The imperfect feminist

I sometimes don’t call myself a feminist. Now, don’t get me wrong…I passionately believe in equality and will fight misogyny until my last breath. But, I still sometimes feel uncomfortable with calling myself a feminist for two reasons.

Firstly, the term is used and abused, it is kicked around to such an extent it can lose all value. What people hear when I say I am a feminist is more a reflection on that person than it is on me. Secondly, and this is hard for me to write, I know I don’t always live up to the standards that I set myself as a ‘feminist’.

It is this second point that I am going to take up in this article whilst at the same time hoping to offer a partial definition of how I see feminism.

Feminism, in my mind at least, is a negative principle – one that says your gender or sex should not stand in your way due to another person or groups prejudice. Being a feminist therefore, involves tackling this prejudice wherever you experience it.

It is in this sense that I aspire to be a feminist but I know I too often fail.

We do not live in a meritocracy – anyone who argues we do is either delusional or an idiot, or both. Women meet obstacles in their paths that men simply do not.

The more I think about it, the more intimidating it is to call myself a feminist. When you start to look, you begin to see what stands in the way of gender equality. The more you look, the more you see what needs challenging – this often includes your own friends and family.

Imagine you’re sitting in a pub with men start making inappropriate comments about a barmaid who looks uncomfortable but stands there because it is her job to stand there. What do you do? The person looking for an easy life blocks it out and enjoys their pint. The feminist finds a way to tackle the situation – not an easy thing to do!

Now imagine that it’s a mate or a family member making the comment, it then becomes even harder to tackle the situation.

I am the first to hold my hands up and say that I am not brave enough to always put my beliefs into action. Equally, I do not judge others who also fail. I, like many other men, too often take the easy route out, silence.

At least I sometimes spot the ‘situation’ even if I do not always act on it. I know many men who simply don’t spot the things they should be challenging.

For example, many male friends of mine would intervene if they saw a guy hitting a girl – rightly so. But, these same men would not think twice though about using sexist and discriminatory language that both perpetuates and justifies such overtly sexist behaviour.

Part of what defines me as feminist though, is being able to acknowledge my own and others imperfections whilst still striving for something better.

Like society I am aware that I have a long way to go fulfil the feminist goal – breaking down any obstacle that stands in the way of someone because of their gender. But feminism, if it is anything, has to be seen as a tool, a means in which to work towards this goal.

I know we are not very close to this goal and I know that society and I need to move a long way to get there. But I guess that is at least part of what makes me a feminist.

And so I finish this post by saying, ‘Yes I am a feminist’ but only in my own imperfect sense of the word.

This post was inspired by the writings and thoughts of Musa Okwonga on feminism.

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