I am the Dictionary definition of a feminist: an advocate for social, political, legal, and economic equality between the sexes. I live in a country where the Prime Minister has proudly declared himself a feminist. Why? Because it was 2016! I am a middle class woman living in the Western world, and in this day and age, sexism should long be a thing of the past.
If this is all true, why does being a feminist hurt so much?
My life would probably be easier if I thought differently. I wouldn’t have to face trolls on the internet. In fact, if I was a female anti-feminist, I’d probably have a cult following of fawning Pepes, rather than be the occasional focus of their ire. But perhaps this is small potatoes. The ideology of anti-feminism goes far deeper than internet trolls.
If I was a female anti-feminist, it would be much easier for me to settle down. I would make men feel more comfortable with me. I’d be less difficult, and frankly, I’d expect less. I would also give more. I would put more effort into my appearance beyond my current regime of staying hygienic. I would wear makeup, heels, and nicer clothes. I would shave my legs more than once or twice a month. I would have more fucks to give.
If I wasn’t a feminist, I’d put on a fancy dress and take a picture of myself holding a cute sign about how gender equality is like, so overrated, and people would tell me how brave I am for doing so. Because rape culture is totally not a thing. Even if it was, men can be raped, too. Therefore, feminism is totes irrelevant.
But here’s the thing: I am a feminist, whether I want to be, or not. I cannot stop believing in gender equality.
I cannot pretend to care about day creams and night creams and how to dress for my face shape and all of the other frivolous things that patriarchy so conveniently tries to distract women with when there are far bigger problems in the world. Dressing for my face shape is a waste of time.
I cannot pretend that the argument that “men suffer too” is sufficient to eradicate my concern for the state of gender relations in the world, because my feminism is intersectional: I don’t just care about women. I care about all humans, the planet, and the animals too.
In the same way I know how our speciesist society’s treatment of animals is of no benefit to humans, I also know that treating women as lesser than equal does not benefit men. It harms them. Society treats animal welfare as an afterthought, allowing them to suffer in factory farms to meet consumer demands. This is unfair to animals, but it also means disease, premature death, and global poverty for people. So does the presumption that women are the weaker sex also have negative repercussions for men? Absolutely. I cannot pretend it doesn’t.
I also cannot pretend that I should be “happy with what I have,” because things could be so much worse if I lived under a law where a woman’s testimony was worth half of a man’s, and accusing someone of rape required five male witnesses. How can I tell myself that there is no such thing as rape culture in the West when two male witnesses weren’t enough to land a man more than three months in jail. (He just had such a promising future!) When I live in a country where graphic video evidence was not enough to condemn an alleged rapist? In a country where 47%—almost half—of those surveyed were happy with this result? I cannot pretend there is no such thing as rape culture when rapists are let off the hook time and time again, in both judicial courts and the court of public opinion.
I cannot pretend that women have full equality under the law, because in the South women still fight for their right to choose, even when their decision is influenced by rape or concern for their life. Because when a teenage girl miscarried in a Dallas high school bathroom in 2014, police swarmed the school not to offer medical assistance, but to look for the “suspect.” (But don’t worry—ultimately they determined that no charges should be laid. Slut’s on her own if she needs medical help though lol.)
There are some women who insist that feminism is not only unnecessary, but damaging. They say that women exist to look good and be what society determines as “feminine.” They should shut up, start families, toe the line, and be glad this isn’t the Middle East. They do not see what does not immediately affect them. Such women will never get it, unless they have to face it head on. They will not see it until someone takes advantage of them, and they are subjected to the “second rape” in court. When their video evidence is disregarded. Their testimonies mocked. And when the judge ultimately rules that it isn’t fair to destroy a man’s life, and the case is dismissed entirely. If this is what it takes for these women to get it, I hope they never do.
Things would be easier if I saw the world a different way. If I gave more fucks about things I shouldn’t and gave less fucks about things that I should. But I can’t unsee what I’ve seen no matter how much it hurts. So unfortunately, I must remain a feminist. I must continue to strive for equality of the sexes, whether I want to or not.
I wish I wasn’t a feminist, but unfortunately, I am.