Not Anti-MaleJune 17, 2008
During the opening session of the recent National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, attendees were asked to stand up if they agreed with different statements. This exercise brings out many of the similarities and differences among the group of 500 college women leaders present. Two of the statements were “I consider myself a feminist” and “I don’t consider myself a feminist.” I was surprised by how many attendees stood up for the latter, clearly stating to the group that they would not self-identify. Christy Jones discussed in her blog post “The ‘F’ Word” how some people see feminism as a dirty word, but I still thought that at a women’s leadership conference, nearly all attendees would identify as feminists. From where I was sitting, however, it looked like nearly half the room did not.
I don’t believe that half the attendees are upset that they can attend college, vote, have their own credit card, expect to work in any job field they choose, play on sports teams, and be leaders on their campus. All these choices are possible because of feminists: women and men who simply want women to have the same opportunities and rights as men.
Indeed, no one who spoke cited a belief that women shouldn’t have those kinds of choices as their reason for not being a feminist. Instead, not being anti-male was the recurring theme. I was surprised that the stereotype that feminists are anti-male persists so widely, especially among college-educated women.
What can be done to educate people that feminism isn’t a bad word and doesn’t mean being anti-male? How do we inform people that if they support issues like equal pay and sexual harassment laws, they are being feminist? On the other hand, should anything be done? Does it matter if people embrace the title of feminist as long as they, like every woman I met at the conference, are making strides toward equity for women?