Image: Chronicles of Her

What does feminism mean in 2017? Why do so many men & women hate it?

I have a favour to ask. Last week, someone said to me: “What does the word ‘feminism’ mean to you?” I recoiled, feeling uncomfortable.

On reflection, I avoid using this word not because I don’t believe in equality, but because of its negative connotations and the risk of shutting down a dialogue.

My reaction bothered me. A sick feeling at the pit of my stomach lingered, much like that time I ate eggs three days past their use by date. Which, for the record, ended in tears.

What had conditioned me to (violently) react this way? (I’m not talking about the eggs…)

Emily Ratajkowski wears her heart on her sleeve. Photo: Splash News

Why do so many men and women hate the word ‘feminism’?

After some internet (and soul) searching, I was relieved to read Martha Rampton’s view that, “Feminism’s perceived silence in the 1990s was a response to the successful backlash campaign by the conservative press and media, especially against the word feminism and its purported association with male-bashing and extremism.” Thanks Martha, I feel better already.

Martha went on to say that, “Some people… have trouble with the word ‘feminism,’ because of its older connotations of radicalism, and because the word feels like it is underpinned by assumptions of a gender binary and an exclusionary subtext: ‘for women only.’” Yup. That’s me.

Still curious, I started asking friends the same question: What does feminism mean to you?

There were a lot of awkward reactions, and some declined to comment. Others were falling over themselves to share their thoughts. The responses I received from a 91 year-old banker bloke, a 13 year-old female high school student, and 12 other men and women, were revealing and uplifting. So much so, that my negative associations started to shift.

As for that favour? I’d love to know what the F-word means to you. Please share them in the comments, below or come and chat with us over in The Squad.

Feminism defined

Kellyanne Conway made headlines recently, when she said it was difficult for her to call herself a feminist because she wasn’t ‘anti-male’ or ‘pro-abortion.’ Helpfully, Merriam-Webster stepped in with the definition of ‘feminism’ to correct Conway’s alternative fact, tweeting; “‘Feminism’ is defined as the ‘belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.’”

Perhaps this tee should be standard issue in The White House, and in my house?

So, what does feminism mean in 2017?

Emily Morgan (32) E-Commerce

“For me the meaning of feminism and my relationship with it has changed a lot in the last 10 years. When I was in my early 20s I did not identify as a feminist, I associated feminism with aggression and soap boxes and I really felt that the job was done: if women wanted to succeed they could, it was down to their own determination and resolve. But as I have grown older I have identified more and more as a feminist, as I have discovered more and more that the job really isn’t done, certainly not in many developing countries. So for me feminism is about striving for equal treatment regardless of gender in all forums, and it’s also about women who are lucky enough to live in developed countries to advocate and fight for the basic rights of women (particularly education) in countries where they are denied.”

Edwina Barrington (31) Fin Tech

“Unfortunately the term ‘feminism’ has a negative connotation for me. I am for gender equality and have strong views on women’s issues and empowerment. I do feel, however, feminism is an ideology that can sometimes keep the blinkers on by focusing solely on women’s issues without considering the broader picture. I feel that perhaps sometimes feminism places blame on men for women and girls problems. This is a complicated issue but an issue that needs to be collectively addressed. We need to consider both genders if we are looking at gender equality. I would therefore say I am not a feminist — I am a gender equalist.”

‘Don’t over complicate this shit, it’s real simple.’

Ivana Pearce (33) Accounting

“Feminism is equal recognition for equal effort without the existence of assumptions about what men and woman can or can’t do, or feel, because they are either man or woman. It comes hand-in-hand with equal responsibilities too. Don’t over complicate this shit, it’s real simple”

Keshia Hannam (25) Media & Social Impact

“I am very succinct when people ask me this: Feminism means to be indiscriminate to gender–ie. both women and men have equal respect, opportunities and most importantly, choices. This isn’t my opinion, it’s what feminism is, and the more we interpret it in different ways, the more we confuse people. Feminism means women and men are equal. That’s it.”

Eric James (91) Finance

“It means the coverage of women’s rights on the grounds of equality of the sexes”

C’est quoi le féminisme?

Mike Muhannad (23) student

“‘Feminism’ to me means that women should be treated equally to men and have access to the same opportunities. Being a feminist doesn’t mean I’m against men, it simply means I speak up when I see inequality or injustice based on gender.

