The opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and are not representative of the views of The Hysteria Collective as a whole.
Feminism is a heavily fraught term that has inspired love and controversy across the last few decades and it is the rebellious love child of gender inequality. It is a well-documented, centuries long issue across the world that unfortunately has a lot of negative perceptions. Together, we’re going to uncover the top reasons as to why it is so difficult for us all to label ourselves feminists.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie defines a feminist as ‘a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes’. This is the definition of feminism that I personally hold and that is my meaning when I discuss feminism. However, many people misconstrue feminism as everyone holds a different perspective upon it. Some people see feminism as pro women, some as pro career women, and others as levelling the field in certain aspects like careers only. It is a strong movement made up of many different groups that is hard to label because its about freedom. Whilst this is amazing, it does lead to misconceptions regarding what a feminist is so people edge away from defining themselves by a label that provokes so much controversy.
Love for the ‘old ways’
Feminism began with the Suffragettes and Suffragists, the unsung heroes that battled for women’s rights. It is a battle that continues valiantly to this day. However, there are some people that yearn for those days again. Both men and women often wish and fight against the continued battle for women’s rights and equality amongst every gender as they believe that it threatens the old ways. People prefer the separation of the sexes, leaving women in maternal roles and men as the money makers. Everybody has the right to this opinion and some feminists are accepting of it as long as both parties consent. However, some view it as threatening their own lifestyle. It doesn’t embrace feminism but it doesn’t negate it.
A large and ever-growing perspective of feminism is that it is made up of women that are all ‘radical man-haters’. Not accurate for all feminists but there is a sub-group within feminism where this is true. Some people do blame men for the lack of equality that exists between the sexes that makes feminism a necessary movement. This leads women to believing that men are an evil that we need to work against and the wider public sees this and assumes that those feminists speak for the movement entirely. Many of us know this not to be true and that this is simply another misconception but it makes proclaiming yourself as a feminist that much harder. If you believe so strongly in equality, how can you associate yourself with a movement that has a sub-group which is anti-men?
Trans-exclusionary radical feminists. People who believe that trans men and women step onto their rights and threaten their existence. These types of ‘feminists’ contradict the true meaning of feminism, which is equality for everyone. As a result, they infect the general understanding of feminism in society as they establish themselves as a branch of it. Similar to the manhaters, they help to create a conception of feminism that has conditions, when true feminism is for all. It doesn’t exclude or diminish but it embraces everyone.
Bias is an unfortunate but common part of society. People make judgements about one another every day and feminism is no exception to this. Many people unconsciously judge feminism and make assumptions regarding its meaning and its aims in society to place women above men but they make these judgements without information. Often, they are not even aware that they hold these judgements, they simply know that they do not like feminism. This stops people from joining and supporting a movement that is all about freedom and equality and what’s more, it holds people back from labelling themselves as such. Whether they hold this bias themselves or they fear those around them holding bias, it makes the label of feminism so much harder to pin to yourself.
There are many reasons to not label yourself a feminist and they are all valid and may make your life difficult. However, there are over 7 billion people on this planet and each of them deserves to live a happy life that is enriched with the freedoms that feminism affords them. That surely factors in to your decision on how to label yourself.
Image courtesy of Giacomo Ferroni