By Savanah Mandeville
Feminists get a bad rap and, frankly, I can see why. They challenge the status quo, get in arguments, complain, pick apart society, pick apart interpersonal interactions, pick apart each other, and have a lot of conflicting ideas about the goals of the movement. Hell, for being a group that’s out for equality of every gender, class, race, and sexual orientation, there are A LOT of people out there who refuse to identify as a feminist. Even if someone stridently believes in equality, they won’t call themselves a feminist because the word itself has gained a negative connotation to them. Furthermore, a lot of women who are very active in the movement have even presented the idea of coming up with a new word or simply not having a word.
There are a few theories I have about why people don’t like the word “feminist.” One, and I’m going to spitball here real quick, is about mainly straight women in SWMO … when it comes to dating and relationships, it’s sad but let’s say it, the girl who light-heartedly says, “All that feminist stuff isn’t really for me” is going to have a lot easier time finding a man than the one with hairy armpits posting feminist rants on Facebook every day. The latter can and likely will find someone who agrees with her, but her dating pool is smaller. I have lost male friends and I’ve had relationships crumble because I stood up for feminism. Your average dude simply does not get feminism and doesn’t want to be bothered by it. So, as a result, a lot of straight women are pretty comfortable shying away from the big F word and/or from getting involved in any level of community activism. And let’s be serious, a lot of women, especially in JOMO, just want to get married more than anything else.
Another issue that is common among straight, anti-feminist women is the girl who says, “I only hang out with guys. It’s less drama.” We all know this girl. Sorry to blow your cover, ladies, but that sentence is code for, “I’m too intimidated by other women to make friends with them.” There are several reasons for this. First, we’ve been conditioned our entire lives to be competitive with each other. It’s hard to overcome that and any jealousy you may have for another woman and be friends with her. It can be super uncomfortable. Second, being friends with guys is easier because you can subtly use your sexuality to get them to like you. They’ll keep you around with the hopes of one day dating/laying you. You can’t do that with other straight girls. Third, being the token female in a group of guys comes with very low expectations. You don’t have to keep up with their references or jokes because why? Because you’re just the dumb girl in the room. That’s the patriarchy for ya. When you hang out with other women, everyone is on an even playing field. Life is much more rewarding when you overcome your insecurities and forge friendships with both sexes. And yes, platonic friendships do exist so don’t even start with me on that one.
On a similar note, there are a lot of women – especially white women – who don’t want to believe they’re second-class citizens and don’t see feminism as useful. This is a result of privilege. They seem to have some sense of pride in being able to “buck up” and be “be tough” and “not be a little snowflake.” While I admire their bravado, it saddens me that they don’t recognize it’s falsely earned. There are numerous institutions in our society in which women are, in fact, treated as second class. I don’t view the denial of such as strong but at best, ignorant, and at worst, lazy.
Which brings me to my next point. White women have a lot of privilege in American society. It’s not all around surprising that there are white women who think everything is fine. Fuck, 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. This is where the topic of intersectionality comes in. Intersectionality is the analysis of discrimination faced by anyone who identifies with the multiple social, biological, and cultural groups that are not favored in a patriarchal, capitalist, white supremacist society. I feel like that’s a duh and shouldn’t be that confusing. But it is confusing sometimes. Obviously, as a cis, straight white feminist, I have privileges that trans, POC, and gay people do not have. No one would ever argue with me that I’m a woman. No one would ever not date me because of my skin color or look down on me because of who I’m dating. So, I can’t really sit here and be like, “It’s not that confusing,” because there are a lot of issues women face that I can try to empathize with but will never fully understand. Then sorting out solutions for those problems is even harder. The problems I deal with are shared with all women (e.g. patriarchy, threats to reproductive rights), but there are so many problems other women have that I do not have (e.g. racism, transphobia). It’s kind of similar to why the “All Lives Matter” thing is so annoying. Ignoring intersectionalism is kind of like saying “All Lives Matter.” It ignores the issues of a specific group. So, even if I, a bleeding heart liberal, can sit comfortably with my privilege next to a white woman who voted for Donald Trump, then I have the responsibility to fight for women who do not have the same privilege as me. In other words, the fight isn’t even close to over.
ANYWAY, since I feel like this introduction is a hot mess, I’m going to end with a very elementary-structured closing sentence:
In conclusion, there are myths about feminism that need to be dispelled because the movement has gained a reputation for being aggressive, confusing, unnecessary, and a huge boner killer.
Myth #1 – Feminists hate men.
