A lot of women don’t label themselves as feminists. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know what it means to be a feminist, they think it makes them a man-hater, a hairy hippy or whatever the media has taught them a feminist is, but I’m starting to think there might be another reason women don’t call themselves feminists, at least in a public setting; it’s HARD to be a feminist. It’s not hard to declare that you believe in gender equality, that’s easy but something else happens when you make that declaration to others, they go on the defensive: they change the way they talk to you, act towards you, you have to explain yourself, explain your beliefs, your views, over and over and over again. On a good day, the person you’re talking to will say “Oh, that’s cool, I never thought of it that way” On a REALLY good day you might hear “I guess I’m a feminist too” but that’s a rare gem. Most of the time it turns into a debate, where everything you believe in is questioned and you have to defend yourself, try to explain, talk until you are blue in the face. Sometimes, I just get beat down I say, “This is who I am, I’m not trying to change you, just show you that there is more to it than you think” and I walk away, I am never proud of myself in these moments, but one can only go on for so long. I’m left feeling worn down, ready to give up, wondering why I continue to fight this fight.
The last time I found myself in this situation I decided to try something different. I was in a large (ish) group of people, and questions were firing at me from all sides. I had had a glass of wine so I felt confident enough to answer with full force, and while a few people in the room seemed to be on my side, I was the only one speaking. I took a deep breath, I collected myself and I asked, “How many women are in this room?”
There were 14, including myself.
So I said, “I am a feminist because at least 7 of them women in this room will be victims of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime”
The room fell silent.
I added “This is a bare bones statistic that doesn’t account for the fact that most rapes go unreported. I am a feminist because I don’t want to live in fear, and I don’t want my daughters to have to live in fear either.”
At first, there was more silence. But after a few moments, the mood of the room started to change, people started to understand. Violence against women is not going away, it’s not dwindling and it affects everyone in some way or another. I’m not saying that this approach to fighting for feminism will work every time, because I know that it won’t, but keep this statistic in your arsenal, try it out the next time you feel cornered defending your beliefs, pull it out. Maybe it will help, just keep fighting, keep marching on, because this fight is far from over.