In my personal list of pet peeves, I guess the statement “I am not a feminist but…” will easily take the top spot. The curious thing about the people who make this statement is, they talk exactly like feminists. They hate crimes like rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, foeticide… They support women’s empowerment through economic independence. They dislike gender stereotypes. They hate slut-shaming/victim-blaming. So on and so forth. But when they talk about any of these issues, they find it extremely important to add the line, but I am not a feminist. Somehow this statement is very very essential to their argument.
As a feminist, this clearly irks me. Because there is an implicit assumption here that feminism is something bad. Something so bad, that I will not even spell out why. You know it already, right? Hell, no! If you have a problem with feminism, that’s alright. But do tell me why, please! As a feminist, I guess I have a right to know, right? You can go on like this: I came across this argument by Gloria Steinem or Judith Butler or Nivedita Menon and I do not agree with what she is saying. And these are the reasons why. I think the points made by Flavia Agnes or Roxane Gay in this particular article are illogical or against the interests of women or men. But I do not see any of the people who dissociate themselves from feminism so vehemently, talk like this. All I hear is, feminists are obnoxious. They are so loud and screechy. My god, they are ugly and sex-starved. They hate men (I guess I must be a very self-loathing person). And some are so vague, they will be like, “I don’t know but it doesn’t seem like a good thing.”
I am okay if someone wants to talk about women’s rights and not identify themselves as a feminist. The issue of women’s rights is not the fiefdom of feminists. It is not a cult either which wants to add more and more people to its fold. So it is okay if you fight for equality of sexes and do not call yourself a feminist. But you also don’t need to dissociate yourself from feminism so vehemently and so evasively. Here I am in no way saying that you cannot criticize feminism. You sure can and you sure should. But do that in a reasoned manner please.
There are numerous strands in feminism. And it is possible that you may find two feminists having opposing views. So whenever you do not agree with what some feminist says, please first state which feminist you are talking about, which of her points you disagree with and why. Do not form your opinions about feminism based on what some girl who identifies herself as feminist said somewhere on the internet.
I leave you with this beautiful speech by Emma Watson, British actor and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, at a special event for UN Women’s HeForShe campaign.