A few years back, I was heading over to meet up with some friends. I stopped for gas, and while I was in line to pay, the man standing behind me began to get uncomfortably close. I moved away, but he crept closer.
“Hey, girl. What you up to?” he asked. I ignored him, and after a minute had passed, no longer whispering, he began calling me a “bitch” and “full of it.”
The person ahead of me in line and the cashier, both men, remained silent.
A few more minutes passed, I paid, and left feeling dirty, as if I’d done something wrong.
I wish I could say this was the last time something like this happened to me in a gas station in broad daylight. I wish I could say this was the last time I was approached this way.
I wish there weren’t worse things that women encounter in public, but on a daily basis women are harassed and accosted.
There are many reason why I am a feminist, but events like this only reinforce that decision.
Yet, telling people this has become a confession. I find myself fearing that I will scare others off with a philosophy that defines part of my identity.
“Oh, you’re a feminist?” I’ve heard this more than once, the question surrounded with a mix of disbelief and wariness. At times, revealing this has been like disclosing a dark secret that I should be ashamed of.
My brother has told me that feminism is like communism, good in theory, but in practice not so much. We were raised through a culture intertwined with machismo, though, so there were different expectations and rules for each of us. He has three daughters, and I fear they will grow up thinking feminism is bad.
Despite the questions and the judgment, I cannot separate myself from feminism. To do so would mean to look the other way on so many issues, many of which have personally affected me.
Feminism has become an unsettling word for some. Despite what the movement stands for, people dismiss it simply because of its name. Some refuse to even see what it means to be a feminist before ridiculing them or assuming the negative rumors.
I’ve heard many different explanations for the name, but one that has stuck with me is that it is called feminism because it is the feminine traits that are deemed inferior.
People do not stop calling themselves Christians because of the Westboro’s church or the KKK’s claims of association to the religion. Rather, they fight to show their side of Christianity, the good side.
Why should feminism be any different?
Should the movement be expected to change its whole branding because a few people have gone extreme?
The unknown can be scary. The big can be scary. The loud can be scary.
Feminism is big, and loud and, for many, it is unknown.
Members of this movement have shown they are not afraid to speak up when it comes to issues they consider important. The issues covered by the movement range from LGBTQ rights to workplace inequality to social norms in need of combatting, and a lot more.
Most of the criticism comes from individuals who refuse to actually look into the movement. They go off the information that circles throughout the media, which is usually the extremes, and disregard the actual messages and efforts of feminism.
For example, those who argue that feminism is misandry rarely acknowledge the fact that feminism also speaks up about how men are not truly allowed to show emotion without being deemed weak.
Rarely are the critics willing to listen to the facts or the points of feminists; rather, they shut down a discussion with comments of snowflakes and man-hating. For example, meninism was born out of protest against feminism. Still, this movement is solely focused on complaining about feminist actions. The Meninist Facebook and Twitter pages are centered around dismissing feminists as “man-hating lesbians” and commenting on their attractiveness.
If they were fighting for men’s rights, they may focus their efforts on issues of hyper-masculinity and male rape. Instead, they fight against feminism.
Twitter user Sylva (@queenfeminist) summed up this concern in one tweet. “Where are the meninists fighting for trans men? MOC? Gay men? Male victims of rape? Are they just too busy harassing feminists online?”
Criticism itself is expected, and some would go as far as to say it’s needed. The movement cannot improve with unanimous agreement on everything, but the criticism should be informed and should amount to more than just insults.
The stigma around the movement may remain the same, or it may worsen as there seems to be a trend to call anyone who speaks on injustice a snowflake or attention seeker. Regardless, the issues covered by feminism are too important to its members, and they will not be deterred by the critics and rumors.
Have a discussion, give valid points to counter actions or thoughts, but be prepared have a conversation, not a battle of insults.
Feminism is not going away. It is growing. Few will be shamed out of their beliefs, and they shouldn’t have to be.
So, instead of assuming and judging based on rumors, look into the movement before you make up your mind about it.
Saya is a sophomore political science and psychology double major.