“Does feminist mean a large unpleasant person who’ll shout at you or someone who believes women are human beings? To me it’s the latter, so I sign up.” – Margaret Atwood
If you’re like my generation—those selfish little millennial pricks—you get it.
If you don’t get it, then you probably sympathize with the people who hold to their belief that a feminist reflects, as Margaret Atwood puts it, an unpleasant person who’ll shout at you. In this case, we can deduce a few things:
Though you’re my age and likely hate the generation of which we’re a part, you still go about your days Facebooking and Tindering and Internetting, in general.
What good is the internet if you can’t meet a lifemate or, at the very least, a suitable fuck buddy?
In order to do that — and in order to be a productive, functioning member of society — you need to know what feminism is and what feminism isn’t.
While it changes with the times, it reflects back upon the past as a springboard into the future. With any movement, scholars, laypeople, and the like must go back and critique, and from that critique, they must work to refine the purpose of the movement.
This is what scholars call first wave feminism, starting in the 19th Century.
In the middle of the 20th Century, the focus of feminism broadened; you’re probably familiar with a lot of this. We cheapen it with monikers like bra burning, but the focus was on individual autonomy in terms of reproductive rights, workplace rights, and domestic violence including marital rape. Albeit incomplete, I think of “Roe v. Wade” as a succinct and useful summary of this period.
Later, we come to the third wave of the movement. Now, the issues that women faced were further examined as it related to race, heteronormativity, and the LGBTQ community.
The questions scholars tackled sought to reframe the whitewashed narrative of a feminism to a multicolored one: the question of the trials women faced could no longer just be limited to their womanhood. A black woman can look at her life and frame it as a person of color and as a woman, both together and separately. Each component is crucial and dependent on the other.
What you and I witness today, is what Kira Cochrane would call the fourth wave. It extends what the third wave started on a mass scale, mostly thanks to the internet. This covers subjects like the misogyny inherent in movies, music, and advertisements.
This is where the disconnect comes in: because of the broad scale sharing of fourth wave ideals, the inundation becomes overwhelming and we write it off.
It’s not happening to us, so we aren’t empathic to it. We write it off.
As a straight, white male, it’s easy for me to ignore the problems of a song like “Blurred Lines.” It’s easy for me to not think about Rick Ross and his advocacy of date rape.
But as a straight, white man, I owe it to those who don’t have the voice that I have.
I was watching an older episode of Law and Order (not SVU) and was struck by how progressive one scene was. In 1990, when the show first aired, there were states where men could legally rape their wives.
Reflective of the changes in the laws and public opinion then, DA Ben Stone argued on the better side of history. Now, it may not seem like much, but back then it was a big deal. As of 1993, marital rape was illegal in all 50 states.
A feminist doesn’t hate men.
It seems that people still view it as such, but that’s not the case. The majority within the movement know that to hate someone because of how they were born is anathema to the movement and it doesn’t do well to hate your fellow humans when we have a common goal to achieve.
If you read or talk to any well-respected feminist, they will tell you the same thing.
Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to only vote for democrats; the lines of politics and ideology are not so clear cut. As a libertarian myself, these social issues are of the most primary concerns when I step into a voting booth. If a candidate on either side wants social justice over social oppression, I am for that. This means that I look at it on a micro scale. I care about what laws my state passes; I give a shit because it affects my immediate community and my surroundings.
I say that, but it’s not the internet’s fault. It’s entirely yours.
Here’s a little scenario for you: some fundamentalist bigot, click-baiting all over the internet, makes a big deal about Starbucks and their new red cups. He makes a video about it and urges his followers to boycott Starbucks because they’re clearly not holy.
Spoiler: it didn’t work.
After that, a person on the internet sees the video because his weird aunt favorited it. He then shares it, aghast and calling the guy an idiot, his friends share it too, some in agreement and some not.
You see what’s happening here.
Whether it’s to laud or scorn something, if you bring attention to a thing, it will get attention brought unto it. Which is the point. The Starbucks guy knew he’s polarizing; he wants the attention.
And by sharing “the thing,” you are equally culpable for bringing attention to it.
The same problem arises when a twitter hashtag goes viral. If you tweet about a racist hashtag, even if you’re calling it out for being racist, you’re helping to promote it.
And so it goes with feminism. Debate on the subjects should be encouraged; they should be welcome. But shit slinging on a subject should be shunned.
The radical stuff is what gets virality. There are libraries of great scholarship out there. You can even use the internet to sift through it to find the good stuff. Overall, think before you share with your friends.
So, what else can you do? For starters, you can give a shit about your immediate surroundings. Your community can have a big impact on you, so pay attention and make changes to it as needed.
Our generation is producing an incredible amount of self-made people, both men and women. With the rise of YouTube and more autonomy regarding entertainment, the people who want to see a change in representation in the media are beginning to make it happen. Seek out those in the media who support equality and the autonomy of others, and when you can, support their fight to make things better.
As the population grows older and wiser, the cream will rise to the top, and as always, newer generations will rise up from the ashes. Let’s hope this new wave of feminism makes it a little easier for them to be heard.