Feminism also means that we should change our ideas about society. If women choose to stay at home or work, that’s their choice and freedom, and no women should be forced into ‘traditional gender roles.’Every woman is absolutely entitled to demand equal rights under the law, whether it is in Australia or overseas. I wish more women in Saudi Arabia knew that they are as intelligent and powerful as men, and that they are entitled to the same rights.”

June James (89) retired

“It means, women’s rights.”

What has feminism got to do with housework?

Amity James (38) Academia

“Feminism to me is about equality. Equality of opportunities and expectations regardless of gender. My two very young boys can be often heard explaining that girls and boys can do the same things and that there are no boys or girls toys — just different interests. I guess they are shaped by an environment where the head male and female members of the family are both in the paid workforce and, for the most part, share the household load.”

Leonie Robertson (37) Health

“It doesn’t mean man-hating for me… it does mean expecting to be treated equally, to be given the same opportunities and to not be expected to work harder at the same things. I think most of feminism lays with the final frontiers of child raising expectations and keeping the home fires burning. Lots of men ‘help’, but absolutely fail to understand or accept responsibility for the ‘mental load’ of these areas of life. Something I’ve been pushing hard in our house… I am actually getting somewhere. I still find myself chastising the kids schools about always calling and emailing me first (or only)… I make sure I explain why.”

Susie Palfreyman (65) Entrepreneurship

“It’s about being treated equally. As a baby boomer I have seen the division of labor in my childhood home, could never work out why, so in my own marriage there has always been a good share of responsibilities. Early on I got the “it’s woman’s work” chide, but this resolved itself pretty quickly when laundry, ironing, dishes sat there until we had the necessary discussion. I run a business and the thought never occurred to me to pay a woman less, or to choose a male first. Suitability and experience came first so we a good mix in our company. So for me, feminism equals equality.”

Feminism is for everybody

Jake Diefenbach (33) Law

“Feminism means, the unqualified belief that men and women are equal. This goal is undermined by the patriarchy, which is embedded in our society at its most basic level and is self‑reinforcing. As a man, it’s the aspect of ‘self-reinforcement’ — and of breaking an unbroken chain — that requires me to participate in feminism. Feminism isn’t just for women; it necessarily requires men to come to the table and challenge the ways we actively and passively support the oppression of women.”

Olivia Cain (30) Marketing

“The actual definition of feminism I’m completely onboard with, however, not how it’s currently being portrayed in the media, resulting in deep sighs and eye rolls. I like ‘gender diversity’ where it’s non-exclusive, and feels more wholesome and actionable.”

Nina McGrath (36) Aviation

“I think of it as one branch of equality. Other branches include marriage equality, gender equality and racial equality. Each have their own unique histories, challenges and potential solutions. As a white woman, I’m only personally affected by feminist issues like the gender pay gap, but I believe in equality in all its forms.”

Feminism, Beyoncé style — why she wants to change the conversation

Bey also weighed in on the convo, explaining to Elle Magazine,

“I put the definition of feminist in my song [“Flawless”] and on my tour, not for propaganda or to proclaim to the world that I’m a feminist, but to give clarity to the true meaning. I’m not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women. I don’t understand the negative connotation of the word, or why it should exclude the opposite sex.”

What does feminism mean to the next gen?

13 year-old Poppy Miller says that, for her,

“A feminist is a strong believer in feminism and often stands up to fight against stereotypes that all women are gentle, sensitive and like so called ‘girly things,’ such as the colour pink. I don’t believe that feminism is just to be paid the same or to have a job that would normally go to a man, I believe that feminism is the belief that there should be equality in the way we can dress, how we can act, what we can do with our bodies and our freedom.”

It seems the word is winning the day. Martha explains that,

“The generation now coming of age sees that we face serious problems because of the way society genders and is gendered, and we need a strong “in-your-face” word to combat those problems.”

Poppy also says,

“Feminism revolves around the principle that just because human bodies are constructed for different jobs that a female, who is commonly labeled the weaker sex, is given the same opportunities, money and power as a male.”

So, for the next generation, feminism is part of a larger consciousness of oppression along with racism, ageism, classism, abelism, and sexual orientation. There is a place in it for all — together. If that’s what feminism is in 2017, I’m in.

I’m Feminist AF

Thanks to Jonathan Simkhai’s Feminist AF tee, I can now wear my thoughts, proudly on my chest. And, I plan to do just that. No rotten eggs in sight.

Elissa x

I’d love to know what the F-word means to you. Also, how about that Jodie Whittaker becoming the very first female Time Lord on Dr Who!? Go ahead and muse away in the comments, below or come over and chat with us in The Squad.

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