By: Amanda K. Fox
Here at Spitfire, we get called feminists a lot and not always in the nicest tone. It’s true, we are feminists. There is quite a bit of confusion about what a feminist is though, so let’s try to come to a better understanding about it. The basic definition of feminist is a person who believes in gender equality. It does not state that a feminist is woman, however, that is the common assumption. Men are feminists too. It is that first syllable, FEM, that throws so many people off. Feminism is more than that though.
The more formal definition of feminism is the movement for social, political, and economic equality of men and women. When that definition of feminism was used in polling a random selection of people both male and female, without telling them it is the definition of feminism, about 67% stated they are in favor of it. When the next group was told they were being given the definition of feminism, those in favor of it dropped to around 59%, based largely on men viewing it less favorably. What does that tell us?
Primarily, it tells us that many men have a preconceived negative idea about feminism – but in fairness some women do as well. What seems to be additionally off-putting is the use of the word “movement” which for some men seems to indicate a concerted effort to work against them. The word feminism, in and of itself, comes with quite a bit of baggage and it seems, in part, may be one of the stumbling blocks toward women attaining truer equality. Put bluntly, the image some people have of what the word feminism means is disagreeable to them.
When men were asked what feminism is to them, many answered that it was an effort to advance women through legal measures such as affirmative action. Less than 30% cited feminists as being “man haters” or “angry lesbians”. Men under 25 saw it differently, having more of an image of a grassroots type of movement mostly free of the man hating lesbian spin, but again aimed at women attaining legal protections and affirmative action type advancements.
In actuality, they all have it partially correct and partially wrong. Being a feminist does not mean you hate men or that you’re a lesbian. You do not have to hate or not be sexually attracted to an entire gender in order to advance the other. They can peacefully advance together. As many men identify them self as feminists as well, it makes very little sense to try to make an argument that men are the enemy. You can love a man and be an upstanding feminist. Period. Male feminists you likely know of quite well include John Lennon, Brad Pitt, President Barack Obama, Eddie Vedder, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Joss Whedon and the Beastie Boys.
Feminism is not an organized movement, at least not since 1973. Since then, feminism has been an attitude more than anything else. There are organizations that do advocate on behalf of women’s equality, but they are generally careful to avoid the feminist label. Modern feminism is more about knowing what your rights are, or should be, and demanding them. Feminists are not the type of person that goes hat in hand and asks for their equal rights – they stand up, hold their head up high and demand equal rights because they have been earned, not just because they can be doled out as a panacea that is forever held over their head as some sort of gift.
There are some who claim the label of being a humanist to try to escape being labeled a feminist, and although it is a misuse of the word, in a roundabout way it has evolved into being equated with equal rights for all people and some feel the umbrella feminism falls under. Humanism is actually the rejection of supernaturalism (An all knowing creator of otherworldly origin). Feminism is very specific in that the goal is gender equality. Nothing more or less.
Feminism is not a bad thing for men or women. If one believes feminism is bad, they are literally stating that they hold man superior to woman. They are saying equality is not only not deserved, but not earned. That attitude hurts everyone whether it is immediately evident or not.
Feminism has brought with it sexual liberation and micro-loan organizations that have helped launch thriving women owned businesses that employ both women and men. It has helped pave the way for a number of women to reach their full potential in educational pursuits, business, politics, the military and the list can go on and on. When women achieve their potential, the men that are with them benefit from that achievement as well, personally, professionally or perhaps both.
If it had not been for feminism, a woman like Prof. Lynn Conway may not have made the advances she did in computer science that helped the digital age evolve. Cisco wouldn’t exist without co-founder Sandra Lerner. Flickr, which is used by millions daily, was invented by Caterina Fake in 2002. Stephanie Kwolek took polymers DuPont discarded and turned them in Kevlar which has served numerous men and women quite well. The disposable cell phone is the invention of Randi Altschul, an accessory many men would feel lost without.
Swinging the doors open to allow women equal opportunities along with equal compensation and rights is good for everyone. When you marginalize 52% of the population you are not going to get very far. So what if men and women are different? It is often those very differences which open new doors.
Feminism is something we need to embrace on a global scale and the sooner the better. Women have not only closed the education gap, we have swung it in the our favor. More and more women are becoming the family breadwinner despite earning 22.5 cents on the dollar less than men for the same job. Knowing what feminism is and how positive it is for women and men alike, how can one not want to be a feminist?
For those that still think feminism is wrong or somehow bad, consider this one point for a moment – when women do eventually take control of politics and industry on a greater scale, do you want women to marginalize you in the manner you’ve marginalized them?