So how do we change the perception that “feminism is scary”? The answer is that we shouldn’t have to. Instead of teaching women to shy away from feminism we should be empowering women to speak up.
The other week I was told that I was ‘taking this whole feminist thing too seriously’. Sadly, this wasn’t the first time that I’ve been told to repress my passion for social equality. Mentioning feminist issues such as the gendered pay gap, sexual harassment and gender expectations are too often met with eye-rolling, yawning and unhidden apathy, or pithy words like ‘that’s just how it is’. I once thought that the women who told me this were complacent in their own dehumanisation and had grown comfortable with patronisation and sexist commentary, which they are told should be taken lightly. But now I know why some want to hush my feminist beliefs. It’s because being a feminist is an unpopular decision, one that people predict will lead to drinking copious amounts of wine in an empty apartment peppered with cat hair while scrolling through dating sites at the sour age of forty.
Women are given two choices by society. Their first choice is to ignore feminism and remain silent. This silence will often lead to a pseudo sense of respect, where men in particular congratulate women for not joining feminists, who irritate men by forcing them to reflect on their own privilege. The second choice women are given is to be vocal and speak out about inequalities – but only at their own risk. British pop-star, Rita Ora has made headlines for claiming that people are too afraid to call themselves feminists. She also claimed that she identifies as a feminist because feminism advocates for acceptance and equality, which is something she is passionate about. The belief that feminists bring harassment upon themselves by speaking up about their experiences is disgusting case of victim blaming, which stains the premise of an ethical, democratic society.
Clementine Ford recently posted a status on Facebook where she argued, ‘The internet is a battleground for women. People need to be aware of exactly how bad it is and protest it.’ She coupled this post with photos that outlined the extreme hatred some women receive merely for calling themselves feminists. Most of these photos had sexual undertones. Women received rape threats, death threats and were slandered for their beliefs. Some other attacks have been invasive, like the leaking of nude photographs. These photos and comments are something we have become too comfortable with glancing over when it presents itself on our Facebook newsfeeds. Slut shaming and double standards are so routine that defending themselves against trolls has become a ritual for many feminists.
p class="wordpresspost">(Excerpt etc. first posted on. Orig. attribution above.)