Feminism is… pretty simple: Fiction Editor Liz Egan Cuts to the Equality Chase

I did not start identifying as a feminist until I was in my mid-twenties. Like so many women (and men, too), I didn’t understand what the word “feminist” really meant, and because I grew up in a conservative household, I thought I was protecting myself by staying away from the label. I thought “feminist” meant not letting my dad open the car door for me, or thinking less of my mom because she stayed at home to raise me and my brother. I thought “feminist” meant male-bashing and being angry all the time. But as I came into my own as a young woman with big dreams and big ideas about the kind of world I wanted to live in, I discovered the true meaning of feminism—the idea that women and men are equals in the workplace, the home, and society—and I realized I’ve probably been a feminist since before I cut my first tooth.  It feels that natural to me to say I am a feminist, and always have been.

As troubling as it is to see women who hold a prominent place in our culture publicly reject the label “feminist” (here’s a recent round-up), I can also sympathize a bit, because feminism as a movement does have a history checkered with negativity and militancy, and not all women who call themselves feminist actually use that word to mean they value true equality.

Instead of listing all the things feminism is not, I want to showcase all the things that feminism is. By reframing the word in this way, I feel I’m doing my small, little part to dispel the negative energy that surrounds the word “feminist” and to encourage all humans everywhere to embrace the label for what it is:

FEMINISM
IS…

Equality,
pure and simple.

FEMINISM
IS…
For everyone.

It’s more than just a gender binary. Feminism is for all who are straight, gay, lesbian, trans*, bi, or questioning. Feminism is for everyone, because feminism is the belief that all humans are equal, regardless of how they were created.

FEMINISM
IS…

Inclusive.

There’s a brand of “white feminism” out there that ignores the concerns of ethnic minorities. But feminism is a wide umbrella, and there’s room for everyone under here.

FEMINISM
IS…

Global.

It’s initiatives to bring health care and education to women in parts of the world that are struggling to develop these resources. It’s the women who’ve risen to top political roles in countries around the world, and the men who have supported their rise, and the citizens who seek simply the best candidates, regardless of gender, skin color, or sexual orientation.

FEMINISM
IS…

Aware

of biology. That is, feminism is aware that men have penises and women have vaginas. But feminism is aware, too, that biology isn’t always that simple.

FEMINISM
IS…

Most often associated with women, and the ideal that women have an equal place in society with men. Some fights women have won on this front include the right to vote, the right to serve her country, and the right to make choices about her body. These rights are often challenged, and so a lot of feminists carry with them a feeling that their work is never done, particularly in the face of ongoing legal, social, and political challenges from equal pay in the workplace to affordable contraception; from the right choose an abortion without fear of harm or harassment to herself or her physician, to the right to marry whomever you love. (The list goes on…though it shouldn’t.)

FEMINISM
IS…

About believing men are humans, too. A lot of women feminists are perceived to be (or are) anti-men, and that’s not the point of feminism.  Feminism is all humans working together to raise each other up, not tear each other down. It’s a disservice to our cause as feminists to issue ad hominem attacks against an entire gender in order to make our point. (Women sure don’t like it when their gender gets smeared in
hurtful and hateful ways, so why do it to men, too?)

Recognizing equality among all humans means recognizing that men have the same snowflake-like individuality among them as any other human does. Men, like women, are complex beings with feelings, ideas, fears, and dreams. Magazines and blogs are always publishing lists and articles that try to “explain” one gender to another, such as this one, which suggests that what’s true of one man is true of all others (among other offensive claims). These lists are terrible examples of how both genders are demeaned, marginalized and caricaturized in pop culture—and especially in dating culture.

FEMINISM
IS…

A school of literary and rhetorical thought, a lens through which to view and understand issues that affect women as they are depicted in literature. (Feminism is also shelving the works of prominent female writers next to their male counterparts, not off in some other “women’s lit” section.)

FEMINISM
IS…

Supporting the choices of others who are not like you. Feminism advocates for the freedom to make the life choices that are right for individuals, based on their particular, individual circumstances. For women, it’s about ending the “mommy wars” and being supportive of each other’s choices as women: breastfeed or use formula; spring for the epidural, or don’t; give birth at home or in a hospital—or not at all. For parents, it’s supporting those who choose to work, those who choose to stay at home, and those who choose to do both. For all of us humans, it’s about supporting each others’ decisions and abilities to procreate, adopt, or remain childfree.  Feminism is about seeing past cultural norms and looking at each other as real people, with real choices to make, many of which are quite hard. Feminism is understanding that just because someone doesn’t do something exactly the way you would do it, that doesn’t mean they’ve done a wrong or bad thing.

FEMINISM
IS…

Strength
in the face of adversity and courage in the face of life’s challenges. It’s about keeping a positive attitude, seeing beauty in the mirror, and embracing your self-worth. Feminism is a way of life, not just a label. There’s a lot to like about feminism and people who are feminists, and a lot more to be done to shine a positive light on this term that means equality for all. It is my hope that more and more humans will encounter the word “feminism” find within it the warmth and hope for the future that I have found.

