I’ll start with a Wikipedia quote on Feminism (and yes, I’m aware Wikipedia is not a suitable academic source, but this isn’t an academic blog!):
Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.
My problem with this is it’s all about female rights and ensuring female equality. While I’m all for this – after all, I’m biologically and phenotypically female – I don’t believe that anyone deserves to be promoted above anyone else. Just because you were born a person with an XX genotype doesn’t make you particularly special or wonderful; I really don’t understand people that go on about the sacredness of womanhood, a universal sisterhood and how being female should be celebrated and is glorious. It’s just a sex or gender. Yes, it affects some things, but I believe it only skews the preferences – it doesn’t mean that some things are inherently female or male.
Yes, women can have children (and some men if we include trans men) and unless they’re a snake, shark, turkey or similar who have been proven to have virgin births, they need a man to produce sperm. And just to be fair, a man can’t have offspring without a woman as he needs her eggs. It also happens to be that out of the two options evolution had to carry the babies, women drew the short straw – unless you’re a seahorse.
The London Feminist Network defines patriarchy as:
Patriarchy is the term used to describe the society in which we live today, characterised by current and historic unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed. This takes place across almost every sphere of life but is particularly noticeable in women’s under-representation in key state institutions, in decision-making positions and in employment and industry. Male violence against women is also a key feature of patriarchy. Women in minority groups face multiple oppressions in this society, as race, class and sexuality intersect with sexism for example.
However, while I can accept that we currently live in a situation where men can get better pay, better jobs and are generally seen as more advantaged (although I’ve luckily never really had to face that discrimination which I accept may make me a bit biased – my career area is very well policed on that), it’s not just women who are oppressed – what about the fact we’re in a society which is mononormative, generally straight and, at least in the UK, primarily white? The definition about mentions that some women face multiple oppressions due to sexuality, race, etc, but then so do some men.
A colleague of mine explained that she believes that feminism has come to mean the support for everyone to be equal and have equal rights, and especially intersectional feminism. She feels that the word ‘feminism’ has more history and belief behind it and therefore is a stronger word and more powerful than if we use another term. My problem with that is that it’s like calling a supermarket Pizza Hut; yes, it sells pizza as well as loads of other things too, but the name means that people will only expect it to sell pizza.
Feminism will always have the implication that it supports women over everything else – and in a situation with a white cis-woman and a black gay man, why should the woman get any advantage and support via feminism over the more socially disadvantaged man?
So, what do I call myself? I prefer the term egalitarian. Definition from TheFreeDictionary.com:
Affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people.
Firstly, it’s a lot clearer and simpler than the word feminism – it doesn’t need the clarifications or extra bits stuck onto the definition above. Secondly, it’s for all people, not just less than half the global population (allowing for queer, agender, etc), which sits much more comfortably with me. Feminism also doesn’t inherently support equality for a gay man and a trans man and a straight man, because they’re all male, so not under that banner, while egalitarianism supports equality for everyone.
I believe that everyone should be given equal opportunities and equal voice in everything, allowing for experience, skill and other things that aren’t tied to one particular gender. I don’t believe that anyone should be given advantages that mean that they’re better than anyone else; I’m not keen on quotas of women in a company for example because the best people when you look at every applicant objectively, ignoring race, sex, orientation may be in the so called privileged group of people. Ideally, looking at everyone objectively would usually bring up a mix of candidates.
Yes, I will admit that this only works if the equality is in place since birth since the bias towards a male dominated mononormative straight world is put in place early on as well as the awful gender preferences for dolls over cars and cooking over chemistry. This does mean that a white boy will likely get a better education, have more opportunities, and learn more skills than a coloured boy, however, I’m a bit of an idealist and I’ll try to ignore that bias as much as possible and look at the potential.
I strongly believe that everyone should be given the ability and power to all be able to be at the same level. I don’t believe in giving artificial help to compensate for something unless it has been caused by society’s patriarchal and sexual norms, and even then I think it’s important to remember that just because someone is gay, black, female, or blue with green spots it doesn’t automatically mean they’re better at something than a white straight male once the societal bias has been normalised.
So, yes, I support equal rights for everyone, not just women, and I don’t feel the label feminism goes far enough towards this. Regarding it having power, history and meaning, I think that that is a negative as well as a positive – too many (usually female) people use the term who are utterly against men and want women to be seen as the superior gender when they’re not, and too many people relate it to battling just for female equality, nothing else.
To labour an analogy – I’ve decided to shop at the egalitarian supermarket where all people are equal rather than the feminist takeaway, which will only serve women. How about you?
And just because I learnt some habits from University:
 Hawkesworth, M.E. (2006). Globalization and Feminist Activism. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 25–27. ISBN 9780742537835.
 Beasley, Chris. (1999). What is Feminism?. New York: Sage. pp. 3–11. ISBN 9780761963356.
 Hooks, Bell (2000). Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate politics. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press. ISBN 0-89608-629-1.