Students—men and women—protest against rising violence against women in New Delhi (2012)
Preconception. The world is sinking under the vast multitude of beliefs regarding the multi-layered world of feminism. You tell someone you’re a feminist, and different notions jog through their head of what that means about you, who it makes you, how it defines you.
One has a pre-conceived basis of what this means to them, not giving thought on what it means to you. A simple online search will tell you the many, many facets that make up feminism, and how basic and straightforward a concept it is. Put plainly, feminism is the act of supporting female rights as a division of overall gender equality. This does not put women above men. This does not exclude men. This does not put white women above women of color. This does not exclude anyone based on race. This does not pertain to one’s own religion, sexuality, identity, or ethics.
What it does pertain to is the greater concept of equality among men, women, and everyone in between. Walking through the streets of Brooklyn, I hear discussions of rights, equality, privilege, culture. Associated with all of them, one can hear traces of the feminist misconception. Among a large portion of these conversations, a great deal of the misunderstanding comes from men.
Men seem to think they cannot be feminists. As a male myself, this idea seems entirely preposterous. It does not take much to be an advocate. It does not take time or effort, it does not take willpower or strength. All it takes is plain understanding.
Once one understands a concept, they grow with it, shape it, form it into what it means for them. But until one has such an understanding, it seems hard pressed that one can develop their own genuine notions. As a boy growing up in rural America, I can certainly sympathize with how one can merely let thoughts wash over them, absorb them and mentally ratify them without knowing a thing about them. Yet, being shaped in such a manner does not at all hinder one’s ability to learn on their own.
It seems that in part, one of the largest problems with feminism is the lack of understanding coming from outside feminism. There are so many varying ideas of what this concept is that we forget how simple it can be. Men being feminists does not degrade them. It does not emasculate them. It does not make them less of a man; if anything, it does only the opposite. Striving for gender equality is a very acceptable ideal of today’s culture with our society seeing less and less people who oppose the idea. Labeling oneself a feminist only supports this very basic premise, anything additional is what one makes of it.
The preconception that being a feminist labels you as so many other things is not the case, and to realize this, the world needs to spread the simplicity of this concept. Understanding is the key to progressing, and until we can fully understand, we show no hope of advancing ourselves.