There has been a lot of stigma associated with the feminist movement. With supporters being coined “feminazis,” the movement has received copious amounts of negative attention. Women, too, have started denouncing the term, opting for more neutral titles, such as “egalitarians” or “equalists.” What these women don’t realize is that they are actually all feminists—and we should all be feminists, too.
To start off: What is a feminist? At its core definition, a feminist is an individual who believes men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. No more, no less. Women can be feminists. Men can be feminists. Anyone can be feminist. All that is required is a belief in gender equality. There is no question that most people in developed countries do believe in gender equality, so why is there so much resistance to the feminist movement?
Many dislike the name of the movement itself. They argue that a movement which so blatantly alludes to only one gender is inherently sexist. If the end goal of the cause is gender equality, wouldn’t a term such as “equalist” or “humanist” be better suited? It is true that a more gender-neutral, inclusive term would be met with less disapproval, and garner more support. But is it time for the movement to be rebranded?
The simple answer is no. Rebranding is not necessary. Doing so would disregard feminism’s remarkable history and origins. The movement has value in its roots; since it was first coined in the late 1800s, feminism has gone through many waves, representing everything from women being allowed in the workforce, to suffragettes, to the inception of services like Planned Parenthood . The word “feminism” pays tribute to the past struggles of people that overcame great difficulty to fight for the same values, albeit in far more oppressive societies. We cannot disregard its historical significance, or discount the movement’s many past achievements.
Moreover, there is a good reason for the movement’s name. “Feminism” is used to address gender inequality because it is the female gender that is currently underprivileged, and to attain gender equality, we must advocate for the rights of the underprivileged gender. Truly, feminism is the perfect word for the movement.
Proposing less assertive terms such as “humanist” is akin to replacing the Black Lives Matter movement with the very racist “All Lives Matter” brand . In both cases, choosing other terms to describe the movements completely circumvents the issues faced by the disadvantaged groups. By giving the movements prettier, less assertive names, the proverbial elephant in the room is not acknowledged, and the very purpose of the movement is defeated.
Furthermore, the issue does not lie with the name of the movement itself, but rather with misinformation amongst the masses. It is a great misconception that feminism is synonymous with misandry, or man-hating. In believing this, many men feel alienated, and many women worry that they will be judged for supporting it. However, the truth is that feminism benefits both women and men, by deconstructing harmful gender norms and denouncing the machismo male stereotype. It is a movement that fights for all people .
While it is arguable that white, middle-class women in the Western world enjoy many of the same privileges as men, being a feminist is about acknowledging that there are many other women in the world that cannot say the same, and fighting for their rights as well. This is what sets today’s feminism, fourth wave feminism, apart from the movement’s previous three waves. Modern feminism is centered around intersectionality, the belief that systemic oppression of all types—racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.—are interconnected, and must be examined together in their entirety. Intersectionality realizes that it is impossible to tear apart the various forms of oppression people are experiencing. Due to its holistic nature, it is the best way to work towards societal progress.
Feminism is all-encompassing, and the name of the movement should not discourage anyone from supporting it. Instead, focus should be placed on what the movement stands for: Equal rights and opportunity for both women and men, of all marginalized groups. It is important to realize that feminists are not suggesting that men’s rights are inconsequential. Rather, they are highlighting the specific problems being faced by women and other minorities, which are not being faced by men. The term “feminism” cuts straight to the point, and directly addresses the issue at hand. This is key when trying to effect true change.
I am a feminist—not a humanist, not an equalist, but a feminist. Are you?