Dear fellow feminists,
I love that you're a feminist. I love that you're fighting for something you believe in. I love that you're fighting for yourself and for others.
Feminists and feminism have a huge problem, and it's not the patriarchy.
The amount of people who aren't feminists is astounding. Many people adamantly dispel feminism without knowing exactly what it is. For example, this blog on Tumblr, Women Against Feminism, showcases women who don't like feminism for a myriad of reasons. A few celebrities have come out as not a feminist, like Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting.
These things make me sad. Not because Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting likes playing housewife, or because these people believe women shouldn't be portrayed as victims. I'm sad because they don't know what feminism is. We all know that feminism stands for equal rights between men and women, and the definition has socially broadened to include trans* people too. It's not fair that we expect everyone to know this definition just because we live in our safe, little, college bubble where we can easily find people who believe the same things we do.
Whose fault is that? Feminists.
These aforementioned people might actually be ignorant, close-minded, quick to judge, and condemn anything they don't understand or find weird. Although, a lot of people only know feminism through the extremes, as in the "crazy feminazi" label.
Obviously, something needs to change.
If this many people have a negative view of feminism, if this many people don't accurately know the definition of feminism, it's time to change the way we talk about it. It's time to change the way we live it.
Feminism opposes exclusive language and systems, yet, most of my feminist friends on social media use very exclusive language. A few love to call out white, straight, older Christian men, (for good reasons), but they also make fun of white girls who wear leggings, UGGs, with their hair in a bun, and bring Starbucks to class. They speak like their voice is the most important because they've experienced oppression. They make fun of anyone closely associated with Type A. They blame the world for their problems and victimize themselves.
If we're standing on our soapboxes preaching that everyone should be accepted, that everyone deserves equal opportunity, that everyone deserves to have their voice heard, then how has this become accepted?
Maybe they like the attention. Maybe they like all the 'likes' on their pro-feminism Facebook post. Maybe they truly believe the world should be run by a non-binary, transgender, hispanic, bisexual, disabled person with a low socioeconomic status. That's perfectly fine. I'm not interested in their beliefs or their motives. I'm interested in their actions and how they communicate with the world in regards to feminism.
I'm tired of getting weird looks when I tell people I'm a feminist. I'm tired of this label feeling like an admission to a mental institution where the world puts us in our own dimly-lit corner and patronizes us.
In the context of social media and communication, it doesn't matter if you're actually a victim. What matters is the words you type and how you communicate. If you verbally attack a man for thinking that women should stay home with the children to cook and clean, if you call him a "sexist pig," you're not going to achieve anything. You'll look like those crazy feminists who people make fun of.
If you ask a man why he thinks this, and try to understand his thought process, you'll have a much better chance of appealing to him and teaching him about the 21st century. Plus, he'll have encountered a level-minded feminist who doesn't fly off the handle at every slightly maybe-oppressive comment. You'll leave him with a good impression of a feminist who attempts to understand both sides of the argument before passing judgment.
Feminists, you have to take the higher road when arguing for our side. If you're trying to change someone else's way of thinking, they have the upper hand. They're perfectly fine with their close-mindedness, but we're not fine with sexism, racism, or any -isms. Mindsets are malleable with the right tools. In your feminist tool-bag, you'll want knowledge, patience, and understanding. And some more knowledge.
We can't expect everyone to know what we know. Not everyone stranger will ask for your preferred pronouns, and you shouldn't show offense if they don't. Not everyone is at the same level of understanding of feminist issues as we are, and while it's frustrating, getting angry and defensive at these people is the worst way to communicate.
I promise, most people who make ignorant and harmful statements do not mean any harm. They're simply ignorant and you all have to do is show them the light. Nicely.
A big part of the problem is when people form their opinions on a subject based on what people say about it, instead of conducting their own independent research. Many people only know feminism through social media, which might be the absolute worst place to learn about feminism.
To the rejecters, I understand your hesitation. But please, do not form your opinion on feminism based on a few feminists you've seen online who verbally berate anyone who doesn't 100 percent agree with them. I don't like them either. Please, read some feminist studies. They're very interesting and I can give you names of authors, if you'd like. Read Judith Butler, Helene Cixous, or Virginia Woolf and then talk to me about feminism. They can explain feminism thoroughly with case studies, literature, psychology, and with very little amount of bias.
Here's a secret, rejecters. One feminist doesn't know everything about feminism. One transgender person doesn't know everything about trans* issues. One person cannot speak for an entire group. I've talked with many trans* people and I was surprised at how many confessed confusion, and, on the flip side, I was impressed with how many knew exactly who they were and what they wanted. The non-binary people I talked to were still struggling with what language they identify with, and who he/she/they are as a individual, and that's fine. This doesn't mean they can't teach you anything. They don't speak for all non-binary people. This doesn't mean their voice is invalid. Everyone should make an effort to talk to people in different situations.
To my fellow feminists, stop thinking you know everything because you're on Tumblr. Did you check the facts on that one funny post that was going around? Probably not. I've spent about two years on Tumblr and while I know credible posts exist, very few have well-researched, unbiased information. If you want to sound smart on the subject take a gender and women's studies class.
Until everyone, especially feminists, learn to always approach the topic and people with an open mind, our society will always be at a standstill.
Feminists, please stop using the same language on social media that you condemn. Saying that you "can't deal with these white people" is not helpful, especially when white people are the ones needed to join the fight. It turns people off and it's detrimental to our cause. As an outspoken feminist, you're an advocate and you have to watch what you say. We need to be completely inclusive. We can't just accept people who have been oppressed and the people who agree with us. We cannot be hypocrites. We need to accept everyone.
Feminists need to be the better people. If we can preach about accepting everyone, we should damn well be able to accept everyone, even oppressors. Pushing people away isn't the point. Pushing harmful ideologies away is the point.
If you want your voice to be heard, stop silencing others. If you want more respect, you need to respect everyone. If you want society to be inclusive, you need to be inclusive. It's about helping people up, not pushing them down.
I'm not saying having to be the better person is fair. I'm saying it's effective.
Maybe it's because I'm a journalist, but I always approach someone or something with an open mind. Even if it's the same argument about cat-calling or wearing leggings as pants, someone new will always have a different take on the subject. It's an opportunity to learn something. Our biggest fault as humans is believing that we know everything, when in fact, we know what we know and nothing else. We don't know everything. I'm not an expert on feminism and I'll never claim to be. I do know how to effectively communicate with people, however.
Again, I love that you're a feminist. I love that you're fighting for something you believe in. I love that you're fighting for yourself and for others. I'm with you in this fight. I'm all for dismantling the patriarchy.
Don't forget that everyone has a right to tell their story. Even that blond, white girl wearing a North Face jacket, with her hair in a bun, sipping Starbucks (me).