by Alexandra Tollefson
Recently, especially on social media, I’ve been coming across some troubling statements. Although this isn’t really anything new (it’s social media, after all; when are there not troubling statements?), I was surprised at where those statements were aimed. They were not gross sexual comments toward women or immature gossip aimed at someone I’d never met. They were criticisms toward something very near and dear to my heart — feminism.
Feminism has always been viewed in a somewhat skewed lighting. Ever since the ‘90s, when Rush Limbaugh first coined the term “feminazi” (there is a wonderful article on this on medimatters.org for more information on the source of this word) feminism has come to mean something completely different.
Average Joes seem to think it is a radical movement by women who hate men and want to rule the world. In reality, feminism is a movement seeking equality in the social, political and economical spheres for all genders. Over the years, it has expanded to take on issues in race, class and sexuality, as well, to name a few. This is a movement that has had some serious impact on our society. Women can vote because of it. So, when such negative comments float around, it concerns me. Especially when I see complaints not just about the ideology, but about the people spreading it.
As feminists, it is our job to take a step back from our reality to look at the broader picture. If we are to truly call ourselves feminists, we need to be the example to live by. Of course everyone makes mistakes now and again, so we are always learning and growing. However, we must hold ourselves to higher standards.
The term “cis-het white male” has become almost a slur for us to wield against those with opposing viewpoints. While yes, that term does identify the most powerful demographic in our country (gender-conforming, heterosexual, white and male), it should not be used in a way that makes that group as a whole a bad thing. It will only make that group less fond of the idea of feminism, when they are perhaps the group that most needs to hear its message.
It is important, in my humble opinion, to always remember to be the most respectful and understanding one could possibly be when explaining this particular ideology. Attacking people, even people making racist/sexist/phobic comments, will only make the gap between them and us larger.
There is so much misinformation out there that feminists cannot afford to be the aggressive party. At least not in an overt way. But sometimes people just won’t listen and fire must be fought with fire. Not every battle is a stalemate.
Until I came to MSUM, I had no idea what “white privilege” was, or that so many things I used to love and overlook were sexist or racist. Ignorance to the problem is one of its greatest assets and one of feminism’s biggest problems. We cannot afford to be constantly attacking people every chance we get.
Feminists as a whole need to be firm in their beliefs and confident in their words but also kind and patient when dealing with those that just don’t understand. We need to listen more, and work hard to make sure our own personal emotions don’t get in the way of what we are trying to say. It can be hard to do that of course, but we must remember, not everyone who makes a not-so-smart remark is an enemy. Sometimes, they just don’t know, and when it’s explained to them in a patient manner, they leave the situation feeling better with the knowledge that has been imparted to them.
It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Tread softly and carry a big stick.” But I’ve always liked, “You catch more flies with honey than a stick.”
So, to my fellow feminists, let’s show the sweeter side of feminism with all the love and patience I know we have to offer.