downside I see now for women is getting less pay than men for the same job which even now is slowly changing.”
- “Feminism, in this world and age has come far in the progression of women’s rights and such, however I do think there can be more done. Even to this day women are nowhere even close to where men are. Men will always be looked at as the “dominant” of the human species. In my opinion this is never really going to change. Men will always be looked at as the more strong and productive, women will be looked as “his” wife. Society will look at men to be more above and more qualified to do more important things.”
- “Feminism is women equality. And yeah, everyone should be equal.”
- “I think feminism is the objective to properly represent the female population in a previously male dominated social structure. We haven’t reached full equality so I’m not against the fundamentals of feminism though sometimes it’s champions, I think, are a bit misguided.”
I was satisfied by most of the responses I got, but it is undeniable that there is still work to be done. A few of the responses insinuate that feminism is unneeded because our ideal should be to support people equally, when in reality, feminism is an essential part of egalitarianism.
My mother had this saying that she used to tell me when I was little that went something like, “How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time.” If the elephant is egalitarianism, then feminism is a piece of flesh. I’m going to now provide you with my own metaphor to try and explain why egalitarianism can’t exist without feminism.
Egalitarianism is like an empty stomach. Think of equality as a personal pizza, which is baked to perfection to fill this stomach. There is one piece for feminism, one for gay rights, one piece for trans rights, one for racial equality, etc. In order to satisfy our stomach of egalitarianism, we must eat the entire pizza, one piece at a time, or else we will go hungry. If we eat the whole pizza all at once, we’ll probably get terrible indigestion and have to run to the drugstore to spend eight dollars on a bottle of Pepto.
In other words, we need the individual movements. We can’t solve all of our problems by simply saying “egalitarianism” and calling it a day. Each group, each movement, has it’s own set of individual situations and problems. If we were to try and solve them all at once, we’ll have complete chaos; we’ll have social justice indigestion.
There’s also this notion of the feminazi, the extremest who ruined us all; the she-woman man haters. In any group of people with beliefs, be they atheists, Christians, feminists — there will always be those who surpass what is needed and find themselves caught up in the heat of the movement, who lose sight of the cause for passion’s sake, but it is unfair to assume that we’re all like this. We don’t all hate men and their “evil penises.” In fact, a lot of us love penises, and the men that they’re attached to.
While writing this article I’ve discovered two things. One, that lots of people don’t realize how involved feminism must be to achieve a totally equal society, and two, that the idea of “feminazis” have distorted the public’s view of the feminist movement. So I ask you this, what do you think feminism is?
Written by Rebecca F. Pitzer