I don’t want to be a feminist.
I don’t want to use the term.
I don’t want the term to even exist.
But you can’t always get what you want.
Feminism shouldn’t exist. It’s preposterous that in our age, we would need a movement whose purpose is fostering equality and respect between the sexes. Can there really be anyone today who would stand in the way of women having equality with men?
Which is why, with great reluctance (and, frankly, annoyance) I must continue to be burdened with the label of ‘Feminist.’
The world I want to live in is a world where the sex of an individual represents nothing more than a biological distinction. Much as race, eye color and height represent a biological distinction. I don’t want to live in a world where we foolishly ignore what makes each gender distinct. Of course there are differences. I just don’t want those differences to be exploited.
Women aren’t better than men, but that’s never what true feminism has been about.
Women should be held to the same standard as men. Women are capable of wronging others. Women are capable of selfishness. Women are capable of evil. Women are, after all, human beings. Just like men. Not more than men, not less than men. Just like men. I don’t want to live in a world where women are held to a different standard than men.
But I do live in that world.
And such a world corrupts even the best of intentions.
I live in a world of reactionaries. In an attempt to battle misogyny, sexism, gender inequality and rampant physical, mental and emotional abuse, there are those who would advocate a type of extreme feminism that condones battling fire with fire. I understand the motivation behind this philosophy. You could call it the “If you can’t beat ‘em…” philosophy.
I hate that philosophy.
In high school, I read and abhorred Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I recognized where Chopin was coming from, but the underlying message, that a woman must assert her self-reliance by behaving as reprehensibly as her male counterpart, bothered me. It struck me as a Cold War mentality: If they hurt us, we’ll retaliate.
I don’t believe feminism wins by lowering itself to the standards of the basest among us. It wins by elevating everyone, male and female alike, to a higher standard.
If only it were that simple.
At times, being a feminist is like being in a battle where the enemy doesn’t adhere to the laws of war. When the adversary seemingly has no regard for basic human decency, it’s tempting to get down in the mud. Make no mistake, feminists have made missteps, just as all movements do. But those missteps would never have occurred if feminism didn’t need to exist. And it does.
Feminism should be an obsolete movement. In a nation where same-sex marriage is on the verge of being the rule, not the exception, and we can have a black president, the idea that we would still need a movement that fights for gender equality is mind blowing.
I don’t want to be a feminist. But I will be one as long as women aren’t paid precisely the same as male counterparts for the same work. I will be as long as all-male panels make decisions concerning women’s health. I will be as long as women are only allowed to be sluts or virgins. I will be as long as women have more to fear on a dark street than I do.
I will be as long as ignorant ‘activists’ like the Men’s Rights Movement exists. If only such groups didn’t antagonize feminists but rather sought to find common ground, they would solve the concerns of women and men alike. Men and women aren’t enemies.
I want to live in a world where a person is held accountable for their actions, not for their gender.
I want to live in a world where being a woman isn’t the first strike.
I want to live in a world where a young girl knows she has the same opportunities that I had when I was a boy.
I don’t want to live in a world where being a straight male makes me feel the need to apologize.
I want to live in a world where I don’t have to be a feminist.
But until then…