No. First of all, a lot of feminists ARE men. Second of all, most female feminists want and welcome male allies to the cause. Feminists have dads, brothers, grandfathers, cousins, nephews, and husbands. These are men in their lives who they love and care about, even if those men don’t align themselves with the feminist cause. That being said, I think the stereotype is more typically viewed that a feminist is an old maid who couldn’t get a boyfriend so now she has a chip on her shoulder for all men. Kind of the reverse stereotype of how all nerdy gamer guys hate women because they have such a hard time getting laid. It’s a pretty mean stereotype and makes an assumption based on personal experiences and applies it to a large group of people. Are there women in the feminist movement who have a chip on their shoulder toward men? Well, yeah. I mean, there’s probably a lady at your office like that. But that’s a personal problem for that individual – not something that’s true of the whole movement.
Myth #2 – Feminists are humorless bullies who yell all the time and are mean.
Here’s the thing about feminists. When you get woke and start realizing how unfair everything is, you start recognizing that inequality is everywhere. It’s really in your face, all the time. It’s like opening your eyes one day and being able to see little green fairies flying everywhere. You try to make other people see them, but they can’t. “How do you not see the fairies?! There’s one right there. And there! There’s one right in front of your face.” Can you see how that would be frustrating? Can you see how that would make you angry? Imagine that the little green fairies were controlling the world and ruining a lot of people’s lives. Then you’d really be angry. You would be offended when people didn’t believe you.
So, that’s kind of my theory on why feminists can be a royal pain in the ass sometimes. It’s frustrating and disheartening to fight this uphill battle. Anger is going to happen.
That doesn’t excuse rudeness, though. There’s never a good reason to raise your voice in a conversation unless you’re talking next to a freight train or something.
But the millions of people who identify as feminists are human beings with complex personalities. Of course they have a sense of humor, kindness, compassion, and love in their hearts. Society also expects women to be the kinder, gentler sex, so the bar by which a woman is perceived as a mean old rag is pretty low.
Myth #3 – We don’t need feminism anymore because men and women are equal.
Okay, this is a big one. It’s true that the women’s rights movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s solved a lot of big problems. A woman isn’t viewed as her husband’s property, she can get a job, she can have access to birth control (for now). But to say that sexism doesn’t exist anymore is just not true. I can’t list all of the examples of subtle and not-so-subtle sexism that exist in modern society – there are entire books written on the topic – but I can give one undeniable example: We still have double standards about sex that lead to a situation where we are blaming the victim for being raped. Like this example isn’t even subtle. If that’s not sexist then I don’t know what is.
Myth #4 – Feminism is only for middle-class white women.
Feminism involves everyone. If you believe that every person should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their gender, class, race, and sexual orientation, then you’re a feminist. Let’s not overcomplicate things. Most people are feminists. BUT, the word itself is very woman-centric, and because the patriarchy is still a thing, a lot of men and women-who-are-desperate-to-impress-men feel weird attaching a feminine sounding word to themselves.
Do we still need the word? Wouldn’t the phrase, “Don’t be an asshole” suffice?
If you vehemently believe that men are better than women or white people are better than black people or rich people are better than poor people – the list can go on forever – then you’re not a feminist. You’re an asshole.
Also, sometimes I think people just simply aren’t interested in politics or social justice. It’s not interesting to them, so they don’t pay attention. Not necessarily a bad thing. Then when they encounter a person who is interested in those things and does pay attention, the latter person can be condescending and attempt to make the former person feel as unwoke, guilty, and dumb as possible. Then the former person goes from uninterested to actively opposed. This is a big problem. There’s never a good reason to be a pompous windbag.
Myth #5 – Feminism only liberates women at the expense of men.
I’m going to let a report by Villanova University take it away:
“Feminism doesn’t just liberate women; it also liberates men by breaking down the standards which society has put in place for both women and men. Men are taught in this society to be macho, emotionless leaders, and to never show weakness, such as being sad and therefore crying as a result of that sadness. These socially constructed rules cause men to be socially confined. Feminism says that it’s okay for men to show weakness, be followers, and to show their emotions.”
Sometimes I think straight, white guys are some of the most oppressed people out there when it comes to social interactions. Talk about being forced into a mold: you must be the breadwinner, you must be a leader, you must subjugate women, you can’t express yourself, you can’t tell your friends you love them, you can’t be interested in fashion, you can’t listen to girly music, you have to be tall, you have to have a big penis. White guys are constantly labeled the bad guy.
Straight white guys are viewed as a “person” though. Just a regular person. You don’t consider their sex or race when you’re talking to them. It just doesn’t play into the conversation. Every other group, though, it does. You’re not viewed as a person but as “type of person.” It’s easy to be viewed as a “basic bitch,” “a cool black girl,” or “a sassy gay guy,” or whatever. Those stereotypes carry a lot of pressure though. We all know that. Even white dudes. They have their own pressures to deal with, obviously. So when we begin to view everyone just plainly as a “person” and not minorities as a “type of person,” the pressure to be a certain way begins to go away for everyone. (*cough* in other words, when the word “minority” is no longer needed.)