The idea of feminism has become anathema to many people. Why is this? I believe that it is not because of the few fringe feminists who proclaim extreme statements (though, that does add fuel to the fire). I believe that it is much simpler: the word “feminism” is inherently divisive. However, this should not be the case.
The misnomer lies in the initial creation of this word: its prefix refers to only women. Unfortunately, I have no alternative word that would supplant “feminism” (sexual-equalism just doesn’t have the same impact). As a result, the word implies a superiority of women’s issues or at least a battle solely on behalf of women. In my opinion, this is not truly what feminism is or should be.
My definition of feminism is different than most dictionaries. I believe that feminism should be a striving for equality and fair treatment among both sexes. I am not the only one who believes this. It is to the detriment of society if any member is treated unfairly or unequally. Further, I would assert that it is to the detriment of either sex if the other sex is treated unfairly or unequally.
In this way, men’s rights should be fought for by feminists as much as women’s rights.
Some people will scoff at this statement and say, “Men are in the position of power, they are the ones monopolizing the rights.” This is a very simplistic way of looking at the world. The fact is, we need to consider women and men not as monolithic entities, but as a single descriptor of individuals in society. There are poor, disabled, homosexual white men. Are these men the monopolizers of rights? Every individual has different qualities and it is unfair to lump them into a giant group of “men” or “women” only.
Therefore, if examples of men having higher conviction rates than women, or male genital mutilation (circumcision) should not be swept under the carpet or laughed away. Men being portrayed as bumbling morons on sit-coms should also not be ignored (Note: some shows, like the Simpsons, demonstrate various kinds of men, so this is no problem. However, other shows these days seem to make all men on the show appear like some kind of simpleton who somehow earns money).
So, sometimes people are surprised when I refer to myself as a feminist. I’ll admit, it does seem like sycophantism for a man to proclaim that they are a feminist, according to the standard definition of the term. However, I claim to be a feminist with my aforementioned definition in mind. In this way, it is not impossible for a man to be a feminist with my definition; nor is it embarrassing.
Regarding a new word to supplant feminism, I have not thought of anything. Any suggestions would be welcome. 🙂