Feminism 101

I don’t blog much about feminism because it’s such a ridiculously fraught topic and frankly who has time for that shit? But I keep seeing the same tired old tropes that I thought I’d create a little mythbusting Feminism 101 primer that I can post whenever the topic arises.

1. Feminists want …

OK, let me stop you right there. Whatever you were going to say is wrong. Feminists are not a political party, where we vote for policies at our annual conference. There’s no membership criteria, no training and no authorising body. There is no elected spokesperson. Anyone can claim to be a feminist, even people who hate women. Just because a person says something, does not mean everyone (or even a minority) agrees with that person. Spend 5 minutes in any “feminist” forum and you will see for yourself: there is a shit-ton of debate amongst feminists.

Feminism is simply the belief that women are equal to men.

2. Why can’t you make up your minds about what you want?

We are not an amorphous mass or some sort of hive mind. We are individual people. Do you agree 100% on anything, with anyone? Why do you expect this?

3. Equality for women means men must lose

This is the big fear, right? If ground is conceded to women, the little real security men have is taken from them. Fighting for a system where all people are treated as equals will benefit men, not take from them.

Which is why the Big Corporation-loving Far Right love to hate feminists: if they can whip up fear that man-hating feminists want to pussy whip all men, it’s distracts us from their endless efforts to strip the average man of rights, wealth and security.

Gender-based imbalances in society also impact men’s mental and physical health, and limit economic capacity. The greatest single contributor to the growth of the global economy pre GFC was increased levels of education for girls. Treat women as equals to men and we all win.

4. Not all men

No, not all men. And I get the defensiveness. It hurts when a group you identify with and care about is lumped together like an amorphous mass and maligned by others. Not all feminists…

The data is out there, and if you’re the type who chooses to ignore the data you’re probably already writing your insult-filled reply without having bothered to read this far, so I’ll trust you to spend 5 minutes googling or to trust me: globally and locally, there is a problem of male violence against women and we need to get beyond awareness campaigns and act because women are literally dying.

If you are a man, or know a man, who is not part of that problem, that’s awesome. But if telling us that is your contribution to finding a solution, maybe you need to consider whether you protest too much?

5. But I want to be pretty / feminists are ugly

One of the most public battlegrounds in feminism is about personal appearance because so much of women’s value is based on their personal appearance and their adherence to a pretty narrow set of rules. If you cannot or will not conform to those rules, you suffer consequences – like being called a fat ugly feminist. The nasty idea that a woman’s clothing some how causes rape is the extreme example but there are myriad examples everywhere, all the time. So-called women’s magazines are poisonous with it. They constantly snipe at the most beautiful of women: too fat, too thin, bad hair, bad dress, too old, too much surgery. The message to the rest of us: you can never be good enough. So, many feminists fight the idea that women have to look a certain way. Some fight that by actively defying social expectations but you don’t have to, you can look however you want to look and still believe that you, and all other women, are equal to men.

If you feel a pressure to look a certain way to be safe or to be desirable or “appropriate”, maybe feminism is for you (that goes for men, too).

And it’s OK to know you are dressing to conform to social standards and to continue doing so. We live in this world. We all do what we can. And dressing up can be fun. Dress how you want.

6. International Men’s Day
The standard response to calls for men’s rights days is “every day is men’s day”.  I prefer to put it this way: men are in charge of all major political parties, all religions, most corporate boards. They literally have the power to change things. Yes, there are issues facing men. If you care about those issues, go tell those men in power you care. Telling feminists not to fight for the things that matter to them does not help anyone.

7. Celebrated feminist is a hypocrite /  wrong

There are hypocrites in all belief systems, why should feminism be an exception? There are also rude feminists, nutbags, bores and moaners. I know some find this shocking and incomprehensible but feminists are people. Feminists are people, in all their messy, imperfect, unreasonable glory. Do not expect perfection from anyone.

OK, that probably covers the basics. If you are curious about Feminism I am happy to answer questions on Twitter.

Footnote: I borrowed this week’s image from a men’s right’s blog. Wearing the badge proudly!

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