What Exactly Does "Feminism" Mean Anyway?

I feel really uncomfortable labeling myself a feminist. As I stated yesterday, I call myself a “gender equalist.” I have a lot of issues with feminism as it is defined by the secular mainstream media and how it’s defined by the majority of Tumblr. Let’s explore the pros and cons of this label.

DISCLAIMER: I’m going to be painting in broad strokes here, so forgive me for not going into too much detail.

Pros:

The dictionary defines feminism thusly:

1)  the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2) organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

On the one hand, there are places that need to recognize the value of women and treat them as equals to men. When I picture what feminism should be, one particular lady comes to mind:

Malala Yousafzai

"Malala Yousafzai par Claude Truong-Ngoc novembre 2013 02" by Claude TRUONG-NGOC - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Malala_Yousafzai_par_Claude_Truong-Ngoc_novembre_2013_02.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Malala_Yousafzai_par_Claude_Truong-Ngoc_novembre_2013_02.jpg

Licensed under Wikimedia Commons

She is advocating for something we can all agree on: the fact that women have the right to have the same education a man does. If any place in the world needs women to be liberated, it’s the Middle East.

That’s not to say that there aren’t discrimination issues women have to deal with here in America. I’m someone who agrees that women need to be represented more in the media. I want a Black Widow movie. I love Agent Carter and the way that they treated the female characters. I love shows with female protagonists. I also think that women should be encouraged to pursue careers they want to pursue, especially if they want to go into math, science, engineering, politics, computers, etc.

Cons

When I asked my friends about whether or not they considered themselves “feminists,” the majority of them said “No.”

One particular friend stated:


Feminism in the past was a movement for equal rights of women when women didn’t have any at all, but now we mostly do. (At least in England, we completely do.) I feel like modern western feminism is about women trying to be better than men, women wanting special treatment and women being hypocrites, judging and telling each other what they should or shouldn’t do. It’s now dominated by like 99% privileged white middle class trying to make out they have not even only the same struggle as, but sometimes MORE of a struggle than the underprivileged, working/lower class women and men in their area, or even worse – those suffering from actual patriarchy in other countries where they could actually be killed or suffer mutilation just for being a woman. Modern feminism to me almost always looks like a bunch of privileged drama-queens. Sorry, but that’s just how I feel.

Rape culture IS a thing, I know it is first hand. It needs to be stopped, yes. But the movement has just gone crazy and lost perspective in the process of trying to eradicate it, so no, I’m not a feminist. I’m an egalitarian, because all people are equal (tell me it’s about equality all you want, but the name just doesn’t fit), I refuse to be associated with what modern feminism has become and, well, I frankly don’t need your feminism. I don’t need to be victimised or spoken for, which is what feminism does to me and my colleagues (past and present) and class-sisters. 

Now saying all of this, the feminist movement in the Middle East is real and necessary feminism and I wholeheartedly do support that. And in our countries, any attempt to teach people not to rape or objectify is excellent, any attempt to help the lower classes is excellent, showing off the true meaning (to you) of being a woman is great, and there are a lot of really great feminist projects that do listen to struggling women and do actually do good work, but, there’s just not enough to offset the rest of the nonsense.

And that brings me to one of main problem with feminism, at least in America: the victim mentality.

One of my favorite books growing up was The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. The first habit is “Be Proactive.” Part of being proactive is not blaming circumstances or people. Examples of victim mentality include being easily offended, blaming others, whining and complaining, waiting for things to happen, and only changing when they have to.

My second major problem with feminism is this: there is no clear-cut definition on what it means to be a feminist. I can understand basic politics better than I can understand feminism. Say what you will about other ideologies, but at the very least there are certain beliefs and ideas that define what it means to be a believer of said ideology. Feminism may start out as wanting to have equal rights for women, but nobody can really agree as to what these rights consist of. Does it include abortion and birth control? Does it include equal pay for women? What’s the justification for catcalling or shaming women for choosing to pursue what are seen as “traditional” values?

So this post is partially me lamenting about the feminist movement and partially asking feminists this: What does feminism mean outside of wanting equal rights for women? What does that consist of? What defines feminism?

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