I was having a conversation at work that ended with me asking one of the men in my department if he was a feminist. His response was quick and decisive, a resounding, “No.” I won’t lie, I was taken aback. I had never consciously considered it before, but I guess I just always assumed he was a feminist. He had a young daughter, he has hired many women, always treats me/us with respect, etc. So, yeah, assumptions and asses and you and me and all that jazz, but what can I say? I am human.
It bothered me to the point where I messaged him and asked if he was sure he wasn’t a closet feminist, or something; but he gently assured me by saying, “Sorry to break it to you, but no, I’m not a feminist.” He asked why I decided to pursue the conversation and I told him about my assumptions, and how I figured all men turned into feminists, once they had daughters. This seemed to pique his interest, as the next message was a snipped image of the definition of feminism:
The text that followed simply said, “Yes. I believe in this.” We talked a little bit about why he was reluctant to identify as a feminist, and I surmised that it was likely due to an inherent misunderstanding of the movement holistically, and the violently negative connotation by which we, feminists, are portrayed by our opponents.
A lot of people really hate the idea of feminism. They believe that the day women stepped out of their kitchens and into the workforce was the day America started her downward spiral. Women focusing on their careers rather than just their families meant that the family unit collapsed. And, yet, many women still choose to remain at home and raise their children exclusively. Everyone has an opinion on this subject, but that job is not for the weak. Being a full-time mom is the hardest job there is, and undoubtedly the most thankless. Yet some women choose to do it, and enjoy it immensely. That is their choice.
Honestly, that is all feminism is meant to accomplish: the ability to choose. Autonomy over our lives, our bodies, our relationships, our careers. We ask for nothing more than the rights men have always enjoyed. Why is that such a preposterous notion? Why does the idea of equal rights among the sexes inspire such hostile reactions from so many?
Many attribute this visceral response to Rush Limbaugh, and his decades-long crusade against women in general, and “feminazis”, as he so coined the louder feminists, in particular. He finds feminists repugnant, and is unapologetic in his maniacal rants against the feminazis bold enough to voice their opinions and cute ideas about equality. After all, women can’t be equal! I mean, honestly! They are so fragile and emotional and they, like, bleed out of their holes for an entire week each month without dying, and are able to literally grow humans and push them out of impossibly small holes and are honestly just definitely all witches.
Let me be clear: some feminists are extremists who hate all men and I don’t know, whatever other terrible things people attribute to our movement. But at the end of the day, most of us just want to have a level playing field. I don’t want any special treatment. I am not asking for MORE than the men. I am asking to be equally considered among them. I want to make the same money my peers make for doing the same job as me. I want to be safe in the knowledge that if some monster frat boy rapes a young girl, he will be duly punished for it. I want to end rape culture. I want women to be considered equally for all positions for which they are qualified.
I will not cut your dick off. I will not emasculate you (unless you really deserve it). I will not attack you with my feminist agenda and try and diminish your male ego or convert you to the cause (at least, not right away). I only want us to start in the same spot and have the same chance of achieving our goals, based on merit, experience and history.
I want women to be able to control their own bodily decisions– all of them. Sex, pregnancy, abortion, marriage– I want all of those things to be a personal choice that a woman is not persecuted for making, no matter her final decision.
I want people to know what feminism means. I want them to understand everything I just explained, rather than the bullshit propaganda that is out there that paints us as lunatics that want to lock all the men up and just use them as sperm banks while we turn American into Valhalla, wherein women rule everything. I want them to accept that feminism is good for EVERYONE, not just women. I want them to also recognize that this means all women, not just white ones. That intersectional feminism is the only feminism that should exist. That women of color need not be forgotten by history any longer, and that their magic and accomplishments be celebrated with equal jubilation.
Perhaps what I want equates to a perfect world, and we all know that that is not the plane on which we live. But I do believe, with more conversations like the one that inspired this story, we will do wonders for spreading the truth about what it means to be a feminist. I know at least one man for sure who identifies now, where he didn’t before. That’s one more ally, and that is never a bad thing. I’m happy to have him on our side.