A while back I read a study conducted in 2008 which polled American college students on their views towards feminist ideologies and identities. (Click here for the full shebang.) The study conducted by Shannon Houvouras and J. Scott Carter confirmed what I already knew to be true.
People dislike feminism, or at least they think they do.
Respondents were asked if they agreed with a series of values: equal pay for men and women, reproductive rights, the elimination of gender discrimination, and so on. A large majority said yes.
Not so fast.
When respondents were asked, "What is a feminist?” they defined the term as, “a woman who wants to stand out more”, “someone who is whiney”, and (my personal favourite) “fem-nazi”. (Houvouras and Carter, 2008).
Those who did not self-identify as a feminist, as Houvouras and Carter note, were more likely to define a feminist as one who, “supports female superiority, dislikes men, discriminates based on gender, has negative personal characteristics, and is lesbian or butch” (2008).
It is the sad truth that we live in a world where being called a feminist is more often an insult than a compliment.
As this and many other studies have shown, the principles of feminism are relevant and respected, yet the reputation of the movement is stomped on by society.
There is an emergent popularity of this ‘no, but...’ type of feminism whereby men and women embrace feminist principles yet reject the feminist label.
Typical hard-nosed Paula would like to chalk this one up to ‘uninformed people who will one day learn’, but we can’t wait around.
This rejection has produced a detrimental paradox between general support for feminist philosophies and a lack of identification with the feminist movement.
How can feminism make strides of consequence when almost everyone agrees with the theory, but only few support the practice?
Sociological experts say that individual level principles and consciousness alone cannot cause a sizable increase in support for a movement (Taylor et al, 2001). They say social movements are based on cycles, which depend on broad political, social, and cultural factors. They state that a resurgence of feminism will not happen from a micro-level.
I say shut it.
When has a movement ever been accepted by people in the masses? Did people all wake up on the same day and say, “Hey, people of different colour should totally be treated equally”? No.
Movements are fought for. Everyday. Movements are won by perseverance, by accepting that there will be resistance, and using that to fuel the fire.
So I say this: if you believe in equality for all genders, you are a feminist.
Accept it. Embrace it. And tell your friends.
Feminism is not the F word.