I have some pragmatic moderate-ness about this. There are groups and organisations and individuals out there talking about feminism and its goals in a positive and constructive way. The thing is, if those discussions were truly successful, I – we – wouldn’t get that reaction when ‘admitting’ to being a feminist.
This is partly a mainstream media thing. The 6 o’clock news, for example, needs to explain things to its audience in a few seconds. That’s why protests and shouting and anger feature on the news rather than intelligent people making rational arguments.
Those negative images are why the occasional positive stories about things that aim to help women/girls in first/third-world nations advance in technology/sport/farming/education are presented without reference to feminism, even if the organisation sponsoring those efforts is deeply feminist. I get that – if they were to mention feminism, those strong negative images of anger and combativeness trump positive images easily.
It’s not exactly the same thing, but try image searching ‘feminism’. Most of the top results are of Rosie the Riveter showing us her guns. There are a few black and white shots of protests and there are some slogans. Many (but not all) of the slogans and logos imply violence, which obviously is designed to confront and challenge.
The problem with these images, is that if you live in your bubble of patriarchal privilege and haven’t gone further than the mainstream media, it’d be fair to assume that feminists want to hurt you or your position in society. This applies to the women who abhor the idea of being called a feminist too – they don’t want to disrupt the society and way of life they know for some angry, probably ‘ugly’ and (shock! horror!) hairy unknown.
I am in no way saying ‘poor men, they’re too confronted by our fighting talk’. What I am saying is that we can’t expect any non-feminist – man or woman – to understand the completely reasonable principles of feminism given the images they’ve been exposed to. Surely the logical end game for feminism is equality of choice for all, so we need to really engage those people. We can’t and shouldn’t be happy with continuing a discussion at cross purposes where we yell our frustration and they laugh and deride our arguments.
There is place for challenge. There is place for protest. There is a place for a number of strategies to make a feminist world a reality. What I am suggesting is that we need to go back to the drawing board and get the basics right because right now, feminism is failing.