Lena Dunham, the writer of the ‘Not that kind of girl,’ interviewed Hillary Clinton a few weeks back. And when the she asked Hillary, if she was a feminist, Hillary answered with a bright smile – “Yes, absolutely”.
I relate to Hillary – I am one of those people who just say it out loud without any hesitation: I am a feminist. But then there a lot of people who would say something like: “Yes, I am for gender equality but…” Usually ending with: “I am not feminist”.
Why are they so afraid of this word? Do they feel the word feminist is so radical? Frustrating? Outdated? I’m trying to figure out what we could do about it.
Girls, what’s wrong with the F-word?
I remember well the day when at one of my university classes, a teacher asked us, international students – who consider herself or himself a feminist? I raised my hand as quickly as I could; I might have looked like Hermione in Snape’s first potion class. Apart from one Indian guy(!!!) no one else shared the same enthusiasm.
I have good memories about feminism. As I entered the stage for my very first slam poetry competition – my hands shaking as I stepped out – I said into the microphone:
“I am the F-word
Not the fuck, or phallus
Just a female activist
I am a feminist, just like that”
Since then this my slam turned into the most shared blog post from my writings.
So Girls, what exactly is the problem with the F-word?
Sometimes I have talks with young women who don’t have much experience with sexism. They all claim not to be feminist, but when the topic is slut-shaming, body-shaming, the mutilation of female genitalia, they stand up for the women’s rights. And there are those, who prefer not to mention and identify with the word feminism, but they clearly behave like a feminist. I believe in the power of verbalisation, that’s the reason that today, I am not afraid of talking about it.
Acknowledge the diversity
But I also experienced the shame of being a feminist. When you cannot say it proudly because you feel the stigma around you. It is frustrating, so you stay silent. I consider myself a liberal feminist. But the feminist circle is very varied – there are Christian, Muslim, Marxist, and even conservative feminists. The beauty of feminism lies in diversity. Even though, we stand up for the same basic things, our point of view can differ. Accepting it gives us the power to get rid of the unnecessary fights and concentrate on the important changes.
The negative feelings and connotations about feminism come from the same background as any kind of ideologies – radicalism. There was a time for radicalism, and I don’t agree with it, but even today, it is around. But you know what? I find the stigma of a bunch of man-hating, hairy lesbians who want to control the world heavily revolting. It is easy to laugh about it, make jokes, but I can tell that misogyny is much funnier – and frightening.
Get to know your issues
Just a recent example: A few months ago a group called “Women against feminism” came about in Hungary; led by a very young woman. Though she made it to the cover pages of several newspapers, it is obvious that what they are so against, don’t even exist, at least not in Hungary. So why the buzz? They just wanna be against feminism because it is the F-word. Becuase they think that feminism is all about hating men.
But then there are other attempts in Budapest: a couple of days ago I went to an event where two well-known Hungarian feminists – a philosopher and a journalist/activist – had an open answering session about feminism. The questions came from a previously opened anonymous poll.
One of the questions was: what’s the relationship between feminism and gender-related issues?
I would say they are quite the same. As Simone de Beauvoir says, “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.” Thus, the very notion of feminism is about balancing gender inequality. Throughout history women always had been the oppressed ones; societies were based on patriarchy. So no surprise that I cannot say that I care about the men-related issues with the same passion as I care for women.
However that doesn’t stop me from arguing with people who think fathers shouldn’t spend the same amount of time with babies, or men cannot cry in public. It is rather about the relevance of things. I do care about the movements of black women, but since I’m “enjoying” white privilege in a European country, I cannot do much, apart from not being a racist.
Sometimes feminism is just a word but it defines me, my beliefs, values and my relationships with everyone. And at the end of the day, I am just another 21-year-old girl who wants to change the world and for that, I am not afraid to use the F-word, I am not afraid to be a feminist.