I think I have been afraid to identify as a feminist. I have said things like “I am not a feminist, but of course I believe in gender equality.” Or one I have heard before is “I am not a feminist because I don’t hate men.” A fear I have held onto for a long time is that if I start saying that I am a feminist, my male friends might think I am constantly judging them or blaming them for years of oppression against women. I am worried that people will always think I am pushing my own agenda or that I am just taking things too seriously.
Where does that fear come from? Why is there stigma attached to feminists?
Briefly I want to mention the lens that I am looking through while discussing this topic. I am an educated, Christian, heterosexual, white, and married female. My voice is filled with privilege, some of which I am not even aware of. I have never been told I cannot do something because of my gender. I have definitely experienced not being taken seriously because I am a woman, and I have some personal stories about how I was treated negatively because of being female. But I know that I have not experienced oppression the way many females in our world do on a daily basis.
With that said, just because it may not be something I experience regularly does not mean it is irrelevant. I am interested in the equal treatment of women across the board regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, etc.
So why the stigma?
In my recent observations I have noticed that there is quite a lot of media attention surrounding feminist thought. Some of this attention I think is very positive. I was moved by Emma Watson’s speech as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador at an event for the HeForShe Campaign. She effectively used her position to talk about how feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities at all levels of society. AdditionalIy I have really enjoyed watching Amy Poehler’s show Parks and Rec, as she includes subtle and not so subtle feminist viewpoints through her character Leslie Knope. Through the comedic writing, the show sheds light on how feminism is perceived and I have learned about stereotypes in a unique way.
I have also been turned off by some celebrity attention around feminism. I am confused as to why some female stars use their feminist viewpoint as a license and reason to wear little to nothing on stage. I mean, is that really the goal of feminism in our culture? It perplexes me why anyone would want to limit the conversation so much as to say that in order for women to be equal to men we should be allowed to look however we want. Isn't that limiting women to only be concerned about our looks? (read my post about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty).
Another observation I have made is that there ARE women who hate men and also identify themselves as feminists. There are numerous blogs and websites where the goal is to bring down men and elevate women. This is something I know I do not support. I have no interest in reversing gender inequality as I believe we were made to work together and respect one another. Although there are women who openly discriminate against men, I have not observed that the majority of feminists would support this viewpoint.
So why am I scared to identify as a feminist? One thing I know for certain is my reason cannot be because I love and respect men as equals- that argument has lost its value in my opinion.