Thought Catalog
May 13, 2014

You Don’t Have to Care About Feminism — But At Least Understand What It Is

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What is the issue?
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Today I saw a Tumblr post about Shailene Woodley, the actor from Divergent, giving an interview about why she doesn’t consider herself a feminist. In short, she states that she doesn’t agree with feminism because it’s based on the idea of “raising women to power, and taking the men away from power”. She believes that there should be a fine balance between men and women in power, and having only one or the other wouldn’t work. She states that men can’t respect women because women don’t respect each other, and are constantly putting one another down.

While I think Shailene is a bit confused as to what the definition of feminism actually is, I understood her sentiment as I read the article. I wasn’t particularly offended by what she said but I was, however, I was a bit distressed by the comments on the post. One Tumblr user said:

i agree absolutely with everything she said. she didn’t say it clearly, but i know where she’s coming from. Feminism is about empowering women and making everything bad that happens to women because of men. she acknowledges that men have no part in what happens to women but in fact it is other women who bring down women. i agree with this wholeheartedly. it is absolutely true. men will never talk about or degrade you or openly judge you (which are some of the things feminists love to blame men for) these traits are all found in women. shailene sees that we are already equal in society and to keep feminism is to create a superiority of the female gender in society. which is wrong. although i personally believe she did a bad job of presenting an example of sisterhood, but i like where she’s coming from. :)

I found this a bit upsetting for a few reasons. First, this poor, confused girl seems to believe that only women are capable of judgement and degradation, which I think most people could agree is not true. Second, she makes the bold statement that we already have equality for women. She appears to be overlooking issues like rape, female genital mutilation, lack of access to safe abortion, women in the military being sexually assaulted, the “gendercide” of female babies in parts of India and China, and women (and men) developing eating disorders and increasingly younger ages, but this is beside the point. The point is that when I went to her Tumblr page, the description on her blog said, “Modern Feminism is just laughable. Don’t hate me. Debate me. Talk shit get hit”.

The hatred that the people of the Internet have towards feminists is both disheartening and inspiring. While it pains me to see how adamant they are to dispute feminism, their passion and vigour fascinates me. A lot of the anti-feminism comments I’ve seen are incredibly long and quite well-constructed. I can only imagine how much research and effort must have gone into formulating those opinions and I can’t help but wonder what could happen if those people directed their energy towards raising awareness for an issue they actually cared about instead of creating backlash towards an issue they don’t.

Instead of putting all your focus on destroying feminism, why don’t you focus on brining attention to something that does matter to you? Maybe it’s the environment, or maybe it’s animals. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s positive and constructive instead of negative and destructive. Because I hate to break it to you, but you can’t stop feminists from believing what they choose to believe any more than they can stop you from believing what you choose to believe.

Some people, however, seem to think it is of the upmost importance to stand in the way of feminist progression. Like Shailene Woodley, they’re under the impression that feminism is about stealing power from men and giving it to women (they seem to be forgetting that a single gender already does have more power, but that’s different right?) and not creating a balance for all genders and creating an equal society. The stereotype that feminists are all castrating man haters unfortunately still exists, and this tends to be the basis of many anti-feminist arguments. Feminists hate men and blame men for everything bad and want to rule the world, so the story goes. I’m inclined to ask people who think like this how many of these “feminists” they’ve met.

Anti-feminists talk a lot of game about all the man haters out there, but I’m sure most of them have encountered very few outside the internet, if any at all. The fact is that the women who do think like this are many things, but a feminist is not one of them. Feminism isn’t about destroying men. It’s about empowering women so they can reach the level that men are already at. Any woman who believes that disempowering men in order to empower women is the goal of feminism should not be used as an example to represent the movement. No, these women are not feminists. They are simply crazy.

But do I consider myself a feminist? No. Not because I don’t stand up for what I believe in, but because I feel like I can’t consider myself to be one. Because when you’re raising awareness for an issue to people, as soon as you introduce yourself as a feminist many of them will stop listening right then and there.

It doesn’t matter what you were going to say.

It doesn’t matter if you were going to tell them about an 8 year old child bride in Yemen who died of internal bleeding after her wedding night.

It doesn’t matter if you were going to talk about a woman in Victoria, British Columbia who was raped in plain sight on the hood of a car by a man who later killed her and was never penalized, like hundreds of other Aboriginal women are killed with no consequences.

It doesn’t matter if you were going to talk about women in India, the UK, Uganda or Ethiopia having their faces disfigured in acid throwing attacks.

It doesn’t matter if you were going to tell them about the single mother living next door to you who can’t afford to pay her bills because she makes less money than men for the same amount of work.

It doesn’t matter if you were going to tell them about the man you know who is having difficulty getting custody of his children because of his gender.

It doesn’t matter, because feminists are the enemy. These issues aren’t legitimately important to feminists, because according to their detractors, they have one job and one job only – bringing down the male sex as we know it. Instead of asking ourselves why feminists appear angry or aggressive, we choose to stereotype them and look at them as a threat. Instead of looking into the causes that feminists fight for, we choose the side that’s more socially acceptable. And we fight against feminism relentlessly, rather than putting our efforts elsewhere where it may actually do some good.

I can’t force you to believe in feminism and the equality of women. I can, though, let you know that your tirade against feminism only makes you look ignorant. And to sum it up, if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. TC Mark

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