What I learned from a fight over the word "feminism"
I recently had a heated discussion with a friend, let’s call him X. X was talking about his love life in which many women were involved. At one point in the conversation he said something to which I responded, “that’s misogynistic.” I don’t remember exactly what his response was, but it led me to ask him whether or not he’d be willing to read some articles on feminism if I sent them to his way.
In response, he scrunched up his nose. “Hell no; I’m no feminist.”
It surprises me that today some people, many people, STILL don’t know what feminism means. I told him that feminism was just the belief that women should have the same rights as men, that they should be treated equally. Didn’t he believe in that?
He said he did. But he wasn’t a feminist. Feminists were people who believed they were superior to men. They were the angry man-hating women on television. He continued on saying that there was no need for feminism. Women have it good!
So I brought up the statistics. What about the fact that the average woman earns less than the average man? Didn’t he see the inequality there? Nope. He didn’t buy the statistic. The statistics were flawed.
Okay. What about rape culture? He didn’t even know what that was. So I explained it to him; blaming the victim for the rape, or this whole ‘no means yes’ philosophy that some university fraternities have been going on about.
“Yeah, that’s stupid. But it’s just a few idiots,” he said.
It’s not just a few idiots. But he still didn’t buy it. So I moved on.
What about sexual harassment? Shouldn’t we all be able to walk down the streets feeling safe and not having to worry about being harassed along the way? He didn’t believe that was an issue. Even when I brought up my own examples of being harassed, he didn’t believe me. It’s easy to delude yourself into thinking there are no problems when you ignore or deny every evidence to the contrary.
To his arguments, I asked him where he got his information. Have you ever taken a women’s rights class? A class on feminism? Have you ever read any articles on gender inequality? Any studies? The answer to all of those questions was “no.”
At one point he snapped. “I don’t care about this stuff. It’s not for me to do anything. If you want to change the world, go ahead and try. But these are women’s issue. Not mine. Why should I care?”
At this point, I lost it. “Why should you care? For me. For your other female friends. For your mother. For the daughter that you may one day have.” I lost my temper; I called him ignorant and completely uneducated on the subject. I do regret losing my temper, if I had been calmer, I would have done a better job of getting my point across. Live and learn.
His is a dangerous way to think. This whole “it doesn’t concern me, so I don’t care” is no way to watch the world go round. As Irish author and orator Edmund Burke once said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Emma Watson brought up this very same principal during her beautiful speech on feminism at the UN. I asked him if he had heard that speech. Of course, he hadn’t.
It’s also dangerous to believe that the only reality is the one you see. It’s not because he allegedly has never witnessed an act of sexism that these moments don’t exist. The world isn’t limited to what goes on around a single person.
The worst part about this whole conversation was that it took place in front of some his family members, including four teenage boys who really look up to him. I knew that they were hanging onto his every word. Great. Now, would they ever care about gender equality? At the moment, definitely not. Their role model had just ridiculed the whole thing.
X isn’t the only person who thinks this way. Too many people have the same opinion he does. They fail to see the injustices in society, and because they fail to see them, they assume they don’t exist.
I sent a text to X the next day, apologizing for being rude to him, but not apologizing for my stance on feminism. He apologized too, claiming that he actually agreed with me on most of my points, but he simply didn’t like the term “feminist.”
The true definition of feminism is one to share and spread. It’s not a dirty word, and X is definitely not the only person who believes that it is. So how are we going to change the world’s mind on the topic? By educating people, by writing articles about what’s important to us, and by sharing wisdom over coffee with friends. Feminism isn’t a dirty word, it’s empowerment.
Hoda Agharazi is a full-time daydreamer, part-time writer, aspiring actress and wannabe photographer. She enjoys watching reruns of her favorite TV shows, and hopes to one day write and star in her own TV sitcom. She might also have a slight obsession with Robert Downey Jr.
[Image via ShutterStock]