I think that Emma Watson believes in social, political, and economic gender equality. Her intentions to support this idea are humanitarian and commendable. In fact, all the people and celebrities who support such campaigns to help gender equality are genuine in their passion for the cause. They truly want to help make the world a better place. At the same time, I think that there are not enough people who take the time to understand the opposing points of view, or acknowledge the issues that exist within feminism itself. Among the self-proclaimed feminists of the world are women who tell one another that they are not “feminist enough” or “a true feminist”; women who shame those who watched Fifty Shades of Grey for entertainment; and women who slut shame a girl exiting a restaurant in a tight-fitted dress.
Imagine an interview where celebrities are put on the spot and asked which political party they belong to. If they say Republican, then some people may automatically think that they are against gay marriage and abortion. If they say Democrat, then some people could instantly peg them as “crazy liberals.” If they say that they don’t identify with a political party, but believe in the social, political, and economic equality of people, then they’ll likely be criticized for not being direct enough, or too scared.
I get that feminism, by definition, means the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. And I have no problem in identifying myself as a feminist.
At the same time, I completely understand why other women are too hesitant to identify themselves as a feminist, or refuse to identify themselves as feminists.
Feminism is almost like a religion; there are both positives and negatives within the belief itself, just as there are contradictions, despite feminism’s good intentions. It is probably somewhat easier for a privileged woman growing up in the United States (or any other first world country) with, say, a college education, to identify herself as a feminist. But what about the women who were raised with set gender norms? The ones who truly believe in patriarchy and have no problem with this? What if patriarchy is actually working for them?
In a less fortunate scenario, what about the women who, if chosen to as feminists to their family or friends, would be shamed or emotionally and physically hurt? We need to understand what a tremendous influence culture, religion, and family have on the thoughts and feelings of women around the world.
Every woman wants to be treated with love, support, and respect. Yet this could mean something different for every woman. Most women in first world countries define respect in terms of social, political, and economic gender equalities, while other women might not care much for political or economic equality. To the women that do strive for these rights, there are people here to support you. That is why campaigns like heforshe exist.
But this does not mean that women deserve to be shamed for not confidently claiming to be feminists. These women are just as human as the rest, and do not deserve to be treated unfairly for their beliefs. Because beliefs are manifold; and while some might argue that one belief is better than another, I believe that a wise and compassionate person exhibits, above all else, empathy.
Mother Teresa didn’t shame those who weren’t feminists. She changed the world through love and compassion. If feminists who say they want to help humanity really do want to improve the world, then they need to realize that not everyone can or will identify as a feminist.
I am a feminist, and I will never criticize you for not being one.