You’ve seen these posts, I’m sure. Women who are proudly rejecting feminism as an outdated concept based around a hatred of men and a sense of entitlement.
Our response has been one of either anger (no one likes to be called entitled) or pity (how sad for these women that they don’t realize all the great things we’re doing for them).
I’d like to propose a third option – understanding.
There are just as many, if not more, people who carry the label feminist who do not seem to understand the function of its activists. People who call themselves feminists while undermining its very core (lookin’ at you, Joss Whedon). It seems unfair to so harshly criticize those same misunderstandings in those who don’t identify with our cause.
So let’s deconstruct WHY a person would reject a movement the sole purpose of which is to allow them greater freedoms to explore the boundaries of their potential uninhibited by gender.
The person does not feel they benefit from the movement’s work. Their need to publicly declare their opposition suggests they feel either slighted by the movement or that it has done them a disservice.
The knee jerk reaction is to reply with “well lucky you, you little bitch. Some of us aren’t so damn blessed. Not only that, but you know well enough that there are countries where women are still stoned and have acid thrown in their faces!”
But take a step back. Maybe what they’re saying is that our movement focuses too much on victimization and not enough time on empowerment. Maybe they feel that while the work being done for women abroad is great, it has little to do with them and certainly no impact on their lives. In fact, considering how badly women are treated in other countries, it seems almost insulting to them to complain about our comparably minor gripes. Especially if they feel they have already achieved a level of equality they’re comfortable with. This just makes the rest of us look like crazy people that make them look bad.
My point is that the fact that they don’t feel represented is on us, not them. If we are the all-inclusive movement we think of ourselves, we need to do more to make these women feel that their voices are being heard.
This issue of perception is one we’ve struggled with for a long time. Greater amount of women of colour are also turning their back on feminism, which they feel does not care about the multiplier effect they endure as double minorities. Few men dare take on the title, even though much of our efforts are to allow self expression outside of socially mandated gender norms, which is an issue that affects men just as significantly.
Feminism is based on mutual understanding, compassion, and a genuine desire to see others flourish. Let’s not forget that in the heat of argument.