Watch Emma’s speech and take action
Here’s a thing that’s a little—okay, a lot—frustrating to me.
Emma’s speech was eloquent and important and covered a lot of necessary ground. Her message is powerful and it’s one we should listen to.
And yet, there’s a niggling annoyance here: why have we come to the conclusion that feminism owns the concept of equality?
Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with those who call themselves feminists and advocate for equality (note that those are two separate things, no matter how often they coincide). I think that’s a noble and excellent application of time and attention.
The real problem materializes when a feminist tells me that, because I do not use the word ‘feminist’ to describe my own quite-similar beliefs about striving for and maintaining gender equality, that I am a traitor to my gender, that I misunderstand feminism, or that I must have “internalized” my “misogyny” so much that I’m confused. (This has happened more times than I care to count, including once this year with someone I consider a friend.)
But, no matter what they tell me about how confused I must be, none of them can argue with my reasonable proposition that the promotion of equality can exist outside of the feminist movement without whipping out the Approved Definition that feminism is purely “the belief in equality”.
However, this isn’t quite true, and I think (and I have seen) many feminists disagree that feminism is purely about the equality of the sexes. Because feminism is a philosophy, a movement, an activism with a history and a political message. It is about advocating for women, about advancing women, about protecting and promoting women.
Maybe this is a controversial message, since we want to believe now that feminism is similarly devoted to male issues (‘dismantling patriarchy helps men too!’), but I think this new tack is a PR move. Feminism is not about men. It’s about women. (I can’t believe this is something I even have to point out.)
It’s easy to remove much of the political and historical context of feminism to make it more broadly palatable to a large audience. If feminism is purely about “equality”, then who wouldn’t believe? Only complete jerks, obviously. But that’s an oversimplification that waters down both feminism’s original purpose (which is also a noble one, even as its methods have become, in some ways, misguided) and steamrolls over any other very valid philosophies about equality that don’t include the prefix “femin-“.
If you want to use the word “feminism” to describe your belief in and dedication to achieving gender equality, that’s AWESOME. And if you choose another word, THAT’S AWESOME, TOO! Because in the end, no matter what word we’re using, we’re advocating for the same thing: a better, more equal, and fairer world.
And as they say, a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.
For the evening crowd.