Problems with Feminist Labels

There’s a lot of splintering in feminist groups. Feminist seems like a bad word, even to women and men who want equal rights and equal pay for the genders. Even to those that agree there is a patriarchy and that we should work to dismantle it. Even to those who agree that the way we treat each other, and our daughters, and our sons, is shameful.

There are so many extremes, and extremists within the feminist community – within any large community. There are those that deny rights to trans women – such as the simple right to attend a music festival. There are those that are hateful towards women who work within the sex industry. There are those that would deny someone the right to call themselves a feminist if they do something that knowingly buys into the patriarchal system – something like shaving their legs or wearing makeup.

A lot of educated, bright, intelligent men and women want to be distanced from the word – and its baggage – and that’s their right. It’s only a word, but it brings about so much confusion and emotion with it. All people who have a belief system that a lot of people subscribe to – Christians, Republicans, Socialists, etc. – they all deal with this problem.

It’s hard enough to find one person that nearly matches our beliefs, let alone an entire community. There’s plenty of feminists I disagree with, but in the end we have to remember that we all want the same thing, generally speaking. We might disagree with how to go about it, or the cause of it, or the symptoms of it, but in the end we are still seeking the same thing – equality for humanity.

It’s gotten kind of fashionable now to turn around and say “I’m not a feminist anymore!” but you’re still a feminist – you’re still fighting for the same things. You’re just not calling yourself a feminist anymore to avoid the aforementioned baggage and misconceptions. You’re distancing yourself from the prejudices people conjure up when they hear a certain word.

Because of different socialization in the patriarchy, men and women will learn how to be passionate about issues in different ways, and we need to be considerate of that when seeking to inform. One woman told me she was having trouble getting men to listen to her when talking about sexual harassment on the street until she mentioned the Trayvon Martin case – that he deserved to be able to walk down the street without being troubled. Suddenly some men understood – it was about feeling frightened and threatened by another individual. She was able to appeal to a man by taking into consideration that men have different experiences than women, and by making the conversation relevant to him.

I know there’s plenty of people out there that don’t like the word itself because it’s too female centric. It ignores the fact that what most feminists want is equality – regardless of gender, sex, race, ethnicity, class, disability, religion, sexual identity, sexual orientation, etc. It can be an alienating word, especially to men, but I strongly believe that we cannot have massive social change if we don’t engage the other half of the population. Many men and women both desire equality and now that the framework of feminism has done a big bulk of the work, we’re left to work out the details.

Women can work, but they’re being paid less for comparative work. Women can have positions in government, but they’re underrepresented. Women can easily find themselves work in the entertainment industry, but are still regulated to certain roles. Why? How can we change this? These are issues that men and women can – and will – solve together. There’s no need to antagonize one another.

In the end, most of us just want to find happiness and contentment in our life. Very few wish to bring misery to others. So I’ll continue calling myself a feminist, and continue to have issues with the word and people’s misconceptions, and I’ll continue to engage with others about what we can do to improve our society and make it a more hospitable, compassionate place for everyone. These are my goals.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

  • Infantalizing Women in the Name of Feminism: When we tell women they’re not allowed to make choices about what jobs they want, we’re treating them as if they’re too naive to make their own decisions.
  • Femininity: Why do we value male traits more than female?
  • Male Default: When video game makers don’t even try to cater to women, is it any wonder women don’t play certain games?

(Image Source.)

4 comments

  1. [...] Problems with Feminist Labels - It’s hard enough to find one person that nearly matches our beliefs, let alone an entire community. There’s plenty of feminists I disagree with, but in the end we have to remember that we all want the same thing, generally speaking. [...]

  2. Gareth says:

    I personally avoid the label not because of the baggage it holds, but because I’ve seen few feminist groups deal with Male Issues, as they’ve come to be known. Many even deny that such a thing exists. Most act as if giving light and attention to Male Issues directly detracts from Female Issues

    I want a group that deals with the fact that men are more likely to be given time for the same crime. That men are less likely to get custody of their children, or that men can and are being raped by women, and nobody acknowledges it.

    Alot of feminists claim to be for equality all together. And most are. But I’ve yet to see a feminist group actually bring up the issues. And most attack men who do bring up those issues as being Misogynistic. That’s my personal take

    Also, is it just me, or can people not see any comments on an article until they themselves comment. Because that’s what I’m seeing

    • J. Keep says:

      It’s sadly just an issue with the comment section. Prior to my joining my partner blogging here all the comments got their approval status wiped unfortunately. We hadn’t rectified this yet as it’s a rather colossal task resorting the worthwhile comments from the endless reams of spam, hate and completely irrelevant off-topic rants.

    • M. Keep says:

      I absolutely believe that the patriarchy hurts men. It hurts men by teaching them to be aggressive, and dominant, and then punishes them for it. It teaches them not to feel emotions, and then abandons them to their own devices. It presumes what men want, and what they feel — that they’re angry, that they aren’t as loving or good for their children — and then punishes them based on their perceived emotions. That we don’t think men can be abused, or hurt, and mistrust any who break this assumption.

      Unfortunately the feminist response has been that because it’s a male issue, men must work to rectify it. I don’t believe any issue is solely a male or female issue, however. This affects all of us, in one way or another, and because of this abandonment — real or perceived — a lot of men have turned their back on feminism.

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