It seems to me that in 2018 we should all be striving for equality, so why is it that people are still put off by the term “feminism”?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realised I was a feminist.
I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by strong, opinionated women throughout my life such as my Mum, school friends and teachers. In fact, there was never really a moment when I considered the possibility of not being a feminist until I was speaking to a friend at work and she told me that she would never call herself a feminist. I pressed her, keen to understand how exactly she could feel this way, and she told me that she believed in equality but that she didn’t hate men. This appears to be a common denominator among those who reject the term feminist, but I feel this is a misunderstanding of the foundation of feminism: equality.
I suspect part of the problem lies with the word “feminism” itself. The prefix “fem” could be seen by some to be an exclusive term, leading some to question the role of men or those who don’t identify as female within this movement. Admittedly, feminism has traditionally focussed on the betterment of women within society; however, its core aim has always been eventual equality for all. It’s for this reason that “meninism” has always struck me as misinformed.
Gender stereotypes exist for both men and women and no one is benefitting from any of them. Take for instance the disproportionately high rates of male-suicide which many have attributed to the societal pressure on men to keep their feelings to themselves. Or the disparity between parental leave for men and women, which puts an unfair pressure on both parents to adhere to their given role within the family unit. In my opinion, feminism aims to break down the gender discrimination at the heart of these issues. Fundamentally, feminists aren’t striving to create a dystopian, matriarchal society in which women rule supreme. Rather, they are trying to create a world in which we are all the deciders of our futures.
“the betterment of one group should not be achieved at the expense of another”
For that matter, while I appreciate that early feminism tended to focus on the struggle of select groups of women, the same cannot be said of contemporary feminism. A new emphasis has been given to the unique struggle of women of colour, LGBTQ+, disabled women, men and everyone in between in the world of today. Essentially, the betterment of one group should not be achieved at the expense of another. I realise that some might argue that positive discrimination comes at the expense of others, but it’s important to remember that this is merely a way of balancing out the scales. Equality is not the same as equity and sometimes it is crucial to give people a head start if we truly want to give people access to the same opportunities.
The fact of the matter is that feminism aims to improve the lives of each and every member of society regardless of their gender. At this divisive moment in history we can’t afford to be squabbling over terminology. Instead, we should unite our efforts and create a society based on equality for all!