What difference does it make whether or not you identify as a feminist? As long as you support women’s rights, that’s enough, isn’t it? One could argue that being a supporter of women’s rights makes you a feminist, whether you identify as one or not, but let’s assume there’s a lot more to being a feminist than that. So why would any sane woman want to call herself something that earns the scorn of so many people? What exactly are the benefits of being a feminist?
- You can feel good about being a woman.
- You don’t ever have to apologize for being a woman.
- You’re not limited by being a woman.
- You don’t have to conform to society’s ideas of womanhood.
- You know how to stand up for yourself.
- You have more self-confidence and courage.
- You can do things because they’re right for you.
- You feel capable of making your own decisions.
- You embrace your masculine as well as feminine qualities.
- You’re not afraid to put your principles on the line.
- You accept people for what they are, not what they can do for you.
- You see the world, and yourself, more clearly.
- You are supported by the sisterhood.
- You are supportive of other women.
I’d be foolish to say that feminism solves all of life’s problems. But knowing that there is more to life than living up to society’s expectations helps a lot when it comes to making a life for yourself. Being a feminist is a statement; it says that you belong to no one and you can think for yourself. That alone is empowering.
But let’s turn this on its head: what are the benefits of not being a feminist?
- Men are not intimidated or alienated by you.
- You don’t have to make decisions.
- You always have society’s–and men’s–expectations to guide you.
- Men will take care of you.
- No one will call you ugly, hairy or man-hating.
- You will know exactly how to treat little boys and little girls.
- You can embrace your femininity.
- You don’t have to act like a man.
- You don’t have to buck the system.
- You can work or not, part-time or full-time.
- You can stay home with your children.
- You will be upholding tradition.
- You don’t have to break new ground.
- You don’t have to compete with men.
You’ve probably noticed that not all of these points will hold true for all women all of the time. But most women who refuse to call themselves feminists draw a lot of comfort from them. You may have also noticed that a lot of these points illustrate misconceptions about feminism: that they insist that women work, for instance, or act like men, or deny their femininity.
These are not perfect constructs, but they may make you think about how you view feminism.