I am not a Feminist, I am anti-sexist
…Said a friend at a dinner party. And at that split second, I thought « Isn’t that the same thing? ». I also thought « well, duh » because why on earth would a woman be pro-sexist? (If that’s even a thing). Actually, the picture is much grayer than we could think, and it’s not really the same thing. The problem here is that being « anti-sexist » is interpreted in so many different ways, and sometimes in contradictory ways. Some believe that being « equal to man » is far from feminist, since man is the measure argues Carol Gilligan. For others, being equal to man is the bedrock of feminism. The bottom line though is that we are so afraid of saying we are feminists, when we believe in their ideals. What are we so scared of? The answer isn’t clear cut or obvious, but here are some potential explanations I find interesting.
Perception, and what others think of you. Reputation in other words. I have noticed that when peers describe another woman, if she is known to be a strong supporter of feminist causes, this will be in the top three adjectives used to describe her. «You know, she’s like really feminist…». Yes, and others are of Muslim faith, or into knitting. Why is this a marker? I find this a little bit of a shocker. Why isn’t a woman who fights or simply supports other women’s emancipation and is comfortable or even, proud of being a woman not «normal» or dare I say it, attractive and positive, to other men and women?
Sadly, when you scrutinize feminist groups and movements, a lot of them dissagree with each other. Some movements are viewed as too « extreme » like Femens, for instance. Susan Okin and Elizabeth Brake have strongly disagreed with Carol Gilligan on how to apply feminism in our society, and what models of justice correspond the most to feminist principles. Of course, a lot of feminists agree with one another, forming strong and well-crafted movements, but the disagreements towards one another create a gift, the extension and depth of the movement, but also a curse.
By disagreeing with one another over things like « is Mademoiselle offensive or not? » (Mademoiselle here meaning Miss). Is having to choose if we are a Mrs or a Miss paternalistic? Maybe, maybe not. As a finality though, is this helping women break the glass celling, is this reducing the wage gap, is this in any way bringing men and women together in diminishing patriarchy, misogyny and sexism? You could say the same about this article, yet, feminism has a militant component to it, not this article.
I believe feminism is precious. We need, for the movement to grow, people to disagree and voice their own opinions, making it more «normal» and less courageous or rare. But what will happen when feminism becomes «normal»?
Well, first off, we won’t have to hear about, in a whispering tone, that you, know, X person is like, really feminist. But what if it becomes less important, and by «normal», simply less powerful?
This is what we need to be careful of, because if everyone considers themselves feminists in the real sense of the term, this world could be a better place. Feminism benefits men and women, by the way. It allows men to openly say that cat-calling is simply wrong and not feel excluded by their peers, or to grow more respectful of women, if they were not in the first place, and for women to develop any type of relationships with other men based on respect and not fear, or snap judgment of his potential misogyny. To some extent, it could create a more respectful world. But we should in no way let it become less precious than what it is.
Feminism is not just about « not being sexist », its also about wanting to actively change society, reducing rampant misogyny and street harassment, forcefully putting forth the gap in freedom between women across the globe and trying to change it, believing that men and women should always be treated as equals, and knowing feminism is not just « a girl thing ». That is to say, actually changing things with the core belief that sexism is to be erased from out societies. I hope that one day everyone will consider these as normal and not just opinions. But sometimes, I fear we will end up bickering over what feminism really is about, and move further away from the core goal. I sometimes fear that declaring oneself a feminist will not mean anything anymore, but at the same time, I really wish women could say it loud and proud. And then I took a step back, and remembered that most men, don’t even have this issue, and don’t ever ask themselves, “Am I a good feminist?”