Photographs of young, privileged white women holding handwritten signs about why they “don’t need feminism” have been circulating the internet this week, showing up in my Facebook newsfeeds daily. I’ve made concerned posts and comments regarding the issue – pointing out that women (and men, for that matter) who claim they don’t need feminism are like individuals who feel that they don’t “need” turn signals.
Feminism isn’t about you. It’s about the equality of the collective. You’re right, conservative 20-something hiding behind your computer screen: You don’t “need” to be a part of the feminist movement in 2014. Women before you have been bending over backwards over the past 100 years so you can vote, drive a car, and plaster your inane anti-feminist sentiments all over the internet, for that matter. Thanks to feminism, you enjoy basic human rights in the United States.
Is there still a long way to go? Clearly. Gender equality is far from being reached in this country. But as long as you can live comfortably in one of the richest countries in the world—who cares about women in third world countries? Who cares about rape victims? Why should you care if another human being faces debilitating discrimination on a daily basis because of her genitals?
But enough sarcasm, because there is one compelling reason you should care. You do need to be a feminist—it is part of being a decent human being.
The feminist movement seems to be full of apologies this week—pointing out that the actions and words of a few extremists don’t equal the sentiments of the movement of a whole. This attitude is quite troubling. There is no such thing as an “extreme” feminist, because equality, by definition is not “extreme.” Are there people out there who use the word “feminism” as an excuse to blindly adopt hatred towards the male demographic? In every movement, you will find wolves in sheep’s clothing. But no matter how convincing, a wolf will never be a “sheep.” Likewise, anyone who isn’t fighting for the equality of men and women isn’t a feminist.
Women who claim that they don’t need feminism are simply ignorant. One such woman claimed that the reason she refused to identify with the movement was because she “respected men.” If she truly respected men, then she would work toward equality, because that promotes respect towards both genders and breaks down stereotypes that are unfair and oppressive to both men AND women.
Another woman pointed out that she didn’t “feel oppressed.” That’s the problem. She’s been born and raised in a society in which inequality is the norm. Of course she doesn’t feel oppressed: Oppression has become so ingrained into her daily life that it flies under the radar, swallowed by the masses.
Perhaps one of the most infuriating trends among the women identifying as “anti-feminist” were the words “I’m not a victim.” Because these women are victims of something darker and more sinister than they could even comprehend. Anyone parading around as an “anti-feminist” is a victim of extreme ignorance. To reject equality is to reject the foundation of human rights.
So, to the women claiming to be anti-feminists: You don’t think you “need” feminism – but you’re the reason the rest of us do.