“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”
— Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler
I don’t understand why so many people are afraid to identify as feminists, even if they agree with the principles of feminism. Feminists advocate for equal pay, reproductive rights, gay rights, family leave, child care, domestic violence awareness, education, immigration, the environment, men, women and children—there’s hardly an issue out there that doesn’t have a feminist aspect to it.
So why don’t people identify as feminist? Because they think feminists are ugly, bra-burning, man-hating militant lesbians—or at least that’s the image that’s cultivated in much of the media. Let’s debunk those stereotypes.
Ugly? This is a simple ad hominem attack. I don’t find Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson or John McCain attractive, but that doesn’t factor into the quality of their arguments. Saying feminists are ugly is a cheap way to dismiss their legitimate critiques of society.
Bra-burning? Never happened. It was a phrase that became associated with second-wave feminism in the ’60s but has no basis in reality.
Man-hating? I like men just fine. I love my male relatives and I have awesome male friends. A signature goal of feminism is to make life better for men, too. Feminists want men to be nurses and teachers, want dads to be free to spend time with their children instead of pressured to work 60 hours a week at the office to get ahead. That’s not good for families, period. Republicans claim to be the party of “family values,” but when was the last time you heard one advocating for parental leave or cheaper child care—policies that would improve the quality of family life for millions? I think the man-hating argument is also a way to dismiss feminists as women who are angry because they can’t find a man. This ignores the fact that many feminists are happily married to men—and that many feminists are men themselves.
Militant? I think this one is way off base. Just because a woman is willing to engage in a spirited debate—or because she disagrees with you—does not make her militant. If she were a man, she’d be praised for standing her ground. Think of the women you most admire. They’re not likely to be meek wallflowers who never express an opinion.
Lesbian? Yes, some feminists are lesbian. However, they’re also gay men, cisgender men and women, transgender men and women, of every race, ethnicity, class and ability.
Feminism is not a dirty word. It’s a movement that has given me the right to vote, own property, have female leaders and role models, go to college, play sports, wear what I want, have a career, keep my own name… And so many other things.
Ashley Judd. Julianne Moore. Moby. Margaret Cho. Whoopi Goldberg. Camryn Manheim. Ellen Page. Al Franken. Drew Barrymore. Rachel Maddow. Hillary Clinton. Barack and Michelle Obama. Joss Whedon. Jane Fonda. Lily Tomlin. Tina Fey.
That’s a group of pretty accomplished people. They’re all also feminists. So why aren’t you?