Or when you thought you had it all figured out when really, you didn't.
It could have started with Trump and the Pussy Hats or perhaps much later with the Harvey Weinstein scandal. It could also well be because a day doesn't seem to go by without the topic popping up on my screen wherever I look. I just turned thirty-one and among the many things I still question, one of them is if I am a feminist. Another thing I don't know is if I actually want to be labeled as one.
For some reason, the word itself almost always made me feel uncomfortable, the way you would be when someone asks for your opinion and you don't know what to say simply because deep down, you don't know enough about it to back up your judgment. You want to say something — either yes or no — but at the same time, it feels like it could be held against you due to all the social pressure the scary F-word carries with it.
But reading on and listening to others, I started to get the impression that perhaps, I wasn't the only one to feel so confused about the whole notion. The current events leaving very little room to avoid the subject any longer, I started to dive into some deeper research on the matter to hopefully come to form my very own, unbiased opinion on the topic. While I soon came to a decision regarding my position on feminism, there are a few other questions that kept rising above the surface as I navigated my way through my decision-making process. Five questions precisely, and as I soon found out, I wasn't the only one to ask those to myself.
1. When You Didn't Know What The Word Meant
The very first step was for me to figure out what the word meant. A plain and simple, almost stupid thing to do I told myself since I thought that I would obviously know what feminism and being a feminist meant by age thirty. The second step was hence to admit I knew nothing about it (I swear I could almost hear Ygrid whisper to me You know nothing just the way she did to Jon Snow). Anyways, turns out I was wrong and that my definition of the concept was completely biased by years of social events and media exposure. So biased in fact that the word was completely deprived of its original meaning up until the point it resonated with me like a very extremist action of some sort.
So, long story short, I finally decided to put on my big girl pants and make up my mind. Starting at the very beginning, I googled the definition. Here's what I found.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, feminism is:
'The advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.'
I sighed in relief and sank back into my chair. There was absolutely nothing wrong about that definition. In a nutshell, feminism seems to be about the very simple idea that men and women should be equals as in having equal opportunities, equal salaries for the same position, equal chances. Sounds fair and pretty obvious to me, so in that case, I will gladly be called a feminist.
But then, why did it still look so bad to be one?
2. When It Sounded Prejudicial
If you think about it, the definition itself doesn't mean any harm so why do I sometimes still feel like it's an insult to be called a feminist? That's when I realized there's a gap between being labeled as a feminist and supporting gender equality.
If we start looking past the simple definition of the word and look at how it is applied in our everyday society, things start getting tricky, not to say ugly. The word means much more than simple equality; it's about the perception one has on another individual.
In my head, the word was often associated with the Femen and the idea that people were going to perceive you as someone permanently demonstrating on the streets for your rights or just take any opportunity society throws at you to make a demonstration of it while dragging men in the dirt. Then, to me, feminism also meant that you hate men.
3. When It Became A Battle Of The Sexes
French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar said it best and probably way ahead of her time:
“What worries me about contemporary feminism with which I completely agree when it comes to equal pay (...) is the element of advocacy against men (...) which tend to establish ghettos.”
Somehow, it feels like it became necessary to find someone to blame and in that particular case, that men became a target of choice. Now I’m not saying that men are right and women are wrong but it got to a point where there isn’t room for any nuances in proving one’s point.
And so it wasn’t long since we found ourselves in a battle of the sexes all over again except that in the midst of it all, it turned out that men weren’t the only one held responsible.
So that’s when the feminism concept became even more complicated on a whole new level.
4. When Women Started To Take It Out On Each Other
Actress Emma Watson, a proud and self-proclaimed feminist, who was called a hypocrite and an anti-feminist for exposing part of her breasts in a Vanity Fair photo shoot in March 2017 is a striking example of women taking out (very) publicly on each other.
A similar scenario repeated itself during the Harvey Weinstein scandal when Rose McGowan publicly exposed Meryl Streep for knowing all about it and yet not speaking out sooner.
From then on, any opportunity seemed right to provide backlash. When women did speak up, they found themselves accused of doing it too late or out of fakery. And for any of the women who had dared to express a different point of view, it wasn't long before they got dragged down too. Big Bang Theory's actress Mayim Bialik probably still has a bitter taste in her mouth following her column in the New York Times and the very negative responses it received.
5. When You Had To Stand Up For Your Opinion
And so there it was, all over the media and all over my feed with a myriad of hashtags at the tip of my fingertips, with a new development every day, impatiently waiting for me to stand up for my opinion. Between women taking it out on each other for not being feminist enough and men judging women for being too feminist, to speak or not to speak clearly became the question.
Could it be why, I, for a very long time refused to be labeled a feminist without even knowing much about the concept?
And so, I am wondering now, what about you?
How do you feel about feminism today and would you have a problem in publicly standing up as a feminist?