What It's Like To Explain What Feminism Really Is

by Kat George

Why feminists are constantly called upon to explain that feminism means "equality between the sexes" and not "militant man hating" is a downright bane on our existence. Sure, there are people who will troll you and purposefully push your feminist buttons because they're that sort of person. They'll point to more extreme feminist theories and use them as arguments as to why feminism is about so much more than simple equality. And then there are those, whether men or women, who are threatened by the very idea of feminism, so they go all out and pretend it some kind of pyramid scheme designed to brainwash women into joining a giant slut army that will eventually enslave and castrate all men and live topless in one giant menstrual orgy of hairy armpits, lesbianism, and wanton abortion.

Just to clarify: a lot of feminists love men. A lot of feminists hate men. A lot of feminists love women and a lot probably hate women. A lot of feminists have hairy underarms and a lot don't. A lot of feminists have had abortions and a lot have chosen to have babies. A lot of feminists have a lot of sex and a lot don't. But feminists do or do not do all of these things out of PERSONAL CHOICE, not because of feminism itself, like it's some rigidly defining, guiding force that outlines every aspect of every single person who wears it as an identifying label. Feminism has a very clearly stated meaning: If you are a feminist, you fundamentally think that people of any gender expression should be treated equally culturally, politically, socially, financially and in every other facet of their lives. It means you believe that people should not be bigoted towards other people based on where they fall on the gender spectrum, or who they like to have sex with. And it means that everyone should be afforded the same choices, rights and opportunities regardless of those same things. That's really ALL it means. The specifics of how that belief manifests in each individual feminists life will be personal and specific to their life experiences, which is exactly why it's completely useless and reductive and limiting to assign any one set of rules, actions, and beliefs to "feminism" as a whole—in doing so, you might be right about a handful of feminists, and utterly wrong about all the rest.

That sounds so simple, right? (At least one person is reading this and going "I've been a feminist all along and I didn't even know it? MIND BLOWN.") Feminists have to explain this simple stuff ALL THE TIME (and the "MIND BLOWN" person is one we encounter often), and it's an emotional process every time we're forced to explain what feminism is to someone who's confused. Here are the emotional stages you go through when you're trying to explain what feminism actually is:

1. Total confidence, bordering on smugness

You got this. You're so feminist, you make Gloria Steinem look like a middle class, Christian, educated, right-leaning, white man.

2. Shock

This comes when you realized your well-reasoned, clever arguments aren't immediately making everyone in the room burn their bras and spit in the general direction of Terry Richardson.

3. Patience

Although you're more than happy to sit here all night, if that's what it takes, very carefully explaining about gender equality. That's how much of a goddamn warrior you are.

4. Impatience

But the more you talk in circles, the more impatient you'll become. Your arguments are fool proof, so what kind of a fool doesn't understand them?

5. Frustration

Eventually you'll get a bit sweaty, and maybe raise your voice, or at least do an impassioned Joan of Arc-style monologue.

6. Condescention

You know that initial smugness? It's back, but with a nasty little twist. This is where you start talking to the other person like they're a child, and saying spiteful things like...

7. Bey-splaining

When all seems lost, you'll switch your brain into its Beyonce gear, because everyone understands Beyoncé.

8. Hopelessness

When Bey-splaining fails, you'll start to feel like all may truly be lost.

9. Reason

Tired and hopeless, you'll become strangely reasonable, like during an explosive break-up fight that goes all night with crying and screaming, where at the end you feel strangely calm and clear.

10. Superiority

Realizing that your explanations have fallen on far more stupid ears than your own, you'll begin to feel both morally and intellectually superior for having such an inclusive and deep understanding of feminism.

11. Acceptance

Eventually you'll come to accept that the other person doesn't understand feminism. If they're a horrible misogynist, you'll just accept that eventually they'll become a minority because we're fighting hard and making ground, and if they're someone who believes in equality between the sexes but doesn't call themselves feminist, you'll accept that as a win because labels are bullshit anyway, and at the end of the day, all that really matters is the practice—how someone exists in the world and the morals they uphold in their little, everyday motions is infinitely more important than what words feel good for them to call themselves. But hey, maybe that's just the choice-loving feminist in me.

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