Saturday, November 17, 2012

Glorious Feminism

Most people are feminists - it’s wonderful. It’s just that something’s gone wrong with the word feminism so that even some women wouldn’t admit to being one.

If you’ve ever had a female teacher you liked - you’re a feminist. If you’ve ever helped educate a girl - you’re a feminist. If you’ve ever respected a female colleague - you’re a feminist. If you wouldn’t dream of committing rape - you’re a feminist. If you’re still reading these words typed by a woman - you’re a feminist, because you believe I have a right to this voice.

Without feminism you wouldn’t think twice about treating women like animals. Animals you didn’t like very much.

Feminism is just believing that women should have the chance to be treated equal. It doesn’t mean an automatic pass to the top of the tree because we’re trying to make up for a previous imbalance - it just means opening your mind to the idea that women and men can achieve equally.

So why does feminism get so many people angry?

Firstly, I think some people don’t understand why we need feminism. They don’t see the imbalances in the world and they haven’t lived in a generation where women are openly and simply mistreated. It’s sometimes difficult to see the ways the world is geared towards men - how many things are harder not because women aren’t as good but because the task wasn’t created for a woman.

Career paths weren’t built with 2 year gaps in mind to conceive, carry, birth and nurse a child. The vast majority of sports played internationally are concepts designed and perfected on male players, leading to the notion that women are not as good because they have picked up the sport late and play it with different nuances. Marketing departments design and sell the idea that there’s a marked difference between the genders that it’s vitally important we uphold - despite having a civilisation that has the technology to advance past historically vital gender roles. These are just a few of the ways our world isn’t equal, and this is in the West where we are generations ahead of some societies.

Secondly, I think some noisy feminists give the whole concept a bad name. These "militant feminists" who hate men and refuse to shave their legs. Whether they exist or not, the caricature exists in the public's psychi enough to help people switch off whenever the "f" word crops up in conversation.

I think it’s important to understand that to be a feminist isn’t to hate men or blame men. Patriarchy is society’s development based on years of biological necessity and tradition - it’s not your Dad and brother being a git. You cannot empower women by degrading men and you can’t leapfrog intelligent men just to balance the genders - society needs to earn its balance and when it does men and women will benefit equally from standing shoulder to shoulder.

This is why I consider myself a Glorious Feminist - someone who sees feminism as a benefit for men and women alike. I won’t fight for feminism; I will talk for it, debate for it, persuade for it, prove for it, love for it and earn it. But no glorious feminist will fight.


  1. This is such a true, brilliant entry. Feminists are so because we like our gender. Hurrah! Doesn't make us dislike the other gender, just means we're not self-loathing. xxx

  2. It feels like people are talking about this a lot at the moment, the problems with the word feminism. I once heard someone say "Do you believe the sexes should be treated equally? If the answer is yes, then you are a feminist." And your blog post Laura seems to make much the same point. As a result, I kinda thought of myself as a feminist (a male feminist, as much as there can be such a thing). However, I'm starting to think I don't really believe that anyone who simply believes in equal rights for women is necessarily "a feminist".

    There aren't really any equivalent words for people who simply believe in the equality of other oppressed groups, that I can think of... Homoist? Transgenderist?! Ethnic-equalicist?!! Instead you have "activists", whether they be of the gay, LGBT, civil rights variety. Pacifist, I suppose, might be the closest word I can think of, linguistically at least. But these are all types of activism, and most people don't really identify with actual, proper activism, unless they've developed a powerful passion for the issue. A strong belief in equality doesn't necessarily translate into the will to become an activist.

    Also, in general the "ist" words have been taken for the bigots - racist, sexist, ageist - the suffix can be applied at will to those who discriminate against any group... (Lexxist?) So perhaps, on a purely subconscious level, there are overtones of prejudice? The subtle linguistic suggestion that feminists do in fact hate men, or blame men, and wish to discriminate against them as a way of balancing the injustice of decades of patriarchy? (Note that the word 'feminist' seems to have more stigma than 'feminism' - as in "I don't have a problem with feminism per se, it's just the feminists that I can't stand!" And one could even argue that there is a bit of stigma attached to activists in general..?)

    And what you say about "noisy" feminists is probably also true, I think... or perhaps a variant of that. While militant feminists are possibly more of a stereotype than a reality, I think there are very active feminists, who on occasion direct a lot of energy towards a particular issue, to the point where the the "THIS MUST BE STOPPED/FIXED/MADE INTO A CAKE" stance becomes the focus, rather than the ultimate goal of treating women with the same values as men. Now I'm not saying this is a bad thing necessarily... But it may be another contributing factor to the stigma of the word.

    I totally agree that we do NEED feminism, and that many people don't truly understand this need. Indeed, as a man I think I can only partly understand the true depth of the need. I also totally agree that feminism is a benefit for men and women alike (which is a great, simple way of looking at it). It seems that feminism is currently the only real tool we have for addressing the imbalance between the sexes. And certainly Glorious Feminism sounds like a brilliant version of feminism! (...but you can kinda do that with anything. Romney might have won, for instance, if he were a practicioner of Glorious Politics. And I am suddenly looking forward to my evening activity now that it has been rebranded as Glorious Ironing.)

    Despite the fact that we need feminism, I'm just not convinced that we can't come up with a better way of marketing it. As a concept it is hugely empowering to those who believe in it, in its inherent active-ness. It means that someone who identifies with feminism is instantly more likely to be active about their pursuit of equality. Which is amazing. The problem is that it doesn't seem to wash with those who don't already buy into it.. And all I'm really saying is, I can sort of understand why!