There are a growing number of people who spurn the words "feminism" and "feminist" even though they support women's rights and equality. It seems there's widespread misunderstanding about what these terms mean. And the message that sends to youth about the ideals of gender equality concerns us deeply
On December 6, 1989 a 25-year-old man armed with a rifle and a hunting knife, killed 14 women studying at the technical college before turning the gun on himself. He said that his motives were to fight feminism. It's easy for us to sit back and pretend that women aren't being killed because of their sex nowadays. But the fact of the matter is, it continues to happen.
When you're a woman, tone policing is rampant. Amid the hate and abuse, we are expected to stay as calm and eloquent as possible. Our justified rage is always attributed to over-sensitivity, hormones, or PMS-ing. We are treated as emotional, not intellectual beings, when the truth is we are emotional AND intellectual beings. Intellect without emotion is dead inside. There's a whopping double standard regarding tone between men and women (and of course others along the gender binary and non-binary folk). Men who are angry are passionate and driven. Women who are passionate and driven are just angry.
My newsfeed is littered with concerns of body image, equal pay for equal work, and why women are still underrepresented in books and film. When someone pulls a cheap publicity stunt they may indeed receive the attention they so badly desire, but the net result to society is no longer necessarily a negative. We have come far enough that with every empty and ridiculous action you actually help push things along.
Today is International Men's Day, so let's join hands today and celebrate all that men have done for the world. Wow, I couldn't even type that with a straight face. But International Men's Day? Seriously? Every day is International Men's Day, or really International Cisgender Men's Day. Every day the achievements of men are celebrated. Every day their innovations are hailed. What's next? International White People Day? International Heterosexual Day? I'm sure some of you would love that.
So why are we all still so damned upset? Well, possibly because this is no longer about Jian Ghomeshi. Possibly, this is about feminism; and feminism is still something we very much need to talk about. I'm a feminist. I'm also a man. Some people have more of a problem with this than others and suggest that being a feminist is not my prerogative.
After 18 years of social work with survivors of gender violence and offenders, you start to notice a few patterns -- especially with how abusers rationalize how they treat women. They have figured out the rules of the game and take comfort in the ultimate insurance policy: that society protects men who beat and violate women.
I'm not buying the "if you don't like it, don't buy it" argument. Images have an impact whether or not you allow them into your home. The more we normalize corseted costumes and Daisy Dukes, the more our girls will be attracted to them. I can tell my daughter that the "firefighter goes to the fetish club" costume is inappropriate, but when she sees a happy girl her age on the packaging, she's getting mixed messages.
I have often been told that I don't seem like a "typical" sorority girl and I'm never sure how to take that. Am I being applauded for not being a daft, superficial party girl straight out of Animal House? Obviously we go to parties (like most university and college students do), but this has never been the primary function of a sorority.
Somewhere along the way, we lost track of what the feminist movement stands for and what it doesn't. Just this week, a prominent feminist media critic, Anita Sarkeesian, cancelled a speaking engagement at the University of Utah to talk about the portrayal of women in video games, under threat of a "Montreal Massacre style attack." Really ladies...are we out of the woods yet?
David Letterman recently hosted Parks and Recreation actor Aziz Ansari on his show who beautifully summed up what it means to be a feminist. I think even those Hollywood girls who won't call themselves a feminist will agree with this analogy: "You're a feminist if you go to a Jay Z and Beyoncé concert and you're not like, 'I feel like Beyoncé should get 23 per cent less money than Jay Z. Also I don't think Beyoncé should have the right to vote and why is Beyoncé singing and dancing -- shouldn't she make Jay a steak?"
While it's always good practice to stop and celebrate our achievements and accomplishments, we still have a long way to go to truly empower girls. The non-profit organization, Girls' Inc. coined the term "supergirl dilemma" in a 2006 report to describe the pressure on girls to be everything to everyone, all the time.
Let me make this clear: It is not just one little sleeper. It is countless versions of these little declarations appearing on t-shirts, cups, purses and other random propaganda, coming together to form one big, persistent message. This message will help shape my daughters view of being a woman as she gets older and it tells girls exactly what society expects of them before they can even walk, or you know, hold up their own heads.
To the Mr. Misogynists out there, I beg of you to ask, where did you go wrong in life? At what point in your lives did you stumble upon a fork in the road, taking the path poorly traveled, deciding to turn your back on your DNA? Was it in the boys' locker room, after the big game, patting each other on the bum?
It's important to note that despite my appreciation for Watson's UN campaign, I believe much of the criticism she's faced has been warranted. Liberal white feminism tends to cling to these seemingly iconic moments in which feminism briefly becomes more palatable, more easily sold to the masses. Men shouldn't care about feminism because it may improve things for them. They should care about feminism because it will improve things for women.
There is a wellspring of magic in women empowering other women. I would argue that it is one of the most transformational forces in the world for stretching our purpose on this planet. But I have witnessed that as powerful as we can be in uplifting each other, we are also a formidable force for bringing each other down.
If you search "Emma Watson UN" on Google, the first results that show up have to do with one story and one story only -- the community-based site 4chan's supposed threats of leaking naked pictures of the actress. Commenters on the thread have specifically called out Watson's speech as a reason. The message here seems pretty clear: you shoot your mouth off about being equal, and we'll show you how easily we can lay open your most intimate secrets, objectifying your naked body at our will. But here's the problem with that logic. Being naked in a photo doesn't make any woman -- or man, for that matter -- less of a feminist.
Like so many other people inspired by Emma Watson's impassioned speech in her new capacity as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, I shared it to Facebook. Like so many other posts on Facebook and elsewhere calling for attention to women's rights, it almost immediately received a comment from someone who took umbrage with the message.
It's everyone's right to have an opinion. But here is what bothers me: they've got the wrong definition. They are basing their judgment of me, my beliefs and on feminism as a whole, on inaccurate information. What I am calling for is a re-education of women, and men, across North America. If you take a look at feminism's goal (one more time: equality!) and still want to tote a sign that says, "I'm an anti-feminist," I suppose that is your prerogative.