It sounds like a swear word when I used to say it. Like it referred to a group of people I didn’t understand, that I laughed at when they were made fun of on sites like 9gag along with the 12 year old boys making those jokes. I nodded my head when a guy made an offhanded remark that he didn’t believe in feminists because men should have rights as well. Didn’t blink when a friend commented that a girl we saw on the street’s skirt was so short it was like she was asking to get raped. I viewed feminists as a weird group of undatable lesbians who were crazy and burned bras and hated men. What do you mean we need feminism? Of course women have equal rights, we can vote!
But that was before people on Tumblr evolved from making those same 9gag jokes in 2011 to where text posts and fandoms became a huge thing. And there, people showed that it was possible to critique those shows and fandoms and still enjoy them, where people were feminists and still pretty and had boyfriends who were feminists and could still enjoy problematic media and have fun and not be a bummer and at the same time pointed out the stereotype of feminists were ugly lesbians who hated men was because people want to view them as unable to get men, which is what our society views as the Most Important Thing. I realised all feminism meant was equal rights for men and women. And feminism isn’t against men, but the patriarchy, which includes men and women. And men’s rights are part of feminism as well, because the patriarchal ideals of masculinity are very very damaging to boys.
Learning all of these things and more, I see why feminism in needed every day. When I see the wage gap between men and women and studies and how blind auditions are needed for orchestras to eliminate gender bias (http://gu.com/p/3jen2/tw). When I tweet a video about harmful tropes in video games and a guy I though was cool replied with a video reply from a condescending brony wearing a fedora picking the girl in the video apart and saying she doesn’t really understand video games, completely missing the point of her video and saying feminists are all destroying the world (He really said that! Feminism is not an organisation??). When ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ (not really) on Reddit frequently send rape threats to women. When my brother is told he can’t like a certain toy because ‘it’s for girls’.
I read more about it and I see there is not one right way to be ‘feminist’ and it is an ongoing discussion,with people contradicting each other all the time. (See: ‘feminist’ criticism of Tauriel’s storyline in The Hobbit, because she went back to save Killi. a)He was dying and she was his only shot at living, why would she be like NAH I don’t need a man therefore I won’t save this guy’s life. b)I think it is very feminist to subvert the damsel in distress trope and also see that needing to be saved is not an inherently weak position.) and it is such a broad scope and there are so many things to factor in (race, gender) and it affects different people on so many different levels (eg a woman in a third world country worried about if she can go to school and a woman in a first world country worrying about whether she can break the glass ceiling at work).
I see that is is getting better, with that infographic of women in media floating around a lot more, with Hollywood movies that passed the Bechdel test (A test that simply asks if a movie has two or more women in it that talk to each other about something other than a man) earned way more than movies that didn’t- not a big surprise considering women make up a large percentage of the population and not seeing yourself represented at all on film can be off putting (However, Hollywood listens to money so that should convince them), with Beyoncé putting out a song featuring African writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s TED speech on feminism. But then I go back to the real world and see that maybe it isn’t, when a guy asked me if I wanted to be nurse since my dad is a doctor and I see the shock register on his face when he hears my mother is a doctor as well. When people throw around the words slut and whore and bitch and use the words cunt and pussy and girl are what we consider to be most demeaning things we can call each other.
I see that sometimes I am part of the problem, and sometimes people I love are part of the problem. And that the patriarchy is ingrained in our society. And that I can recognise that and I can point it out. And that sometimes I’m scared to do that because people would think I’m a bummer if I ever bring up the dreaded f-word (feminist). And that I shouldn’t be scared, because that friend who said the girl who was wearing a short skirt was asking to be raped could be a lawyer someday defending a rapist and that is what’s really scary.