As a proud feminist, it pains me to say this, but telling everyone you’re a feminist is one of the most counterproductive things you can do. Before you freak out, let me explain. After years of shouting about my feminism from the rooftops, I came away with the crushing realization that it was a massive waste of energy and that my time could be spent better elsewhere. Consider this a friendly helping hand—here’s why pronouncing your feminist ways isn’t in your best interest.
It’s not strong enough.
Don’t get me wrong—it’s a great place to start, but being a woman and telling people that all you want is equality isn’t strong enough. Of course you want equality. Any woman in her right mind wants equality even if she doesn’t really know what “feminist” means and is therefore reluctant to identify as one. Equality spans so many different areas. Be confrontational about it. Don’t expect the word to do the fighting for you. Go further. If you’re particularly concerned about wage inequality, make noise about it. If you’re concerned about women’s access to healthcare, make noise about it.
It prevents conversation with people who need it most.
There are way too many people in this world who need to be schooled on what equality actually means. Unfortunately, these people are a lot less likely to listen to you if you begin a conversation by telling them you’re a feminist. It’s one of those words that can completely shut down an interaction before it’s even begun. This is annoying because all you’re trying to do is help educate them, but if you want to get your point across, try making your stance clear without using the word “feminism.” For whatever reason, a lot of people have no idea what it means, and will simply detach from or refuse to have any further conversation once you bring it up. Have the conversation, show them you’re right, and then once they agree with you, say, “Oh, by the way…now that you agree with me about equality, you’re a feminist. Have a nice day.”
It’s been overused to the point of meaninglessness.
How many people have you seen (side-eyeing you, Kim K) who seem terrified to discuss the word “feminist” let alone identify as one? A lot. The word is exhausted and over-politicized. Equality between the sexes is a no-brainer, but somehow the word “feminism” has come to mean something totally different for anyone who hears it. It’s been reclaimed and repackaged and attacked so many times at this point that its meaning is too misunderstood for anyone to get their point across. If everyone’s using it to promote different things, its power is completely lost. No one cares anymore. You can identify as a feminist, by all means, but come up with some other identifiers that have retained their power.
If you have to say it, you’re not doing it right.
Remember in college when your creative writing professors were always telling you to “show, don’t tell”? It seems like there’s some unspoken agreement these days that if you claim to be something, you automatically get credit for it without having to prove yourself. But guess what? Calling yourself a feminist means absolutely nothing if you’re not backing it up with how you live your life. If you have to tell people that you’re a feminist, clearly you’re not walking the walk.
You’re more interesting than that.
Ladies, we’re all complex beings, possessing an infinite number of beautiful characteristics and unique values. Don’t sell yourself short! Don’t make feminism the most interesting thing about you. It isn’t, and if you think it is, you need to do some soul-searching. Wanting equality between men and women isn’t an interesting standpoint. In my opinion, it’s the women who don’t want equality that are interesting, and obviously not in a good way.
Actions speak louder than words.
If you’ve ever been on Facebook, you’ve probably seen people writing paragraph after paragraph about what they believe in. I’d much rather all these Facebook friends spent their precious time calling congressmen or organizing social groups or helping out at a local food bank than writing textbook length novels about how they feel. Feminism exists only because inequality exists, and inequality will be here to stay if all anyone ever does is talk about it. Start a feminist book club at your school, go make some signs and protest for women’s rights, apply to work for a female-oriented non-profit. Just don’t waste your time stenciling “Girl Power” onto your t-shirt and then go hang out in your objectifying pajama bottoms and watch the systematic degradation of women on TV.
It should be obvious.
Shouldn’t the people who aren’t feminists be the outliers? Telling people you’re a feminist as if it’s some radical stance empowers the misogynists who want everyone to think feminism is only for the extremists. Wanting equality is not extreme. Maybe we should focus our energy on calling out the misogynists instead of calling ourselves feminists. Right now, everything is backward. Misogynists think they’re mainstream and treat feminists as the minority. It’s time to flip the script.
We need dialogue, not labels.
Labels are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be really empowering to call yourself a feminist or anything else you’re proud to be. But on the other hand, they’re so oversimplified. We need to talk about issues, not just name them. Yes, identifying an issue is the first step, but the word “Feminism” was created almost two hundred years ago (yes, there were feminists before Gloria Steinam), and it has a lot less power now than it did then. Now is the time to go a little deeper into what it means and how to address, not just name it.
It might be time to get rid of the word altogether.
Have you ever noticed how countries with the most gender equality don’t have an equivalent word for “feminism” in their languages? Turns out they don’t need one, and that should be the goal, right? We shouldn’t need a word to describe the fact that men and women should be treated equally. That should just be the norm. We might not be anywhere close to that kind of society, but maybe it’s time to roll up our sleeves start making it a reality. Anything else is just a distraction, and we’ve got plenty of haters out there doing that job for us.
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