Feminism, Labels and Coming Out
Today, while you’re celebrating International Women’s Day by watching Daniel Craig in drag, it seems worthwhile to point out that it’s also Feminist Coming Out Day – the day when we are all encouraged to embrace our secret, shamed opinion that human beings are deserving of equal social treatment and legal rights. I know this is difficult, so let me hold your hand and guide you through this confusing, daunting process.
See, there’s a weird thing that happens when it comes to women and feminism. It turns out there are a lot of women out there who are afraid to label themselves as feminists. I don’t personally care all that much if women don’t want to have anything to do with feminism. I don’t agree, but, hey, whatever. You do what you want. That’s not the battle I’m here to fight. But I keep coming across instances where women say, “I’m not a feminist, but … [insert something so feminist it would make Gloria Steinem applaud]” thing, or try to clarify that they are okay with feminist principles but aren’t “Feminazis or anything like that.” This, my friends, needs to stop.
Now, I understand the word “feminism” has accrued various associations over the years, as well as a extremity of political stances that may or may not accurately reflect the woman in question. But I don’t think that’s any reason to run away scared. What are we scared of? That other people will jump to the wrong conclusions about who we are and what we think and what we’re capable of because we use a certain word to describe ourselves? That we’ll get sucked into a cult of cartoonish hairy-legged anarchists, because those are the only kind of people who are allowed to be feminists?
Fuck, as they say, that. People making wrong assumptions about you because they can’t be bothered with finding out the truth can happen any day, and it probably does happen every day, on a thousand different counts. And you know what? It’s their problem, not yours.
If there’s really a problem here, it’s with women who don’t know the depth, diversity and modern movements associated with feminism today. There’s a lot there, and, with the internet, it’s all at your fingertips. Ignorance is not an excuse. Not to mention it’s all there because of feminists who weren’t willing to accept the status quo – yes, even the status quo on their own side. Feminism in our society is a growing, evolving body of thought, and it needs strong, brave thinkers to keep it fresh and moving forwards.
Feminism means you think it’s bullshit that people have to follow separate and particular sets of rules and limits based on what sexual organs they were born with. That’s it. It means both women and men should feel free to live, work and explore as best suits who they are as individuals and not what other people tell them they should simply because they are women or men. It means understanding that the reality of our society is not, nor has been, this way and that we need to work to make it different and better for everyone.
Take the word back and stand up for it. And let’s not try to smother it with another label (like humanism) that’s more comfortable and less “problematic.” Dismissing individual experiences and identities because it’s easier to deal with that way is not really a step forward. We should be able to be equal without having to made to be all the same. Don’t try to erase the differences that make us proud to be unique individuals. Just help us work to erase the unfair consequences that result from trying to live honestly as those individuals.
So, woman up (yes, even if you’re a man, because all this is the same stuff that prevents you from being recognized as feminists and benefiting from feminism yourselves, and we are by no means excluding transpeople here), own your feminism and don’t let anyone else put you, or anyone else, down for doing so. Because if you can’t do that, then, I guess maybe you’re right – you’re not a feminist.