My journey with feminism has been long and complicated and has most definitely evolved over the years. Looking back, it is abundantly clear that my parents raised me and my two sisters to be little feminists pretty much straight out of the womb. However, it took me quite some time to accept the label myself and to begin to engage with feminism as a political movement. That being said, self-identifying as a feminist is tricky. By this, I mean that along with accepting and embracing this label of feminist, or being a feminist, you are faced with the plethora of negative connotations that come with that label. I learned about the negative connotations behind the feminist label even before I truly began to understand the purpose and importance of feminism. The first time I was called a feminist was in a class discussion in high school when it was used as some kind of insult
Somewhere, somehow along the way, being a feminist in people’s minds became synonymous with being a “man-hater”. This, I am telling you right now, is absolute complete and total bullshit. Now, I will gladly accept the label of an angry feminist because honestly, I am angry. A lot of the issues that the feminist movement is fighting against make me really fucking angry. Such issues range from my person (and ongoing) experience of being cat-called when I’m walking outside at night, to the fact that the current President of the United States was elected even though it was blatantly clear he has no concept of what sexual consent is and bragged openly about sexually assaulting women. Now, because those things make me really fucking angry, does that mean I hate men? No! Absolutely not.
Here’s the thing, yeah those things make me angry but I also am educated enough on feminism to recognize that to direct my anger at individuals (read: individual men) for those actions is misguided. So, while I may in the moment yell obscenities at the guy cat-calling me from his car, I know that my anger is really with the systemic socialization of our society that teaches people that yelling at people while they’re walking alone at night is okay.
The point of feminism is not to hate on men. Feminist scholar bell hooks said it best when she articulated the aim of feminism when she wrote that “feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression”. All of us in society have been socialized to accept sexist oppression, including men. Feminism is not an us vs. them battle, it is not women vs. men. It took me years to unlearn all the harmful sexist behaviors I had been taught my whole life, and I am still not there yet. There are ways I’m sure I myself still reproduce sexist oppression. Yet, through my understanding of feminism I have been able to grow as a human being and have learned how to treat other human beings better, both women and men. When you call feminism “man-hating”, you’re completely missing the point of feminism. You are reducing the sexist oppression that negatively affects everyone, regardless of gender identity – and the anger that comes with living under such a system – down to an individual level. To suggest that feminism is man-hating, it suggests that feminists are just angry, or that feminists simply do not like men. This ignores everything feminism is actually fighting against and instead just perpetuates the system of sexist oppression.
At the end of the day, feminism is a movement that is working towards making the lives of others (and ourselves) better. Yes negative connotations and stereotypes of feminism unfortunately continue to exist. And yes, I will admit that these stereotypes initially made me hesitant to claim the label myself. However, once I realized that anybody who thinks me labelling myself as someone who cares about equality and the well-being of others makes me crazy is not somebody I want in my life, I got over it. So yes, hello, here I am, an angry (not man-hating) feminist. To anybody who knows me well, you’re already aware of this. To anybody who doesn’t – now you know.