Despite being a young woman who strongly believes in equal opportunities and fair treatment, I do not personally associate with the current feminist movement. I’m also aware that it has become a lot less popular in recent years, with some people totally opposed.
One of the historical documentaries I watched not all that long ago featured the work carried out by the Suffragettes in Britain. Feeling their frustrations, I was convinced that had I lived in the early 1900’s, I would have been a part of their fight to vote. And yet, interestingly, it hasn’t resulted in a drive to identify as a feminist of today. Therefore, I wanted to explore this disconnect from modern day feminism to further understand why that is and how the movement has evolved.
The origins of feminism…
Throughout history, there have been many movements with varying intentions and causes surrounding women’s rights. Therefore it is difficult to trace back to one specific “feminist” movement as not all associated with that description.
In terms of modern Western feminist history, it is most commonly referred to in “waves” to explain the changes in development and aims. The first wave began in the 19th and early 20th centuries and were focused on changing laws that provided inequalities, in particular the right for women to vote.
To avoid going into too much unnecessary detail, I won’t be talking through each of the waves but would encourage anyone to use the resources stated at the bottom of this Wikipedia page for further information if that’s something of personal interest.
How this has evolved…
Adhering to the idea of the wave patterns for coherence, we are now witnessing fourth-wave feminism that began around 2012. Some of it’s main aims are to empower women, advocate for greater representation of transgender women and women of colour in politics and business. They also want men and boys to overcome gender norms and argues for equal pay for equal work.
The popularity of social media has allowed this movement to evolve digitally. Perspectives and ideas can be shared more broadly and campaigns can be created quickly and effectively using hashtags. It has enabled people around the world to communicate on these issues.
Why it has become less relatable…
In June 2018, the GenForward Survey created a report of 1,750 young adults on their views on the contemporary feminist movement. They found that fewer than 20% of the respondents self-identified as a feminist. However, more than half said that they don’t identify as a traditional feminist but support women’s rights and equality.
I choose to bring up these statistics to confirm the idea that identifying as a feminist isn’t so popular amongst this age group. It’s a great source to look at, covering ethnicity and gender on this topic and I would recommend a view. Unfortunately, this particular report doesn’t provide substantial information as to the reasons behind those views and so I am going to focus on my personal reasons as well as speculate others.
I’d first like to mention that I’m not a huge fan of labels in general. In some instances they can be extremely beneficial but in other cases I feel restricted. As the role of feminism has become so broad, I don’t feel comfortable labelling myself along with the movement, preferring to support specific campaigns. As with all communities and group organisations, there can be mixed views and I find there to be many more extreme ideas present here.
I’m not sure how or when, but at some point feminism became heavily associated with man-hating. There are undoubtedly a large portion of self-identifying feminists who don’t fall into this way of thinking and are probably frustrated by those who do, but sadly the extreme views seem to be more prevalent in the media. The word feminism itself can easily be used to reinforce the idea of a heavy focus on women which doesn’t help matters. Unfortunately, some people have used this term to criticise men for issues and unfairly generalised and stereotyped the gender. I believe this provokes unease with people, unsure whether to commit to the term.
There has been more encouragement towards men to participate in the feminist movement which is understandable considering their main aims. I am aware of the need to tackle toxic masculinity and I think it’s a really positive acknowledgement of the movement. However in some areas I do feel a step too far has been taken and there is almost a rejection of the differences between men and women. In my opinion, there are differences that need to be addressed and also celebrated.
An issue that I’d like to be raised, which as far as I’m aware hasn’t, is the way women treat other women. The blame is often on the patriarchy, society and men but I think all women can agree that the way we sometimes behave with one another is toxic and unhealthy. In order to raise each other up we need to stop judging one other, quit comparing our appearances, and compliment each other on our abilities rather than how pretty we looked in that selfie. I can’t understand why this hasn’t been addressed considering the history of feminism. This unawareness is problematic to me and so further distances me from participating.
A final feeling I get is of a victim mentality attached to this movement, which is unfortunate. I believe this stems from the blame mentioned previously and creates some negative emotional reactions. In some ways this is why I’m unsure of the need of such a movement that can be used negatively to divide men and women rather than come together on issues faced by people.
Ultimately, this is just an exploration of some ideas why modern Western feminism is starting to lack popularity. I refrained from talking about any specific cases and laws that feminism may have influenced as they would deserve their own analysis but it is something I would be comfortable discussing in another post.
At the moment, I can’t say that on the whole feminism has become a problem. There are so many people who identify with the movement that are successful in bringing about positive change, especially in countries that are in need of more support. For myself however, it’s become too broad in its aims and I would prefer to participate in specific campaigns where I feel they will make a significant difference. Just like the Suffragettes, I would be in favour of changing unfair laws and focusing on promoting change for all in that way.
I am not against feminism in any way and don’t want this to be a controversial issue. Sometimes it can be the minority spoiling it for the majority and there’s a chance that’s the case within this movement.
What do you think?
Don’t be shy – let me know your thoughts in the comments!
I would be really interested to hear your ideas and whether you identify as a feminist. Do you think there is a need for the term anymore or is it necessary for greater change?