What is a Feminist and Why Aren’t You One?

What is a Feminist and Why Aren’t You One?

By: Amanda K. Fox

Here at Spicie, we get called feminists a lot and not always in the nicest tone. It’s true, we are feminists. There is quite a bit of confusion about what a feminist is though, so let’s try to come to a better understanding about it. The basic definition of feminist is a person who believes in gender equality. It does not state that a feminist isĀ  woman, however, that is the common assumption. Men are feminists too. It is that first syllable, FEM, that throws so many people off. Feminism is more than that though.

 

The more formal definition of feminism is the movement for social, political, and economic equality of men and women. When that definition of feminism was used in polling a random selection of people both male and female, without telling them it is the definition of feminism, about 67% stated they are in favor of it. When the next group was told they were being given the definition of feminism, those in favor of it dropped to around 59%, based largely on men viewing it less favorably. What does that tell us?

 

Primarily, it tells us that many men have a preconceived negative idea about feminism – but in fairness some women do as well. What seems to be additionally off-putting is the use of the word “movement” which for some men seems to indicate a concerted effort to work against them. The word feminism, in and of itself, comes with quite a bit of baggage and it seems, in part, may be one of the stumbling blocks toward women attaining truer equality. Put bluntly, the image some people have of what the word feminism means is disagreeable to them.

 

When men were asked what feminism is to them, many answered that it was an effort to advance women through legal measures such as affirmative action. Less than 30% cited feminists as being “man haters” or “angry lesbians”. Men under 25 saw it differently, having more of an image of a grassroots type of movement mostly free of the man hating lesbian spin, but again aimed at women attaining legal protections and affirmative action type advancements.

 

http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szerkeszt%C5%91:PJOrsi

Eddie Vedder (Photo By: PJOrsi)

In actuality, they all have it partially correct and partially wrong. Being a feminist does not mean you hate men or that you’re a lesbian. You do not have to hate or not be sexually attracted to an entire gender in order to advance the other. They can peacefully advance together. As many men identify them self as feminists as well, it makes very little sense to try to make an argument that men are the enemy. You can love a man and be an upstanding feminist. Period. Male feminists you likely know of quite well include John Lennon, Brad Pitt, President Barack Obama, Eddie Vedder, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Joss Whedon and the Beastie Boys.

 
Feminism is not an organized movement, at least not since 1973. Since then, feminism has been an attitude more than anything else. There are organizations that do advocate on behalf of women’s equality, but they are generally careful to avoid the feminist label. Modern feminism is more about knowing what your rights are, or should be, and demanding them. Feminists are not the type of person that goes hat in hand and asks for their equal rights – they stand up, hold their head up high and demand equal rights because they have been earned, not just because they can be doled out as a panacea that is forever held over their head as some sort of gift.

 
There are some who claim the label of being a humanist to try to escape being labeled a feminist, and although it is a misuse of the word, in a roundabout way it has evolved into being equated with equal rights for all people and some feel the umbrella feminism falls under. Humanism is actually the rejection of supernaturalism (An all knowing creator of otherworldly origin). Feminism is very specific in that the goal is gender equality. Nothing more or less.

 
Feminism is not a bad thing for men or women. If one believes feminism is bad, they are literally stating that they hold man superior to woman. They are saying equality is not only not deserved, but not earned. That attitude hurts everyone whether it is immediately evident or not.

 

 

Feminism has brought with it sexual liberation and micro-loan organizations that have helped launch thriving women owned businesses that employ both women and men. It has helped pave the way for a number of women to reach their full potential in educational pursuits, business, politics, the military and the list can go on and on. When women achieve their potential, the men that are with them benefit from that achievement as well, personally, professionally or perhaps both.

 
If it had not been for feminism, a woman like Prof. Lynn Conway may not have made the advances she did in computer science that helped the digital age evolve. Cisco wouldn’t exist without co-founder Sandra Lerner. Flickr, which is used by millions daily, was invented by Caterina Fake in 2002. Stephanie Kwolek took polymers DuPont discarded and turned them in Kevlar which has served numerous men and women quite well. The disposable cell phone is the invention of Randi Altschul, an accessory many men would feel lost without.

 
Swinging the doors open to allow women equal opportunities along with equal compensation and rights is good for everyone. When you marginalize 52% of the population you are not going to get very far. So what if men and women are different? It is often those very differences which open new doors.

