Why you and everyone else needs to call themselves feminists

A reader responds to last week’s editorial on feminism


Dear Editor,

There are two things everyone needs to know before they identify as a feminist:

  • To identify as a feminist is to willingly accept that problematic, aggressive, and entitled people will throw their opinions at you and call you a man-hating b*tch.
  • To identify as a feminist is to accept these people with pride, know that they are misinformed, and show them how to educate themselves.

Because ultimately, feminism is a love and acceptance of sisterhood with all marginalized individuals.

I’m going to say something that’ll cause controversy:

For any woman to disassociate herself with the identity of a feminist comes from a place of internalized misogyny. That is to say: “I want to avoid the conflict that comes from the history and the identity of feminism, so I will dismiss the efforts of women that fought for women like myself, my mother, my sisters, and my female-identifying friends and say that they don’t apply to myself: a marginalized identity.”

The most common reason for an individual to stray away from identifying as a feminist is simply because they don’t know what feminism is, which is understandable. But understanding that feminism fights for all marginalized identities (including the racism that your POC family may face) and still disagreeing with it is really a foolish thing to do. It’s stupid.

That’s like a German saying, “I don’t identify as a German—because I’m not a Nazi.”

That’s like a white, heterosexual, cisgender male saying, “I don’t identify as a white, heterosexual, cisgender male because I don’t agree with the systemic privilege that I have.”

The fact of the matter is… No. It doesn’t work that way. To identify as a feminist is to stand in solidarity with the countless number of women and feminist allies who work tirelessly to make sure that you can live your systemically marginalized life as peacefully as possible.

Most of us have been conditioned to accept the patriarchal world anyway; it takes everyone time to grow out of the “it’s a man’s world” thought process. I myself didn’t identify as a feminist until the 18th year of my life, when I really understood how oppressed I was simply because of my sex.

To identify as a feminist is to understand the different branches of feminism, and to really understand that as a marginalized identity (for example: a Muslim, “brown” woman—three marginalized identities in itself), you should attempt to associate with the one that fights for the equality of all marginalized identities: intersectional feminism.

Intersectional feminism, in its simplest terms, is egalitarianism. That is, advocating for the equal treatment of , and doing something to help lessen their struggles while working towards abolishing their struggles entirely.

Identifying as a feminist is crucial to changing the injustice and oppression of different genders. Feminism is a huge movement, and it has been all throughout history. With that, feminism has a history of genuinely making an impact and changing things for the better. Without any argument, we can agree that the sexes do not receive equal treatment, for a multitude of reasons. But can we agree that it is not okay for this to occur?

This is just my opinion, but I believe that identifying as an intersectional feminist does more good than simply identifying as a feminist. Because—like you said and believe—there are so many negative connotations around the “umbrella term” feminism that people are much less willing to hear you out when you identify as a “feminist”, versus identifying as an “intersectional feminist” (I really think this is because of white feminism—sorry, not sorry.)

Some like to argue that the term “feminism” in itself is gender-biased—“Feminism must be all about women because it’s not called ‘genderism’!” Feminism started as a women’s rights movement, because that’s what was needed. Everything the first two notable waves of feminism fought for—the suffragettes, the wage gap, abortion rights, female representation in the arts and media, etc.—women needed these things. They needed this equality to men, because men already had these rights. There was no determining factor that gave men these rights over women—other than the fact that they were men. That’s why FEMinism started off as FEMinism.

Over the course of time, however, feminism changed. Feminism evolved into what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie famously describes in the interlude to Beyonce’s song “Flawless”: the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. And this is what it has become today.

In reply to a few things:

I know that having a colour to identify a gender is frustrating. But when it comes down to all of the issues surrounding intersectional feminism, no one has a bone to pick with the colour pink. It’s all about things like #BlackLivesMatter, the Flint water crisis, writing about the Guerrilla Girls’ work, hosting SlutWalks, advocating for Planned Parenthood—no feminist really has a major issue with being associated with the colour pink.

On the other hand, ask any (good) feminist if the hijab is a symbol of “oppression” in feminism and she will roll her eyes and tell you, “No.” If anything, it’s a symbol of liberation, a symbol of resistance, and a symbol of “I’ll wear what I want, and I don’t give a f— if you like it or not.”

The hijab goes hand-in-hand with the SlutWalks that occur worldwide, where women wear whatever the f— they want, and attempt to demolish the idea that women need to dress a certain way to please society. And if you’ve heard of or participated in a SlutWalk (a good one to Google would be the one by Amber Rose), then you would know that feminists come together to understand the injustices that we face as women regardless of what clothing we wear. We, as women, know that no matter what we wear, the ultimate crime for us is to be women. We will be harassed for being (or identifying as) women—not for what we wear. The SlutWalk proves this. Sexual assault statistics prove this.

In fact, the only “feminists” that are bothered by women wearing hijabs are not feminists at all—just Islamophobic assholes.

As for the comic you mentioned, it was created by a man who does not openly identify as a feminist. Malcolm Evans really is just a male who decided to input his opinions about women into comic form. It was not made by self-identifying feminists. It does not resemble feminism. And as most of us know, comics are like propaganda. They are political. They are made to rile you up, get you thinking. Identifying the whole “umbrella term” of feminism with a comic made by a man—who certainly didn’t have any feminist intentions in a comic that pits two women against each other—just isn’t a justified reason to dismiss feminism.

Conflict is guaranteed with any good cause. Feminism is relevant to this day because it still angers people; it still makes people uncomfortable. Can you believe that? Saying all individuals, regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, status, etc., should be equal makes people angry! That’s why feminism is so very much needed to this day. Because people grow horns over the idea of gender equality.

I hope I was able to share some important information with you, without coming off as hostile. When people talk to feminists, they think they’re talking to the KKK—as if one wrong word will cause them to blow your head off.

My writing this op-ed to you will probably cause a stir of “feminazi” comments, simply because I’m a feminist who is choosing to spread what I know to who I can, because I know feminism is important. Because I know that even if people get angry at me for being a feminist, for having a “feminist agenda”, for trying to get other people to accept the term “feminism”, in the end, I’m still working towards a society that will change to benefit the both of us.

With my love,
Nabeelah Shaikh
3rd year

Also see last week’s editorial.