I was writing recently about the term ‘soft skills’ and ruminating on why soft has negative connotations. It got me thinking about feminism and wondering how come equality got such a bad name.
For a long time, the word and movement of feminism have been in the doldrums. If you admit to being a feminist it’s a brave, maybe foolish move. Many say they believe in equality, but few in feminism. The assumptions that have been bundled with the word are ingrained and very unattractive. Even the most hip, well-educated young thing can find they’ve bought into the cliche that feminist is a synonym for bra-burning, hairy-armpitted, man-hater.
How come so many of us
have bought into such a blatant slur
that denigrates the purpose,
disperses the group,
and silences the debate?
Feminism is about social, political, economic equality – a quest that many groups have sought, yet few have been tarnished with such a long-standing veneer of contempt. How do we now perceive the struggle against apartheid? The movement for racial equality? Those who work for gay or disability rights? Today these are generally accepted as mainstream, sane, even noble aims. But not feminism, which provokes responses that range from a wry smile, a jokey dismissal, and bit of light ‘put-down’ banter, through to threats of violence. Despite some positive glimmers of change, it’s still the case that, rather than being revered, those who espouse it are reviled.
Every change movement goes through its stage of being scorned – unsurprisingly…they threaten the status quo, question entrenched power structures, demand that we examine fundamental ways of seeing life – ways that are easier for us to to hold on to even if they’re nonsense, particularly if we’re the ones in control. But feminism stayed within that stage – maybe even retreated further into it.
The fear that feminism arouses is understandable – it demands a massive shift away from backward focus…a change in perspective that challenges dominant religious, political, and social systems.
But how well are these systems working for us? Wouldn’t they benefit from more balance?
How well does anything work without balance?
Feminism affects everyone. Perhaps if we all open up the door to the debate, examine our concept of feminism, and throw out any stale prejudices, we’ll move towards a more balanced, honest, compassionate, happier world for everyone.
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