[dropcap]F[/dropcap]eminism is the F-word of 2016.
I like to think that most people in this day and age are feminists — self-proclaimed or not. Yet a lot of people I encounter are very against this movement, and some are even offended by the word itself.
“Oh no, I’m not a feminist!” they say in a hushed whisper, like I’ve just accused them of murdering their own family. The conversation will then suddenly shift, and then they’ll give me their “reasons” as to why they aren’t a feminist. And frankly, their reasons suck. Here’s a few I’ve encountered, in order of popularity.
Reason 1: “I don’t hate men!”
First, let me pull out my trusty dictionary, because you seem to have confused feminism with misandry. Feminism is the belief that all genders should be treated equally. Yes, different schools of feminists have different ideas behind the resolution of the world’s current inequality, but, at its most basic, this definition is what feminism is. Equality for everybody. If you think all feminists hate men, you’re sorely mistaken.
Reason 2: “Feminism isn’t equality since it’s all about women.”
Feminism is precisely about equality. It is called feminism because in the gender binary of male/female identities, privilege has mostly been granted to males over females as Western society has been traditionally patriarchal. It is not about the limitation or denigration of men, as many people mistakenly believe. Rather, it is about elevating the position of women, and other less privileged groups of people, to an equal status.
If you think all feminists hate men, you’re sorely mistaken.
Reason 3: “I don’t like the name. I consider myself a humanist/egalitarian.”
All of these terms are relevant when we talk about equality, but they are not interchangeable. Feminism focuses on the disparity between the societal power of the genders and aims to eliminate that difference. Humanism and egalitarianism predate feminism, because they came before the idea that women should legally be seen as persons.
So just to be clear, humanism focuses on equality, but mostly in regards to secularism. It is predicated on acknowledging that religion is not a requirement for ethical reasoning. By and large, humanism focuses on the use of logic to advocate for freedom of thought, tolerance, representative politics, and education for all.
In contrast, egalitarianism focuses on a fundamental equality that entitles everyone to certain resources (such as food, shelter, social status, respect, etc.) in the hopes that an equal allotment of goods will achieve overall equality. Egalitarianism, as a resource-centric approach, it doesn’t carry forward the same nuanced conversations about gender.
Despite the fact that all three advocate for a version of equality, the inequalities focused on within each theory are different. Ultimately, this is why they are different terms and not interchangeable. If you think all genders should be treated equally, then you are a feminist. There’s nothing more to it.
Reason 4: “I’m a guy. Feminism doesn’t do anything for me.”
Au contraire, my friend. Sadly, this is a response to feminism I hear frequently. Sometimes it stems from ignorance, other times from a place of insecurity. There’s the fear that if others are evaluated at an equal level, men will be pushed aside for their female counterparts. And though it is an unfortunate, divisive fear, it is nonetheless a real one.
Unjustly real, however, because feminism doesn’t just help women or underprivileged genders — it helps everyone, including men. Part of feminism lends itself to the breaking down of traditional gender roles. Although these vary from culture to culture, there are some gendered stereotypes that transcend those differences.
Feminists want to do away with socially-imposed limitations on what somebody has to be (or not be, for that matter) in order to be accepted by society. What the abolition of such restrictions will do is free all genders, males included, to be themselves however they choose. For instance, men are generally seen as the providers rather than the caregivers — a role women traditionally fill. Along with this title comes a handful of attributes that are seen as ‘manly,’ and which all men are expected to be; tough, stoic, and unemotional, to name a few. These in place can suggest that men should not be otherwise.
Reason 5: “It’s 2016. Do we even really need feminism?”
Reminding me that it’s 2016 isn’t proof that we don’t need feminism. But to answer the question, yes, in 2016 we still need feminism. While we may have come a long way, gender inequalities are very real today. I have experienced gender discrimination first hand, and I know that we need to continue to take steps against misogyny and prejudice.
This is my story. I used to be a senior line cook. I had a good gig being the night shift supervisor at a nice little bar. I was in charge. Now, I’m assuming you don’t know much about the politics of the culinary realm, but you should at least know that female chefs and cooks are pretty rare. We can’t take any shit and we have to be better than any guy in the same position. It’s tough.
A woman you care about has a story just like mine.
So cue me being a badass, running the kitchen with a new guy I’ve never worked with before. Now, kitchens have a clear hierarchy. The “new guy” is lowest you can be on the pyramid, and that means dish duty. No glory in the dish pit. You scrub, you rinse, and you prep stuff for the line cooks. Everyone starts there.
In that regard, kitchens are egalitarian. But on the guy’s second shift — and keep in mind he barely knew the menu, didn’t know how to plate the dishes properly, and hadn’t memorised where things were kept — he decided that taking orders from a woman was not something he was willing to tolerate.
I’m the supervisor, so I was filling orders and asking him to fetch things so that everything would run smoothly. But three hours in, during the middle of the dinner rush, he just stopped in his place, and said that he was done being the ‘kitchen bitch’ and that he was going to cook because that’s what he was hired to do.
“You’ve spent two days on the job, you don’t graduate that quickly to the line,” I told him. “When you know what you’re doing you can cook, but that’s not now.” I was trying to diffuse the situation, and get him back to his job so that I could do mine.
“I know how to cook and you aren’t going to stop me.” He almost sneered when he said it before he disappeared into the front. Two minutes later the bar manager walked in. He kicked me to the curb and let the new guy run the show.
My pride was hurt and I had to save his ass a few times that night, but everyone got their food — and that’s what’s important. Cut to the end of the shift, when we were cleaning the kitchen in a testy silence. “What the hell is your problem with me?” I finally asked, because frankly I deserved to know.
He snorted, full of derision. “I don’t take orders from girls.”
This is why we need feminism. No one should be derided, shown prejudice towards, or otherwise discriminated against because of their gender. It’s all too common of a problem. My story is not unique. Any woman can tell you her story of being discriminated against simply for her gender; a woman you care about has a story just like mine.
Feminism is not about bringing down males to the position of everyone else. It’s about lifting everyone else up to that plane of privilege, where someone is evaluated by their abilities and not solely by their gender identity.
So if you’re not a self-identifying feminist, I only have one question: why? Seriously, stop looking for reasons to not support gender equality. It’s 2016.