5 Reasons Feminism Should Just Be Called Common Sense
Given all the backlash feminism gets and all the people reluctant to call themselves feminists, it's easy to forget that feminism is common sense, not some radical philosophy. Feminism is sometimes depicted as relevant only to a small group of people with a particular set of political beliefs, but if you examine it closely, you'll realize it appeals to a lot of the moral principles many Americans — and people throughout the world — share.
It's also true that feminism has taught us to challenge a lot of the "common sense" that really just seems sensible because we've been living in a patriarchal society for so long. One of my favorite quotes, from the book The Ethical Slut , sums up something feminism has done for me: "We urge you to regard with great skepticism any sentence that begins 'Everybody knows that...' or 'Common sense tells us that...' or 'It's common knowledge that....'" The authors are discussing "signposts for cultural belief systems which may be anti sexual monogamy-centrist and/or co dependent," but their advice could also apply to any patriarchal belief system — e.g., "it's common knowledge that women should be the primary caretakers since they're the ones who give birth" or "everybody knows that women can't beat men in sports."
But even though feminism goes against some conventional wisdom, it does stem from some very basic, common-sense principles. Here are a few reasons feminism should really just be called common sense:
1. It Appeals To Our Innate Sense Of Fairness
As Gloria Steinem says, feminism is about "making life more fair for women everywhere." Fairness is a concept that resonates with us from a young age: If our siblings get something we don't for no good reason, we yell, "That's not fair!" It's also the concept our government is built on: Laws aim to ensure that people are treated with fairness, and democracy is based on the concept that everybody should have an equal say in matters that affect them. When we apply these concepts to people of all genders, the logical conclusion is feminism.
2. It Follows The Principles Our Country Was Built On
The Declaration of Independence declares it "self-evident" that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Yes, our Founding Fathers wrote "men," but we generally understand this phrase to mean that all people are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and women can't have these rights without equal treatment, the ability to make decisions about their bodies and lives, and freedom from gender-based violence and patriarchal oppression.
3. It's Backed By Science
Science has disproven sexist myths that women are less intelligent in certain domains, less capable of rational thought, and less competent as leaders. In fact, all in all, it has shown that most gender differences are smaller than we previously thought or nonexistent. It has also challenged the gender binary altogether, showing that there's a large range of bodies not completely male or female (not to mention an even larger range of gender identities). The belief that men and women should be treated differently just doesn't hold up against the facts.
4. It Helps Everyone
On an individual level, feminism is about loving and accepting yourself and others in a society that teaches us only certain people should be loved and accepted. We've all experienced oppression in some way, whether due to our gender, race, class, or failure to conform to our prescribed role, even if it is a privileged one. We all need feminism to unlearn these systems of oppression and become more free to express ourselves without being devalued for it, whoever we are.
5. Being A Feminist Is The Right Thing To Do
As Emma Watson puts it, it is simply right to treat all people with the same dignity regardless of their gender. Or, in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words, we should be judging people solely by "the content of their character," not by any surface-level quality they possess. Presenting people with the opportunities they deserve and allowing everyone basic rights regardless of gender, race, or any other irrelevant aspect of their identity is a principle we should all be able to get behind.
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