They were joined by about six million people during the Women’s Marches the day after Trump’s inauguration (January 2017), who defied the STIGMA of “feminism” to protest the sexism of the Trump campaign.
What’s a stigma? It’s a strong feeling of disapproval, a mark of disgrace or reproach, a set of negative and often unfair beliefs.
I think the stereotype of a feminist is someone who is angry, unhinged, and obsessively hates men. Someone “who doesn’t know how to be a woman and who doesn’t like being a woman.” (Note: And “a woman is… ?”)
This stereotype led to fierce rejection of the label by generations after 1975 or so: “I am NO feminist!” “Feminists are against Moms.” “We don’t want any feminists in our workplace.” “Feminists [like female graduate students] are ugly, angry spoilers. Undateable.”
Meanwhile, since the 1950’s and 1960’s when feminism rose up—Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer—many were proud to finally decipher and talk about what was wrong with the treatment of women in our time. There are explicitly “feminist” movements and organizations that never faded from the scene, in spite of decades of stigma: NOW, MS Magazine.
The rise of women’s studies (facilitated by The Feminist Press) means we are busy documenting the “missing stories” about women in history. (The first college course was in 1969.) Stories about women whose research was denied and stolen by Nobel Prize winners, whose mathematical skills were critical in national achievements (“Hidden Figures”), women who trained as astronauts and were denied their chance by men like John Glenn (who thought he deserved one more mission at 70-years, over any woman).
Even though we are half the population of the world, we need to list the leading lights just to remember they exist. See the “ten most famous” and even databases of names. As if, THERE ARE NOT MANY, my dear, who “make it.”
Organizations who don’t use “the word” are busy challenging laws, practices, concepts: National Women’s Law Center, AAUW, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and Women’s National History Museum campaign, for example.
Here’s my point: it is really about respect and dignity for women, and opportunity. We can call it a wish for “equal rights.” It’s a protest against stereotypes, behavior, laws, and social conventions that limit women and push them into lesser-paid, subordinate roles. That insult them and exclude them from power and achievement. Steer them only to the roles of the nurturing servant and the sex-mate.
Our wish for respect is NOT inconsistent with the wish for nurturing, motherhood, femininity, or LOVING MEN. It means: just like men, women want to live free of harassment, free of being reduced to being a sex servant, free from being pressured to be a near SLAVE in a highly restricted role in society. We want choice in procreation, in managing the marvelous role of motherhood. And we have brains just like men who want power and complexity at work.
What the anti-feminists want, is to make this wish AWFUL. They say, Girls: Stop protesting, stop complaining about the insults, the lower pay, the lack of advancement at work, the stupid pressure to be a man’s wet dream. It’s unpleasant. It interferes with the power and PLEASURE men have in feeling that they own women. It tarnishes the treasured image of the selfless, loving mother who wants nothing more, the giving lover who needs nothing for herself. JUST SHUT UP. Stay in the little box we’ve made for you.
I think we need to reframe the “dialog.” Just like the politicians we know do. Talk about a “new normal” when a girl can grow up as free as a boy, and a woman can live like a man. (Without some of the garbage that goes with that…). Talk about respect, dignity, freedom of choice in life, and fair pay. Don’t use “the word” because there’s an automatic stupid response to it.