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3 years ago, I was sat in school adamantly denying being a feminist to some boys.
They’d been talking about feminism in a way that was anything but positive and then felt the need to ask the girls in the class if they identified with this strange, unknown creature. The first couple who had the audacity to say yes were greeted with mocking laughter, so when they came round to me, my natural reaction was to say no.
But I didn’t just say that to avoid being laughed at; I actually thought that my response should be the correct answer.
“Feminists hate men” and “they’re just being irrational at this point” were arguments that I heard pretty frequently growing up.
Yet, what I’ve come to realise since then is that this isn’t what feminism is all about.
Ever heard of a misandrist?
This is a term used to describe people who are strongly prejudiced against men – so, like, the opposite of a misogynist but equally as bad.
In contrast to this, feminist leader Bell Hooks defines feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”
Sounds pretty different to aiming for the next matriarchy…
But how come people still think feminists are ‘crazy man-haters’?
Well, let’s start at the beginning.
In the 19th and early 20th century, feminism started to take shape as women began campaigning for some equal rights, primarily the right to vote. This is what is known today as first-wave feminism.
However, this move obviously wasn’t liked much by men in power at the time. (There were those in favour of women’s suffrage, such as David Lloyd George, who served as British Prime Minister from 1916-1922, but many weren’t.)
In 1914, one of the key figures for shaping public health in the USA, William T. Sedgwick, argued that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because it might render them infertile. Eighty years later, television evangelist Pat Robertson claimed that feminism was nothing more than an “anti-family political movement.” See a connection?
Many also believed that science backed up their arguments. So, many of the women fighting for change were seen as trying to defy the laws of nature – which, in reality, was just a society made by men, for men.
But there are other reasons for why feminists are still sometimes seen as crazy.
Suffragettes were often portrayed as fanatical for wanting to defy the foundation of this society. For example, there’s a striking postcard from the earth 20th century of a screaming baby, throwing a tantrum whilst yelling, “I want the vote!”, clearly suggesting that giving women such a right would be just as productive as giving it to a child.
In other words, a woman wanting power was not easily associated with a woman in her right mind, and some of those views that we thought had died out after women gained the vote have instead been drip-fed down the generations to the feminism of our age.
I’m not trying to pretend that feminism is perfect, but the majority of feminists want nothing more than equal rights for themselves and to support equality for others, too. The last thing they want is hatred, anger, and division.
Is that really so crazy?