There’s been a noticeable pop culture buzz about feminism recently, but it’s unbelievable how the mention of that word alone shifts the conversation so quickly from the important topic of gender equality to pointless semantic debates.
I want to say to those people, “You mean you don’t support ‘the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’ or hold ‘the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities’? (Thanks for the clarity, Webster.)
However, someone finally came out and did said something positive about feminism in a presentation that didn’t involve half-naked ladies (sorry, Yonce).
Feminism needs better PR, and Emma Watson may just be our new spokesperson.
Hermione (I mean, Emma) brilliantly cut through misconceptions in her United Nations speech on equality. She celebrated the “inadvertent feminists” in her life and launched the #HeForShe movement–an invitation for men to join the fight for equal rights.
What Watson did, however, that was such a breakthrough in the feminism conversation was discuss how gender stereotypes and patriarchal systems affect men just as much as women. Friends, we’re finally getting somewhere.
I was equally inspired the first (and thirteenth) time I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” TEDTalk. If you haven’t seen it, stop reading this post and watch it here immediately because it is sooooo good and soooooo foundational.
Yet, there are people out there that are still put off by the label. Like any descriptor, it carries bundles of cultural baggage that make some people uncomfortable.
Therefore, I have provided a look at five things feminism, at its core, isn’t:
Feminism is not:
As long as some women are experiencing unequal pay in the workplace and discrimination in any aspect of their social, religious, or political lives, feminism is necessary.
2) Female superiority or dominance
As much as I love to aggressively blast “Run the World (Girls)” in the car, equality-minded feminism doesn’t take the “women can get anything we want by flaunting our sexuality” approach.
If women derive power from their ability to seduce men, then they are just simply manipulating the patriarchy’s authority to lift themselves up, which feeds into a broken system. Equality, not dominance, is our standard.
That means if the scale ever tips in the direction of women over men, we’ll need to work for male equality (although “masculinists” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it).
Feminism is all about establishing balance, eliminating oppression, and cultivating human dignity.
Messages that are labeled feministic often can be just as shaming as the patriarchal scripts themselves.
For example, there’s been a recent pop obsession with girls with big butts. Reverse body-shaming is still body-shaming, though, and this whole “be comfortable with your body…as long as you look a certain way” motif is just as harmful as “look a certain way for men and society.”
Similarly, I think much of the #WomenAgainstFeminism movement has come from women who think feminism means holding a low view of marriage and family.
While I’m so thankful for the advances that have been made involving women in the workplace, I also affirm women who choose to focus their time at home. Both providing income and staying at home to parent are productive and life-giving, so let’s not shame either decision.
Feminism honors differences and advocates whatever is best for each individual woman. Feminists would be wise to guard our words because when empowerment slips into shame, it loses its efficacy.
4) Just for women
“It’s about freedom. I want men to take up this mantle so that their daughters, sisters, and mothers can be free from prejudice, but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too, reclaim those parts of themselves that they abandoned, and in doing so, be a more true and complete version of themselves.”
This is one of my favorite parts of Emma Watson’s speech and the #HeForShe initiative. Men have been excluded from the feminism conversation too long. We need both men and women to pursue justice and equality if we want to see more fairness in our world.
Feminism accepts both men and women as vital participants in moving forward.
And hey, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a feminist, so that’s pretty cool.
5) Incompatible with the Gospel
Christians may have qualms about identifying as feminists thanks to the Second Wave excesses (no, you don’t have to burn your bra) or the Third Wave’s pro-choice stance on reproductive rights.
However, feminism is an ideology, not a cult. I disagree with a lot of things that have been done and are still being done in the name of feminism, just as much as I detest things that’ve been done in Jesus’ name throughout history.
How many people within your political party, workplace, or place of worship do you disagree with about something? Yet you still identify with this group of people that consists of varying opinions.
Just like you can be a Christian Republican or a Christian Democrat, followers of Christ can support feminism without representing or agreeing with every deviation or fringe element of it.
Feminism is bigger than personal preferences and allows for complex individual ideologies.
But ultimately, whatever you call yourself, I hope that you make equal opportunities at work, at church, in government, and in your personal life your goal. Let’s spend less time debating over what we should call ourselves and more time on the business of equality.
I’ll leave you with Emma Watson’s words:
“We are struggling for a uniting word, but the good news is that we have a uniting movement.”
Thanks for reading! I’ll be actively responding to comments here and on Facebook, so please let me know what you think about feminism and equal rights.
You can hear more about how gender stereotypes have personally affected me here. The Finding God Abroad series will continue next week with a story from South Africa.