 

 

Mind the gap

The pendulum is swinging (By: AnonMoos)

Feminism is something we need to embrace on a global scale and the sooner the better. Women have not only closed the education gap, we have swung it in the our favor. More and more women are becoming the family breadwinner despite earning 22.5 cents on the dollar less than men for the same job. Knowing what feminism is and how positive it is for women and men alike, how can one not want to be a feminist?

 
For those that still think feminism is wrong or somehow bad, consider this one point for a moment – when women do eventually take control of politics and industry on a greater scale, do you want women to marginalize you in the manner you’ve marginalized them?

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  1. Mike says:

    Great article, read it twice!
    I am very open minded and love having discussions like these.

    I won’t say that feminists should “walk on egg shells” but only thing I can add is when society does not openly “approve” your way of life, don’t be in everyone’s face. Have your opinion, but understand it may not be approved by many…

    I say this because I recently graduated University and took a few gender/feminism related classes. Some women (not generalizing, they were all women to do this) would be so opinionated and rude people immediately started to sigh once they raised their hands…

    This happens everywhere in every aspect/category of life, just be careful with your opinions and hopefully most people will listen and respect anyone’s outlook.

    • Penni says:

      I agree Mike. As with any subject matter, being rudely opinionated shuts down discussion and people just stop listening. Volume makes it worse. I am reminded of a few lines from the “Desiderata”.

      “Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.”

      • biddy says:

        Totally agree Penni – spot on! Being a feminist means equal rights – in the work place, earnings etc. It does not mean you should not look after your children at home, nourishing and nurturing during their formative years, educating and encouraging, ensuring confidence, self awareness and esteem and learning empathy for others in the world. Those who make this a priority are often derided – yet it is the most important job in the world!

    • AmandaFox says:

      I wholly agree with the not walking on eggshells, that only reinforces the perception of weakness. And yes, I understand what you saw in classes and it was no different 20 years ago when I took gender studies or several years ago when I refreshed the course. There is always going to be a certain percentage that cannot present their point with being rude or open to other possibilities.

      On the other hand, I think we do need some more loud opinionated women to step up to the plate and start being blunt. It won’t be popular, but at the end of the day I think it will resonate with more people than it will sour. ERA wasn’t achieved by being quiet and asking – it was loud and demanding. Ending the laws regarding legal spousal rape didn’t die off because women were quiet – it ended because women had enough and said “Fix this now!” The UN didn’t declare it an offense against morality until 1993. It’s only prosecuted in 104 countries even – and in some only in word. It took until 1999 for all 50 states to criminalize spousal rape. The problem is 33 states still consider spousal rape to be a lesser crime more like aggravated assault.

      That’s not the only issue that makes me say we have to have people be loud and opinionated still (Just an example), but that route often works. Someone needs to stand with the bullhorn and shout it out. The cooler more PC mouthpieces can handle the types of actions needed to enact legal change. I’d love to say that I could believe we could all have orderly discussions about the issues feminism addresses and everything would work out in the end because a group of people had an epiphany, but time and experience tells me that you first need to get someone’s attention to get them to sit at the table and talk.

      Not everyone is as open-minded as you Mike, although it would be nice if they were.

  2. Sarah says:

    I think some of the more militant feminists scared people off in the past but these days people who are anti-feminist are the minority.

    • AmandaFox says:

      It seems that way in the polls for sure – and luckily at actual voting time so far. I think the problem is the people in a position to really square things away regarding equal pay etc.. (CEOs), banks with their loan policies and so many others in the political upper echelons are happy with the way things are. I think your statement is particularly true of the younger generation, but sadly for mine on up there is still a bit too much of that old guard in place to be comfortable.

  3. D says:

    I agree with demanding rights rather than asking for them, but I still am not too much of a fan of this article. I think this waters down feminism in order to make it more palatable, and thus misses the point of the movement, and yes it is a movement. A personal attitude of equality is wonderful, but feminism still does exist as a movement, or rather several movements. It’s not as visible as it was in the 70s, but there are undeniably still self-described feminist organizations that fight patriarchy. Feminism can be best described as a term for the various movements to abolish patriarchy, patriarchy being defined as the set of social relations that hold men dominant over women. Abolishing this would definitely work very well for men as well as women, since patriarchy results in some degree of harm for men as well. I think feminism can be sold perfectly well to both men and women without pretending it’s purely an attitude (what’s wrong with movements anyway?), that there aren’t multiple feminisms or that it’s just about “equal rights” (a clear point of it, but not the summary of it)

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