 

Comments

4 Comments on Feminism is… pretty simple: Fiction Editor Liz Egan Cuts to the Equality Chase

  1. Michele Johnson on Tue, 8th Apr 2014 1:18 pm
  2. Beautifully done, Liz! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

  3. Melanie Lynn Griffin on Wed, 30th Apr 2014 12:31 pm
  4. Thanks, Liz. This is so helpful – I was brought up by a mother who thought feminism was a really nasty word. Bra-burning, angry, man-hating, boat-rocking terrorists wouldn’t be putting too fine a point on it.
    It’s lovely to read a more inclusive, loving view. I’m a fan of big umbrellas – thanks for describing one I can fit under!

    [...] of the tight-rope they’re walking, playing down the song’s feminism by rejecting that label (a problem I’ve written about before) and cutes-ing up their language with oh-my-goshes. But as the biting [...]

  5. Henry on Tue, 26th Aug 2014 2:26 pm
  6. The problem is not with people misunderstanding feminism and thus forming a negative opinion of it. Actually they’re not misunderstanding feminism in the slightest. They’re seeing what you are unable to see as perhaps you’re too close to the problem to see it accurately or maybe you just can’t bear to face an unpleasant truth. But you’re not going to convince anyone worth convincing by simply pointing to the dictionary definition of feminism then folding your arms smugly like you just proved something. The problem is that there is an enormous gulf between the THEORY of what feminism is allegedly about (the dictionary definition) and the PRACTICE of what feminism really is and does in reality.

    It is quite easy to demonstrate what I mean. You see, when your movement claims that it is simply fighting for equality with men, not special privileges above and beyond what men have, no silly, just equality, then your movement needs to explain why it still exists in the western world now that women have had all the same rights as men for quite some time now in addition to some female-specific special privileges on top of that which no man will ever have. Point me towards even ONE law in the U.S. for example which discriminates against women in favor of men. I hear crickets chirping. When you have already achieved all the same rights as men yet you still keep on playing the victim card to try to milk further gender-specific concessions out of society, guess what? You’re making it pretty damned obvious to anyone with more than 2 brain cells to rub together that equality isn’t nearly good enough for you, that you’re a female supremacist movement unconvincingly dressed up as one that’s “fighting for equality”. (For crying out loud, even the movement’s very NAME gives away its purpose. If it was fighting for equality it would be called egalitarianism or humanitarianism or something quite a bit less narrowly gender-specific.)

    If feminism TRULY was about fighting for equality rather than being a one-sided gynocentric superiority movement then ask yourselves why it constantly pooh-poohs any problems or injustices that aren’t 100% exclusively about women. Ask yourself why it makes no effort at all to redress any of the imbalances that favor women over men.

    For example, where is the feminist activity on the issue of women being sentenced to 60% less prison time for the same crimes as a man? Why isn’t feminism demanding that women be held to the same standard of adult responsibility as a man who committed the same crime? Why is your movement content with such an egregious disparity in sentencing? Oh yeah, because it is a disparity that favors women over men, whereas if the situation was reversed with men getting let off with 60% less prison time than a female you bet your ass it would be a feminist priority.

    Where is feminism’s activism about the issue of women getting awarded custody in about 90% of child custody cases? To the extent that the woman would have to just about be a practicing prostitute or a heroin addict in order for the man to be given custody. Funny but this doesn’t seem to make it onto feminists’ radar either, I wonder why…

    Why has feminism remained silent about the huge discrepancy in funding for male homeless shelters versus female homeless shelters? When the overwhelming majority of homeless people are men rather than women, why on earth should men’s shelters get short shrift compared to female shelters? This clearly isn’t a problem for your imaginary “patriarchial” government which routinely ignores men’s issues in favor of women’s issues so why isn’t feminism, the movement you never tire of telling us is not gynocentric but all-inclusive, fighting for equality not female supremacy, doing a damned thing to bring this to society’s attention? You can bet any amount of money if the situation was reversed with the homeless population being mostly female it would be a crisis of Biblical proportions, worthy of the government declaring a “war on homelessness” to solve it. Why is the feminist movement just as disinterested in this matter as the government?

    Why is feminism content with men still having to pay alimony in 2014? Aren’t you the same ladies who constantly tell us how women are just as good as men, just as capable and just as independent? Then why the hell should a man have the responsibility of paying for the upkeep and lifestyle of his former spouse on an indefinite basis? Why did this issue only make it onto feminists’ radar (in Florida) when the infinitesimally small amount of women paying alimony to THEIR former spouses inched up a tiny bit while still remaining a mouse fart compared to men’s alimony payments? Where is feminism’s indignation that these supposedly liberated, independent women are entitled to being supported by a man that isn’t even living with them any longer? Why don’t you see this as an enormous insult and indignation? Oh yeah, because I suppose the convenience of getting a monthly check in the mail assuages your little feelings of shame and dependency, right? So long as it works in women’s favor instead of men’s it’s perfectly OK with the feminist movement.

