The ‘F’ Word

I saw on my Facebook page recently this speech from American producer, screenwriter and director Joss Whedon, about how he doesn’t like the word “feminism”.

To his credit, Whedon said lots of good things about how women deserve respect and access to equal rights and opportunities in society.  He sees this (quite rightly) as something which all people are deserving of.  However, he doesn’t like to use the word “feminism” because he thinks it’s based on the assumption that seeing women as equal is not our natural state.  According to Whedon, seeing women as people deserving of equal rights is something we should naturally do…therefore the label of “feminist” isn’t needed.

These kinds of sentiments have been echoed by many famous young pop stars and actresses in the media.  This great piece on Jezebel sums up a number of quotes where young women step away from the “feminist” label.

As someone who studied anthropology and social science for a number of years, I’ve never been particularly afraid of the F-word.  I love the quote from British suffragist and journalist Rebecca West, who famously said “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”

Feminism is simply the term used for a movement committed to achieving equality for all genders.  This isn’t exclusive to women, although it makes sense that women are the driving force behind feminism.  It’s much easier to understand discrimination when you’re a member of the group being denied rights, opportunities and equal standing.

Of course men can also be feminists, and feminism can help men.  Feminism aims to break down all restrictive notions of gender, including ideas about how men “should” be and the roles they “should” hold as well.

I don’t really know why so many young women, and men, have come to see “feminism” as such a bad word.  Whedon’s ideal of a society that doesn’t need feminism is a nice one, but unfortunately it doesn’t really ring true.  So often the idea of a “natural state” has been used to justify the so-called innate violence of some men, or the assumption that women are biologically designed to stay home and raise children (so shouldn’t be in the workforce anyway).

Then you have things like the gender wage gap, where women in New Zealand are still making on average $4.00 less an hour than men.  In the finance and industry services sector, the gap widens to a massive $18.00 per hour difference…and it’s only continuing to grow.

So, if you’re a person who thinks that all people deserve equal pay for equal work, as well as the same rights and opportunities, then I’m sorry to say you are probably a feminist – whether you like that word or not.

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