Whenever I am coerced into a discussion about gender equality, the same points always seem to be regurgitated: "Why do you hate men? Women already have equality. Are you gay or something?" Well, yes actually, but that's beside the point. Although while we're on the subject, why is it so shocking to come out as a feminist anyway?
In fairness, I can see the rationality behind the unease. Feminism (to a lot of people) still provokes images of scantily clad Amazonian giants castrating men. Others prefer to imagine bra-burning hippies with a personal vendetta against horses. Do I want these women to dismantle the patriarchy one male cadaver at a time? Obviously not.
But that seems to be the real issue. Both sides of the argument (apart from a small handful of... 'traditional' thinkers) ultimately want the same thing. Equality. The lack of communication on top of inhibited shyness towards political discussion has reduced us to fighting over semantics, instead of discussing issues openly enough to see that both sides actually agree on a lot more than we think.
Feminism has for decades been smeared as anti-man, anti-woman, anti-horse and anti-justabouteverythingelse, and unfortunately the persistence and conviction of these efforts have been successful in their goal; to negate the strive for equality that women and men can achieve through feminism.
Meanwhile the non-feminist community has been branded a male superiority fringe, intent on keeping women in the kitchen and off of Internet forums. A poll earlier this year found that 72% of Americans don't consider themselves feminists. Are we really naïve enough to think that all these people hate women? Of course not, but the mentality seems to be that if you don't call yourself a feminist you immediately want it to be 1700 again.
In reality any non-feminists I've encountered still want fairness for everyone, just not under the feminist banner. The same poll showed this perfectly, in finding that 57% of Americans agree with the ethos of feminism when worded as "the social, political and economic equality of the sexes" (which is still a lot lower than I'd like, but hey). In a world with such a disparity between those who want feminist ideals and those who want to be called feminists, the self-categorization seems entirely secondary. Although I'd be hesitant to ditch the word, with the rich history of the movement from the suffragettes to Pussy Riot and back, I'm sure most right minded people should be more concerned with the amount of citizens in this day and age who want to deny sexual equality, rather than whether or not people word their opinions the same way.
Of course the debate is a lot more complex, and forgive me for making it sound simple. There are of course those who fight against equality on both sides, under the guise of feminists and non-feminists alike. What I am calling for is not a dismissal of individuals who are genuinely against equality, but a refusal to give in to the hysteria they create.
In our frenzy towards fairness, we have forced a false dichotomy between the two sides, all over a word. I wonder if it were not for the opposition between 'feminists' and 'everyone else', would we spend less time calling each other feminazis and misogynists on comment sections of gender articles? Perhaps the time would be better used rallying together to make a positive impact for future generations.