why is feminism a dirty word?


On my break, I’ve been mulling over this thing called feminism. Feminism: the simple and obvious idea that women should have the same opportunities as men in employment, in education, and in life generally.

Feminism – how can such an obvious need in human society become such an ugly, contentious word? I have several suggestions, none of them pretty.

Suggestion 1

The simple and obvious idea that women should have equal opportunities isn’t either simple or obvious. The majority of men, and perhaps women, still believe that men can do things better than women, based on the irrelevant fact that men have a penis. Perhaps it’s unconscious bias at play, the kind of attitude that study after study illustrate exists throughout society. Or perhaps it’s outright, blatant and conscious discrimination, based on blind ignorance. We are used to seeing men in positions of power, in certain roles, and our little brains can’t make the leap to genuinely accept equality as a reality.

Suggestion 2

The simple and obvious idea that women should have equal opportunities has been muddied by ever-decreasing circles of naval-gazing and categorising. A quick browse through a selection of self-declared feminist sites reveals you have to be part of a pre-defined wave of ideology; you have to declare a stance on pornography; you have to know if trans women are allowed to go to public toilets; you have to conclude that all perceived gender differences are programmed by society. Basically, feminism gets reduced to an exclusion zone of your choice, shutting out anyone who doesn’t agree with you on any issue relating to women. Feminism is some kind of scary religion with set rules and ‘correct’ ways of thinking.

Suggestion 3

The final suggestion is a combination of the first two. Humans are trapped in a doublethink whereby they understand that women and men should have equal opportunities, but they don’t feel comfortable with it, because they don’t like change. Take this discomfort and soak it in the naval-gazing, quasi-religion branded Feminism, and any feminism becomes a dirty word.

Suggested Solution

The solution to this problem is to sit it out for another 20 generations so that the obvious and simple change can filter slowly through our human societies. In the meantime, women can enjoy an array of everyday discrimination in the form of barriers, inequality and violence, while men continue to give each other the plum jobs and bask in the glory of their collective penis.

Or people could face reality, face the facts, and realise that given the mountain we have to climb and the slow progress we’re making, embracing positive discrimination to counter-balance the rampant conscious and unconscious bias at every level of society, is the only way to make meaningful change in our lifetime.