Cover photo: The general definition of Feminism (Source: berry.edu)
“Not all theorists who study gender identify their research as feminist [because] it makes it more palatable to mainstream theorists.” With this point, Greg Anderson, author of International Political Economy, underscores the persistent stigmatization surrounding the notion of feminism.
I googled a little further about the apparent stigma surrounding feminism and found, to my astonishment, a Facebook page called “Women Against Feminism” with close to 50,000 likes. Upon reflection, I realized that some of my friends and peers have occasionally introduced a conversation about feminism with the preface of, “I am a feminist, but not THAT kind of feminist.”
What is THAT kind of feminist? What makes feminism so unpalatable? But more importantly, is there a prescription?
The fundamental issue with the feminist movement, in my opinion, is the radical way in which some women conduct themselves. Take the #KillAllMen movement for example, in which radical feminists express their hatred of men. Apparently, radical feminism represents the self-destructive, out-of-control aspect of feminism. Ultimately, it harms men, spreads misinformation, shuns women with different opinions, makes everything about gender and ultimately leads to a giant roadblock to progress. More importantly, it becomes difficult for mainstream feminists, who do believe in the equality of all people, to distance themselves from this type of radicalism.
Mainstream feminists need to stand up and declare equality. I believe the root cause of all this hatred stems from the internet, and its outrage machine. The internet enables meanness in people. There is nothing worse than logging onto Facebook to find a huge cyber argument, and feeling somewhat obliged to have a scroll through the comments. These angry conversations are endless, and feed into negativity that gets us nowhere.
Some people may criticize me for censoring their “right to free speech,” but I am merely reprimanding the way they publicize and sensationalize their opinions. There is a positive way to express everything. Especially when you have time to consider what you write and how you edit your posts. Have a progressive, meaningful end-goal behind your anger and disappointment because merely expressing your “hate for white men” does not achieve much more than a few likes here and there.
Moreover, a central reason for the substantial stigmatization around the notion and study of feminism is the ‘man shaming’ perpetuated by some feminists. For example, my feminist political theory class is overwhelmingly occupied by women. In order to correct these skewed preconceived opinions about feminism in the realm of education, professors must start incorporating feminist teachings into their work. If men are not signing up for feminist classes, then bring feminist material to them. Women have made contributions in virtually every field, and there is no excuse not to bring attention to their work.
Just as McGill professors introduce their classes by recognizing the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Nations, they ought to find a way to incorporate women’s influences on their subjects. In fact, many social issues regarding homophobia, racism, classism are interrelated to the origins of the feminist movement. Feminism is a powerful component of learning as it helps to create understandings across differences, offering rich insights into intersectional systems of oppression. For example, multiracial feminism helps us to acknowledge the unique experiences of a woman from varying backgrounds.
Furthermore, the most fundamental distinction I wish to make is that feminism is not “man versus woman.” Perhaps it is a tired example, but Emma Watson’s speech addressing the United Nations in 2014 on the problem of man-hating reminds feminists, and all people, that all genders must work together to establish a mutual respect. If you want feminism to become a universally accepted idea then we must refrain from treating it like it’s something exclusive or different. You don’t have to be a liberal to be a feminist. On the same note, you don’t even have to be a woman to be a feminist.
The only thing that a feminist should be is an advocate for the equality across all genders in society.
Ultimately, I have been meaning to say to radical feminists, you know who you are: please stop trying to seek out forms of oppression. After all, where will the #KillAllMen movement bring us? These hateful actions merely create a cycle of non-progression, and perpetuate feelings of shame and guilt. More importantly, this gives feminism a negative, cringe-worthy name.
In order to effectively combat the systems of oppression faced by women, feminists must focus less on the notion under which they are labelled and more on the values that lie behind the notion.