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An invitation to return to feminism

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Deputy Secretary of State Melissa Husband raises her glass to lead a non-alcoholic "toast to tenacity" on Women's Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment. (Kris Craig/TNS)

By Alena Visnovsky

“So you’re a feminist?” 

“Yeah I’m exploring various feminist theories right now!”

People’s responses tend to vary from “So you hate all men?” to “Yikes…” to “I like men too much to be a feminist,” or even a “Huh?” accompanied by a perplexed and indulgent smile, as if my feminist identity was a niche hobby that I employ in my free time or on weekends. 

Here’s the thing, I was born a feminist. So were you. So was your dad, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein. Before you click off this outlandish article, let’s define our terms. We’ll return to famous sexual assailants later. 

Merriam Webster defines feminism as “the belief in and advocacy of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.” 

Britannica defines feminism as “the belief in social, economic and political equality of the sexes.” 

Oxford Reference defines feminism as “the approach to social life, philosophy and ethics that commits itself to correcting biases leading to the subordination of women or the disparagement of women’s particular experience and of the voices women bring to discussion.” 

First off, these are highly broad definitions that don’t elaborate on the dozens of diverse feminist theories that have evolved throughout time. Secondly, not one of those definitions said that feminists hate all men.

No one is born believing that women deserve fewer rights than others. Every single person who exists was born a feminist, including men who use their power and privilege to murder, dehumanize and terrorize women. I could go on about the crimes that target women, but my editor said I’m not allowed to take up the entirety of The Collegiate’s homepage. This is the part where I circle back to Trump, Cosby and Weinstein examples of men who, at some point in their childhood, lost their feminist identity. 

Am I excusing them? Never. Not in a centillion years. 

So what happened? If everyone is born a feminist, wouldn’t there be way more feminists in the world? Good questions. From birth, people can remain feminists, either openly or in the shadows, but people frequently become misogynists.

However, becoming a misogynist is less of an active choice and more a result of generations of people becoming misogynists and choosing to further afflict women and other marginalized groups. When you turn 12-years-old there’s no ceremony where you have to put a mystic stone in a bowl labeled “feminist” or a bowl labeled “misogynist,” and your parents beg you to pick the bowl they picked when they were 12-years-old. Becoming a misogynist or staying a feminist is a much more convoluted and complicated process. For example, I gradually became a misogynist because I was raised in fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity. Later in high school I recovered my feminist identity through negative personal experiences and reading the news. 

Maybe some of you have thought, “But I’m a dude, I can’t really become a feminist, right?” Well, please refer to the definitions I supplied earlier, which don’t say only women can be feminists. Additionally, you were already born a feminist so congrats, you’re a third of the way there. 

No one should feel emasculated by feminism. The reason many men feel emasculated is because manhood frequently becomes rooted in the oppression of women. Calm down, I said frequently, not always

Here’s a hint, all men benefit from the actions of misogynistic men. Even if you’re a man who isn’t a misogynist. Hating and hurting women allows all men to perform the barest minimum and still feel satisfied with themselves. This is why even as a non-misogynistic man, it might be difficult to rebel against a system that is beneficial for you.

However, there’s no need to apologize for being a man, you’re not responsible for the appalling acts your ancestors committed, but feminism is asking you to help demolish the oppressive social norms that said ancestors enacted. 

There I go again making it all about men…

If this article upset you, just remember, if you became a misogynist at some point in your life, fear not! Think back to some of your earliest memories, I would guess assertive women didn’t threaten you and you didn’t think women were less funny than men. You can always go back to being a feminist. 

I encourage you to try it out.

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