Sometimes labels are a drag, like when it allows someone to reduce you to a single characteristic, and sometimes they are useful, like when a single word can convey your world view.
I am a Feminist. Its a regular tag on this blog. I have been, and always will be, adamant and unashamed of using the word feminist to describe myself. You get reactions of course. The most prosaic being that I must be a lesbian, and the most ludicrous being the women who respond by saying “Oh I’m not a feminist.”
I can almost understand and forgive this if the woman is under 21. Usually at that age you still think the world is fair and that your own hard work and merit levels the playing field. Maybe they don’t know women’s history (its a non-starter in our school system no matter how much I agitate), or maybe they haven’t experienced any gender based discrimination, I mean we are all equal now right? Most likely they just don’t know what it means.
Synonyms, which they are likely to be familiar with, include: Bitch, Feminazi, Ballbuster, Man-Hater, Lesbian, Dyke. Accompanying adjectives like ugly, shrill and humorless increase the need to for the average woman to distance herself from the label At All Costs.
But we still haven’t talked about the definition. Being a Feminist, in its simplest form that an 8-year old could understand, means that you believe that women are entitled to equal political, social and economic rights. Fair should not be dictated by sex organs.
I propose an experiment: Try telling a group of third grade girls they only gets 3/4 of the candy that the boys get because they are girls and see what happens. I predict girls will shout NO FAIR! and the boys will be split between those thinking “Cool!” and those asking “Why?”
Because gender based behaviors start at birth, we can ignore the results as they play out around us. We can pretend that inequality is not gender based until we are adults. Once you are an adult, it is harder to ignore. I continue to wonder why anyone says they are not a Feminist. Answer these questions:
- Do you think women should have the same political rights as men?
- Should women be allowed to vote and hold public office?
- Should women be allowed to sit on juries and serve as judges?
- Should women be allowed to make laws?
- Do you think women should not have the same economic rights as men?
- Should women be paid the same amount for doing the same job as a man?
- Should women be allowed to apply for jobs if they are qualified?
- Should women be allowed to own and inherit property?
- Do you think women should have the same social rights as men?
- Should women be allowed to attend colleges and universities and study what they wish?
- Should a woman be allowed to file for divorce from her husband?
- Should a woman be allowed to prosecute her abusive husband?
- Should women be allowed to have custody of their children?
- Should a woman be allowed to make decisions about her reproductive health (using birth control, when to have children, having an abortion, being sterilized)?
If you answered yes to any of the above, congratulations, you are a Feminist. Don’t be afraid to use the label. I would bet 8 out of 10 people would end up being feminists if you ask them the yes/no questions above without using the label.