Recently I helped my friend Annie vacate her studio at the university where we study fine arts, sculpture. At some point we began to discuss feminism; not in a serious discursive way, just casually mentioning the topic in conversation. Annie was dragging her chair across the floor, as I moved boxes filled with her work from one point to another. I must have said something in the lines of “feminists have to stick together, it's a tough world out there”. I had not expected my comment to prompt a conversation or even a reaction from my friend. However, she stopped dragging her chair, placed it upright, faced me and exclaimed:
What? I’m certainly not a feminist!
Annie went on to explain that she is not a feminist because she shaves her legs, does not hate men and has no need to demand rights she already enjoys. I must admit, in that moment I judged her as clueless. I was shocked by her understanding of feminism—it just seemed absurd. How could any woman or man not appreciate being perceived as a feminist? Until then I had never realized that Annie and I had differing opinions about feminism. While she perceived feminism as an outdated “hippie” movement, I saw it as a philosophy that supports equality in the world.
We stopped moving boxes and took a break. I told Annie I believe everyone should explore feminism. I shared that to me feminism embodies justice and respect; that we live in a male oriented society; that real feminism does not demean men or their abilities, but rather teaches people that women are as valuable as men, and all genders have equal worth and potential.
I am young, but fully aware that it is undemocratic and condescending to suggest my opinion as more correct or valid than other people's. I simply believe that education should be enough to motivate people to do the right thing—to support important causes. Feminism is not solely about women's rights; it is about human rights. The feminist movement is about promoting and establishing equality for people in all sectors of society. Supporting this philosophy, conscientious feminists try to build a better world.
I believe that to progress healthily, the world needs input from more women in leadership roles—not to establish mathematical balance between the sexes, but to bring them into a harmony that empowers the right decisions. Men and women differ. They have strengths and weaknesses that perhaps relate to socialization and biology. However we classify gender differences, the fact remains that people of all genders can have unique perspectives. Diverse viewpoints are critical to sound decision-making.
A man may typically choose a linear trajectory to reach a destination, while a woman might spend more time considering whether the destination is ideal (and vise versa). Thus, societies would benefit more if they had an equal representation of all genders in government, business, education and homemaking. My knowledge of feminist theory is limited, as I only began to read and question material in 2010. Clearly I have much more to learn to develop my impressions—this is the reason why I share them with you, so that your responses can help me grow as a feminist. I am not trying to make others think the way I do; I just want to open dialogue and learn more about feminism.
Daniel Massie prepared this text with assistance from e-feminist staff.