Opinion: Let’s talk about the ‘F-word’

John Hess is a senior political science major. Contact him at [email protected].

John Hess

Feminism — there I said it. I am a feminist, and you should be too.

When I tell other men that I am a feminist there is always a range of responses: Some are amused, some confused, and some even feel betrayed. My favorite is the classic, “Look who’s trying to get laid.”

Based on the assumption that the only reason I should take an interest in women’s issues is to trick them into sleeping with me, this says a lot more about the speaker than it says about me. Regardless, the general consensus is usually a rolling of the eyes.

But seriously guys, this is nothing to roll your eyes at. I’m writing this column specifically for you, because this is a big f-ing deal. Women are marginalized at work where they are paid less than men, they are disadvantaged at home where they are expected to do domestic work in addition to their paying jobs, and they are oppressed in a culture which simultaneously demands they be sexually available and absolutely chaste.

“But hey man, I am for gender equality but feminism is too far.”

I hear this a lot. This statement is based on the idea that feminism is something other than gender equality, specifically female supremacy. Let me say this now: I have been a feminist, known feminists, and been involved in feminist work for several years now, and I have never met one of these imaginary straw-women.

Maybe they exist out there somewhere, but their influence is so minimal that taking time out of a legitimate conversation about gender equality —which is what feminism is about — to deal with “radical feminist” man-haters is counter-productive.

This issue is similar to one, which I addressed in a column earlier this year on the Black Lives Matter movement. Just as those in favor of racial equality sometimes stall progress by insisting on a nebulous slogan like “All Lives Matter,” those who insist on the neutral terminology of “gender equality” claim to want change but fail to recognize who it is that’s harmed by the status quo.

Gender relations are not a zero sum game. Women’s rights do not come at the expense of those of men. We gain from this process as well. When the ridiculous patriarchal notions of the ideal woman and the ideal man are finally dismantled, we can all be ourselves, free of the social pressure to be anything else.

Given this understanding of feminism, I think a lot of readers would now consider themselves feminists – or else want to start. It’s important to understand that this isn’t just a label you apply to yourself. This is a process of understanding women’s issues, accepting that your perspective is limited by your experiences as a male and allowing women to take the lead where they have more first-hand experience. It doesn’t really end; it’s a lifestyle. It takes a lot of work to unlearn a lifetime of sexist notions about who and what people are. However, it’s also a rewarding a process that allows you to better understand and support those around you.

So guys, let’s all be feminists.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to stop me on campus and share. I’d be glad to talk.