Being a feminist in 2011

“May is a feminist. She also lives at the Eco-house.”
“What a catch.”

Said my guy friend. In case you did not notice, he was being sarcastic.

Being a feminist. What an awful thing to be. These angry “bra-burning,” “man-hating” women. They don’t appreciate it when you hold doors for them, or help carry the groceries. And boys, doesn’t it just suck having to pay for dinner when you go on a date with one of those feminists?

Many of my lady friends also tell me that they do not identify themselves as feminists, because they believe in traditional gender roles, because they like men, because they want to have kids and have a nice family, because they believe men and women are equal…

Wait a minute.

Men and women are equal? Didn’t that idea emerge fundamentally from the hard work of generations of feminists?

Every day, men and women who believe in personal liberty and egalitarian principles tell me that feminists are scary, radical and extreme. But you are definitely missing the point if you have just reduced a whole notion of feminism down to holding doors and carrying the groceries.

In its simplest form, feminism strives for the political, economic and social equality between the sexes. However, people often forget that there are multiple schools of thoughts among feminists themselves. Even though feminism aims at equality and justice overall, feminists disagree over what constitutes sexism and how to react to it. For instance, Carol Adams, a self-identified second-wave feminist and a prominent eco-feminist, may view meat-eating as a form of cultural oppression, while a liberal feminist could not care less. Like most abstract concepts, feminism paints a more nuanced picture than what most people care to find out.

On a related note, let me publicly declare that as a self-identified feminist, I like nice guys. I really do. Like a lot of other “normal” women, I also enjoy being shown appreciation and care, or cooking and knitting. If a woman aspires to be a housewife and a mother, there is nothing in the feminist egalitarianism that bans her from doing so. But if a woman wants to be part of the workforce, or even serve in the military, she should be able to do so, without straining herself in double-day shifts. In many ways, feminism comes down to creating a social space for men and women to exercise freedom, instead of advocating for a fixed way of living or a total reversal of gender roles. Feminism provides a social space for women and men to make informed choices, and a political discourse to realize these choices.

My peer college-aged women and men today do not identify themselves as “feminists” while enjoying all the liberty that the feminist movement has earned us. In fact, today’s feminists are ridiculed. We owe it to the generations of feminists before us that women can now study in a university, work, travel, and negotiate with men. Men, too, can now enjoy greater social freedom to interact with women. They can cook and spend time with kids without having to defend themselves or their manliness.

Not everyone can be or wants to be labeled as a feminist. However, one should be able to stand up to the rights of women without feeling apologetic. Scorning the feminist movement while embracing its fundamental beliefs is hypocritical and insincere at best.

2 thoughts on “Being a feminist in 2011

  1. My favorite of your posts! I concur. In reality, those who sniff their nose or twitch to the word ‘feminism’ do not actually understand what feminism is or what it constitute.


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