Feminism is the only equal rights group that has a name that followers will often choose to adopt. The fight for racial equality doesn’t have a name that one can identify with; you can call yourself an anti-racist or an advocate for civil rights, but you don’t call yourself a “civil rightist.” The advocates for LGBT rights and disability rights don’t have a specific identifier; we’re not “gayists” or “genderists.” Why does the fight for equality between women, men, and everyone in-between get to be called “feminism,” but no others have a recognizable name, something that fellow activists get to call themselves? “Feminist” is an identifier as important to feminism’s followers as their gender, their age, their religion, their ethnicity.
A lot of skeptics and critics of feminism raise the point often. Why, for example, does someone fighting against gender-based oppression have to call themselves a “feminist” in order to be taken seriously as a true ally? Feminism is one group that really does require membership, in a way, by virtue of giving themselves a name. If you don’t call yourself “feminist,” you’re not really in favor of equal rights. Right? Well, of course not; reasonable people would say that the label is unimportant. But why does it feel like it is?
People who call themselves feminists, myself included, have grown attached to the name, and the label, and the identity and empowerment that it feels like the label gives us. When I hear another woman say she’s a feminist, I feel an immediate connection to her, and also to the men who feel brave enough to say it out loud, although they are few and far between.
Is the simple fact that the fight for equality between men and women has a name, and one that has been so demonized since its inception, the reason for the constant backlash? Could it be part of it? While it’s true that other organized efforts for equality are brushed off by skeptics or people who think the world has just gotten too “PC,” feminism really seems to take the brunt of the backlash.
Are you a “feminist”? Why do you embrace the label of “feminism” when you could opt for something more neutral, like “gender equality advocate,” or something similar?