    Where is feminism’s concern with the issue of men committing suicide at rates astronomically higher than women? You know if the numbers were reversed there would be a colossal shitstorm until we got the numbers of women killing themselves back down to acceptable levels but yet with the numbers being what they are this, unsurprisingly, isn’t an issue feminists will lift a finger to work on.

    And I have yet to hear a single feminist push for women having to register for the draft. Why does a man have to register at age 18 or else he isn’t entitled to any of the benefits of society, can’t vote, can’t collect Social Security when he’s old etc. yet no woman has to register for the draft in order to enjoy any of that? Why are feminists content to let women avoid adult responsibilities that men can never avoid? Oh yeah, because it isn’t a movement about equality at all but rather female supremacy, the same reason why the KKK never pushes for anything aside from matters that affect white people. As despicable as they are at least they’re honest enough to not pretend to be fighting for racial equality.

    Or what about the biggest double standard on the face of the earth? By this I mean the elective abortion/mandatory child support issue. Let’s say a woman gets pregnant accidentally, neither her nor her partner intended for it to happen. If the man wants to be a daddy to that unexpected kid but the woman doesn’t want any parts of it she’s going to go to the abortion clinic and get that unborn human dismembered and sucked out of her uterus without having broken a single law in the process. That man will now be the proud daddy to a bloody little pile of severed arms and legs. But if the situation is reversed and the woman wants to keep the baby but the dad doesn’t want any parts of being a daddy? Tough tittie, he’s on the hook for 18 years of child support payments for a kid he will never see. The law simply doesn’t allow him to act like an irresponsible piece of shit at least not without facing the penalty of jail time for his irresponsibility. The law holds that man to his responsibility, forces him to act like a grown adult and take responsibility for his actions. Whereas the law makes no effort whatsoever to force the woman to act like an adult and take responsibility for HER actions, no, instead it lets her dance away from the consequences of her actions without a care in the world. When the man’s irresponsibility results in the woman not getting a monthly check in the mail and that’s illegal yet the woman’s irresponsibility results in the death of another human being (the unborn human) and yet THAT is LEGAL?? Are you effing kidding me?? This has to be the most horrific double standard the world has ever seen, yet I guarantee you that if anyone was to start pushing for ending mandatory child support payments or tying the continuance of legal abortion to the ending of mandatory child support it would be the feminitwits who would be leading the charge to make sure things remain as one-sided as they are now. When the woman is allowed to act like a magical sparkly princess with no more responsibility than a child even though her irresponsibility and immaturity results in a human being’s death and the man isn’t even allowed to skip out on child support payments for a kid he never sees, clearly this abortion/child support situation can be called nothing less than overt female supremacy. Not equality between the sexes. Not egalitarianism. Overt, in-your-face female supremacy and nothing less. Funny but I haven’t heard of a single feminist anywhere pushing for an end to elective abortion. Feminism seems perfectly content to let this terrible double standard remain in place and any comment made about ending elective abortion is immediately met with a lecture about how it would somehow be “oppressing women” to hold them to the same standard of responsibility a man is held to, how it would be “chaining them to the stove” or ensuring they are “barefoot and pregnant” or whatever other feminist propaganda bullshit they can come up with. Because this is one of the many double standards that feminists embrace, those which favor women over men. Another reason why few people aside from feminists themselves take feminists seriously.

    So you want to “prove” your movement really is about equality and not female supremacy and special gender-specific privileges? Great, come out against elective abortion. Demand that it be abolished, demand that women are held to the same standard of responsibility that a man is held to, demand that women receive no preferential treatment in the court system etc. etc. Basically it comes down to a realization that not everything in life is a right or a privilege, that there are some things in adult life that are called “responsibilities”. If feminism wasn’t all about milking society for more benefits, more gender-specific set-asides, more quotas, more gynocentric advantages and actually grew the hell up enough to see that there are such things as RESPONSIBILITIES as well then maybe more people would take feminism seriously. As it stands right now only about 23% of American women identify as feminists meaning no less than 77% of women wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole the movement that is supposed to be designed around their interests. That is a spectacular failure so amazing words can’t describe it. Perhaps women are getting tired of being constantly told they’re weak, helpless little victims who can’t do anything for themselves without a movement behind them to keep them pointed in the right direction and protected from this cruel world. I suspect your average woman is quite a bit stronger than that and doesn’t appreciate being talked down to. But whatever it is, your movement is dying and I say good riddance. Let it be replaced with something that doesn’t try to drive an unnecessary wedge between working class men and working class women. Let it be replaced with something far more mature, grown up, sensible and realistic. In other words let it be replaced with something that is GENUINELY about equal rights for the sexes.






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