A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posed the following question to her facebook friends: "Do you think the word 'feminist' is negative, positive, or neither?" And while I have very strong feelings on the subject, I decided to pose the same question to my friends & family, without throwing my opinion out there, and see what they had to say.
Although there were a few positive responses, overall I have to admit that I was blown away and saddened by the responses I got.
"Depends on how it's used."
"Depends on the context"
"I always felt it had negative connotation , such that anyone who was a feminist tried to put women above men or pit them against men. When I looked the word up in the dictionary, I was surprised to find out that it is actually any person who advocates EQUAL rights for women and men. In theory, it should be positive then. I've never had the impression that it was a good thing to be a feminist."
"Everyone deserves to be treated equal. The problem I have with the feminist movement is it as robbed women of the very characteristics which separate us from men. Denying what makes us women is not true progress in my opinion, and I am shocked at the lack of respect women receive in society today."
"I have a problem with the concept we can have it all....in reality it doesn't work and the causality is usually the children. I have a lifetime of experience in this area as a feminist, mother, and a teacher. I personally think it is selfish, and as I said before we are denying our own nature. Like it or not there are two sexes and we operate differently. That is not to say that a couple can't have daddy as the main caregiver. And, I can tell you that when I took off to be a stay at home mom for several years I was definitely made to feel something was wrong with me-and that was at a time when I believed you could do it all. We can rationalize it all we want, but the results are all around. us."
"When I hear feminist I think of a b..."
"The words bra-less & hairy armpits come to mind."
"I think most people think of it in negative (and extreme) terms"
"I think most people consider it negative, because of the few women who take feminism too far. I mean every aspect of life has its place and value. Having said that, there can always be "too much of a good thing". So when people take it negatively its because some women go a little crazy with it. Men and women were made differently for a reason, and we should not try to be each other. Created equal yes, be the same, no."
"I know plenty of people (in my own family) to whom the word feminist is like a dirty curse word"
Depressing, right? And these answers came from a wide variety of smart, loving, hilarious women! However, there was one blindly glorious response that helped reignite my faith:
"The word per its definition, and as I consider myself? Positive. The common social perception of "overbearing" feminists? Negative. And it pisses me off. There are radical Republicans and radical Democrats and radical EVERYTHING and yet only with feminism does the radical apparently encapsulate the entire philosophy in the eyes of the general public. (Here's a hint: it doesn't for real.)"
"A feminist recognizes that not only do women need to be liberated from old, antiquated roles (i.e. women being biologically fit to be housewives as the old tale goes) but that men also need to be liberated from, for example, the limiting expectation of the "ideal" woman who can cook AND look fly all the time because it prevents him from finding love (and himself!) in the most unexpected places. Same for the woman who expects the ideal man from the magazines or movies, like a zero-sum game. He doesn't exist. A true feminist is aware of this double standard and works to voice to the world that doing this to men is unhealthy for *both* genders.
How does a feminist work to improve the situation? By treating both men and women as human beings with their own unique set of needs and experiences, rather than a stereotype of what a "real woman" or "a real man" looks and behaves like. A feminist can be a woman or a man, actually, because all the person has to do is support and participate in understanding gender roles and how they help and hinder our relationships towards one another. This is the most basic explanation I can provide, I hope it helps in some way. It's all about cooperation by both parts, NOT manhating, as the popular belief goes"
My considerably less articulate thoughts on what it means to be a feminist?
A feminist is someone who thinks men & women deserve equal rights - NOT misandry (the hatred of men & boys). Under that definition, why would you NOT be a feminist? I know it has a somewhat negative image in our society & that just makes me so sad, and frankly, really pissed off. I believe that I am inherently equal to those around me, men or women, not any better or worse. Well, ok, there are some men & women that I'm far superior to, but there are also a ridiculous amount of folks of both sexes who are way cooler/smarter/funnier than I am. It's about the individual.
Feminism should not be considered a dirty word -- We should all be proud to be labeled as a feminist, but as a whole, we're not. Why is that?
For me, the real issues are opportunity and choice. You can be a feminist and choose to be a stay at home mom, work part-time, or be some fancy big wig professional -- it's your choice. I happen to be a feminist who never wanted to be a trophy wife or a SAHM, I've always wanted to financially support myself & my family. I get gratification from the respect I get in the workplace and I need to have a life outside of my home and outside of my family to feel truly fulfilled. So right now I work part-time, four days a week and spend the rest of my time with the little mister. I'm a better mother, wife, and friend when I work outside of the home.
That doesnt mean I hate men or think I'm better. Like I said, it really is all about access to equal opportunities and choices. We should all have the right to decide what is best for us and our family, based on individual needs and not on outdated standards.