I am a feminist regardless of changes over the years in my hair style, lovers, and underclothes. In my echo chamber of a world, it wasn't till I was in Florida this past week that I quite realized there still lingers in left-of-center supporters negative connotations of the word "feminist." Some of the most ardent supporters of women's rights -- or people who, in any case, truly believe they are -- balk at the word. They still fear bra-burning and head-shaving and lesbians. What's so scary about those things? What do those personal choices have to do with the word "feminist"?
In the heat of discussion, it's hard to parse this out in a way that can really be heard. Studies, after all, have shown that it is human nature to cling to what we believe, despite all evidence to the contrary.
But can we discuss this?
Like all words, "feminist" stands in as a symbol of a concept. Can we untangle the misogynist spin on it? The political forces that have been invested in painting it as something to balk at? Can we talk about how the very idea of feminism is not a flipping of patriarchy -- not merely a turning over so that women are on top and men are on bottom? Not a stiletto stamping on the face of a man. Not an army of man-haters coming to tear apart everything known and loved in the world.
Feminism is not a reversal of patriarchy. It is a complete paradigm shift. Read this as "intersectional feminism." Acknowledge that the participants in this discussion has become more inclusive over the decades.
Feminism is the concept of equality. It is the radical concept that re-envisions an historically biased hierarchy that has benefited a single demographic over all others. Feminism is the idea of a level playing field where all people should be valued for what they bring to the table. Where differences are appreciated and considered a benefit, not a detriment, to the whole culture.
Can we discuss this with respect, self-examination, and open minds?