There’s a weird paradox in many people when it comes to believing in something. On one hand, we whole-heartedly reaffirm and reiterate the points and opinions of the people who agree with us. We excitedly nod and say “God, yes,” all the while brimming with anticipation to share our own views with those who see it our way.
On the other hand, when among a crowd that thinks differently, it’s not such a fun time. Depending on how they are, you might just want to avoid stupid conflict. You might care immensely about what they think of you. Or, the word you use to identify with your cause might have been tarnished by misguided zealots. Thanks a lot.
Here’s where that final scenario applies: feminism, the asinine, deplorable belief that two genders should be treated equally by all and have a mutual respect for one another. Ha! Crazy.
Negative portrayals of feminism have run rampant through society for a very long time. Change scares people, and those who are comfy in the seat they’re in don’t want to consider other ideals. The opposition works tirelessly to smear this reputation so they can continue to stagnate in their beliefs.
But of course, it’s not some good against evil battle. This is real life, and there are plenty of reasons why the word “feminism” can automatically rub someone the wrong way. Sometimes people are just plain intimidated by a cause. It becomes a delicate balance, and the way one should teach someone about a cause should mirror the way everything is taught: start off small. You don’t teach math by jumping straight into quadratics. Sell ideals by telling the audience how they benefit from this. However, becoming frustrated when someone doesn’t immediately see what you’re seeing is a dangerously easy ditch to fall into.
These things and others all add up to the widely-held belief that feminists are all man-hating bra-burning lesbians. That’s become the go-to image for the apathetic citizen, and that’s the image that people against feminism want them to see.
Because of this, some people look around the room really quick before informing you they believe in gender equality. Being firm in your belief, yet having to hastily explain yourself is no way to be. Worse still, people will publicly announce they support all items present on the feminist agenda, and then claim not to be a feminist. Yeah, okay buddy. You live on earth and require oxygen and all that, but you’re not like, a carbon based lifeform or anything.
I’ve been through this. I had a (shamefully lengthy) point in time where I believed we were treated completely equally, and that women who complained about it were just whiny uptight girls. See that? See how that stereotype was a reality to me? Don’t do societies, kids.
Yes, I thought catcalls were compliments and that there was absolutely nothing wrong and that gender issues magically based themselves on nothing, I guess. I know why people have these ideas. While it sure is easy for me to point at nothing and exclaim “SOCIETY’S FAULT!” we have to remember that we are society. It does not exist without us. There are people behind these negative statements and detrimental ideas, so many real living people who have to worry about family and who love their pets and really would just like some time to relax. They’re not evil, they just don’t know or don’t care. That’s what they were raised on. David Wong, executive editor of Cracked, writes that “Nobody involved in a conflict thinks they’re the villain,” and the things David Wong writes are the realest things I’ve ever read. This idea is no different.
So, y’know, we are the future, break this terrible cycle, etc. You’ve heard these motivational go-get ’em things before. While being the change is a very nice thing to aspire to, it’s ultimately just your goal. Thats like motivating someone to climb Everest with “Get to the top!” That’s the idea, but like, rationing and climbing equipment and stuff.
It has to start with acceptance. You’re not supporting your cause if you don’t say it audibly and confidently. Being okay with yourself and this thing together is step one, and there is no physical way to skip step one.
So have you taken that first step yet? Do you have glorious ideas about how to shape the world for the better? Still too nervous to admit it to others? That’s okay if you are, though. I was too.
Tabitha Summerhayes is a full-time PR student at Humber College.