When I became interested in feminism almost a year ago, I was immediately all in. I was excited about the prospect of changing the world and bringing equality to society. And that’s what feminism felt like to me at the time. But over the past year, as I have become more aware of other contemporary feminists, I have slowly become disenchanted with the whole thing.
This is not to say that I feel any different about my original goals and aspirations. The disenchantment comes from the way that I see feminism playing out in our society today. I listened to a podcast the other day that talked about call out culture and about how damaging that can be in some instances. This is obviously very relevant to feminism and #metoo. There are many things that should be called out and talked about. I don’t think this is inherently bad. But I think, too often, people immediately want to point fingers without really thinking about what that might mean for the person as well as for the greater community.
I could go into all of the exceptions to the rule here but I won't. If we think about it for a moment, it’s pretty clear that there is a difference between rape/sexual assault and a guy ghosting you. I’m not trying to minimize either of these situations. And yes, people do need to be made aware of how their actions effect others. But I don’t think that being a jerk about it is the answer.
The podcast went on to say that call out culture can easily snowball. This often doesn’t give people a chance to acknowledge their mistakes and try to learn from them. If someone is publicly humiliated for something (ignoring for a moment their intentions), they are much more likely to feel anger, discouragement, or hopelessness for what they have done. And none of these emotions are conducive to growth.
This can create an environment that feels like Us vs Them. This kind of black and white thinking doesn’t help anyone. It is only by working to foster a community where it’s ok to make mistakes that we can see true growth and change. Giving people the benefit of the doubt, or at least the opportunity to make it right, is vital to success.
I think this kind of polarization can also give the wrong impression to someone who is not actively involved in the feminist community. On the surface, it can seem as though all feminists hate, or are “out to get” men. This is most definitely not the case, but boiling feminism down to such an elementary understanding is counterproductive.
Which brings me to my original point that I am getting tired of calling myself a feminist. I don’t hate men or think they are less than women, or that anyone is less than anyone else. And I am tired of having to qualify my feminism by saying that. I also don’t think that anyone should apologize because they consciously made a decision that might not be considered “feminist.” And yes, I can empathize completely with the desire to fight back and give men a taste of what we have dealt with for far too long. However, I don’t think that a tit-for-tat mentality is beneficial.
I think part of the problem is that people want to create or follow “rules” about what it means to be a feminist. I will tell you right now: there are no rules. If you want to wear pink - totally fine! If you appreciate a compliment on your appearance from a man - no problem! If you don’t mind a guy walking up to you at the bar and starting a conversation with you - great! And, if you decide to swear off men forever that is totally your choice. That is not at all what this is about.
And maybe I’m naive for saying this, but I really wish people would just be kinder to each other. I know it’s not easy and we are all hurting. But being super confrontational isn’t always the best idea. Ignorance doesn’t necessarily equate to malice. That guy at the gas station who made vaguely creepy comments about my body may or may not even realize what he is doing. And if I’m just straight up rude to him, then he may never learn.
Feminism is about taking back autonomy of your life and body. It means not feeling obligated to behave in a certain way. It’s about determining what feels right for you as an individual and acting on that feeling. Don’t do anything because you think you should. And try to have a little compassion for all humans. It is not anyone’s responsibility to educate others but a little empathy can go a long way. We can’t change the past, so let’s make the future brighter for everyone.
Clarification: I am not in any way saying that feminism is not worth it or that I’m giving up because it’s too hard. I’m mostly just advocating for nonviolence and stating that I’m tired of all the anger and hatred and malice that is thrown around so often. Let’s try to help each other ok?