“I’m a feminist, but not in that way” is a sentence I hear too often these days, from women who think identifying themselves as a feminist labels them a man-hating feminazi.
The men they might be saying this to visibly cringe at the word feminist, prepare for accusations against their sex and to defend their own behaviour as exempt from the rest of the men in the world, who were proclaimed to all be rapists by Marilyn French, renowned author and feminist.
I am not surprised that men shut down as soon as they hear “feminist”. It is fast becoming taboo if you want people to listen to what you are saying, to the point where Emma Watson was discouraged from using the word when she wrote her HeForShe speech.
Despite this advice, Watson used the F-word and her speech for the UN has over 1.7 million views on YouTube and the cause now has over 1.3 million pledges worldwide.
Ambassadors for female equality are speaking out for men to adopt the word to give it a more positive image.
This was attempted by the Fawcett Society, a leading UK charity for women’s rights and equality,with the ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ T-shirt campaign. However this came under major scrutiny as the clothing was made by women paid 62p in a Mauritian sweatshop, contradicting the charities core values.
Despite the unsuccessfulness of this movement, encouraging men to identify as feminists seems to be the big issue. After all, feminism directly affects men as well; being told your whole life to not be weak or show emotion, because that is not manly, encourages men to not express themselves openly and easily. But our definitions are changing and boundaries are being broken.
Many are calling for the rebranding of the F-word, but they are confused about what feminism stands for.
It is confused with misandry, the opposite of misogyny, which purposefully puts down men to advance women in an aggressive way. Unfortunately, the boundary be- tween the two is becoming blurred for some.
Feminists have started to use misandry ironically to make fun of the women who state “I’m not a feminist, I love men”, but the irony of man-hating is lost on most who think their sentiments are genuine.
But would rebranding the word not diminish the advances that have already been made towards equality in the name of feminism?
I don’t believe that women don’t want equality, but denying feminism their support is making the word even more taboo, mean- ing everyday conversations on the topic are becoming less about genuine issues we need feminism to overcome and more about the word itself.
Kaley Cuoco, star of The Big Bang Theory, recently said she would not identify as a feminist because she’s ‘never really faced inequality’. When discussing equality with men I am shocked by how little they know of the everyday problems women face, even things as small such as not feeling safe enough to walk down a road alone or being catcalled by strangers.
Before discussing it with them it hadn’t occurred to me that it wasn’t normal for everyone to feel vulnerable several times a day.
Although, as Cuoco pointed out, a lot of work was done to pave the way for her before she was around, there is still a lot of work left to do.
Is this a step back for gender equality or do extreme feminists keep the issues that are still present within our society in the lime- light, keeping people talking about and fighting for equality? Or are they just creating a big divide be- tween extremists and people who think the issue has been taken too far, and as a result are digging their heels in and resisting change.