We live in a world where marketing your message is critical, whether you’re selling a commercial product or sanctuary. Even the most inherently good messages can be lost when shrouded with layers of extremism and contrast.
The idealist in me hates that fact.
The realist in me doesn’t like it much more, but works with it.
Two salient examples of this “branding failure” are religious fanaticism, which ends up detracting from principles of faith and altruism, and community vigilantism, which negates principles of justice and accountability. Another example is feminism.
I’ve always seen feminism as ideally being directed at protecting the rights of women, which nobody can argue is a bad thing. Yet strangely, when a woman sits down in a social setting for example and reveals to a group of both men and women that she is a “committed feminist”, it’s regularly met with either an awkward silence or a series of rehearsed negative retorts.
A very dear friend of mine who could be considered a feminist sent me a “feminism bingo” card once, with a few examples of how standardised replies to feminist expression have become. Some of them are actually quite funny (in a twisted sort of way). They included:
- “It’s your job to teach me about feminism. Now do it.”
- “We gave you the vote, now shut up.”
- “Women just can’t be objective about gender issues.”
- “You feminists all hate men!”
- “You’ve just got a victim mentality.”
and the guaranteed trouble starter/coup de grâce:
- “Is it that time of the month?”
It would be very easy to blame everybody else (read as “men”) completely for the negative publicity feminism has received, but I think a more honest answer would be somewhere in the middle, with feminists also being responsible for some of the stereotyping they live under.
Feminists have branded themselves incorrectly.
The title “feminism” is a bad branding move, because it isolates the group it’s trying to protect and creates the “us versus them” scenario that is the fatal flaw in countless persecuted groups’ protection strategies. By calling it feminism, women are being singled out, by women, from men. And considering men are presumably the culprits of gender discrimination towards women, how does that really help the cause? The real target market for the message of equality gets isolated, whether intentionally or not. How many men go around calling themselves a feminist (or “pro-feminist”)? Yes, I’ve been told they exist, but they remain in the same realm as rational ANC Youth League members for now (somewhat mythical, until I meet one).
The best way to fight for women’s rights is to fight for them under a banner of general human rights. If equality is what somebody genuinely wants, they won’t have a problem with doing that. Some very influential and inspirational women I know have taken that approach, to far better effect than the feminist isolation approach has ever had.
Women who want to be treated equally should get out there and promote human rights, in which ALL humans, regardless of gender or race or other thing perceived by the masses as a separation are treated with respect. And I’ll join them, right there in the front rows of expression and protest, in solidarity.
Women who want women to be separate in the human equation, or have a bone to pick with men in general can keep calling themselves feminists, and see where it gets them.