If Feminism Offends You, Maybe You've Never Been on the Receiving End of Inequality
Updated: Apr 22
We all walk through life gathering a variety of perspectives because our experiences and interactions are not identical to everyone else's. These diverse lenses are what make life rich and full when we can stretch to see beyond ourselves. But these diverse lenses are what also lead to disagreements because it’s frustrating when others don’t feel or see things the same as we do, right?
Black Lives Matter (BLM), LGBTQ, and feminism seem to exhaust some people. I've seen eyes roll in frustration. Some feel views are being pushed on them and too much talking about equality makes the world feel forced. The same people who are tired of these inclusion conversations often haven't been on the receiving end of injustice or experienced the subtle or outward blow of feeling less-than.
Even when it’s stressful, it’s our job to listen to arguments from others that challenge us. It’s our duty to walk humanity through obstacles and hold ourselves and each other accountable instead of assuming others are being dramatic and whiny.
When people have been treated unfairly, they’re going to speak out, thank goodness, and maybe it will become exhausting to hear, but why not let that exhaustion push us all to action and show up for each other?
If everyone had always chosen to stay quiet and submissive out of fear of being annoying to others, think of where the world would be. I wouldn't be writing this now because I wouldn't have been allowed to write simply because of having a dang vagina.
Since I’m not Black or a member of the LGBTQ community, I can only truly speak to my experience of being a woman. So many times throughout my life I’ve witnessed firsthand the word “feminist” making people—including women—super uncomfortable and defensive. There’s a stigma attached to it that a feminist is a mean, jaded man-hater who believes women should rule the world.
I love and appreciate men so much. My world is full of men who set great examples for my kids, but I can't fool myself into thinking the work is done. Feminism is a chance to look at our lives with wisdom and clarity and wanting better for all our kids. It’s a shame it’s called feminism and not just Team Humanity.
Feminism is not about women being better than men, the same way BLM is not about Whites or police mattering less, the same way the LGBTQ movement is not about heterosexuals having to apologize for who they are.
All movements are about making equal room for everyone at the table. Life is more delicious this way, don't you think?
I hyphenated my last name with my first marriage, and I can't tell you how many conversations I had to have with both men and women who were disgusted and somehow personally offended by my choice. People would say, "Ah, so you're one of those women, huh?" I never preached to anyone that they should do the same thing--it was simply what I wanted for me, but the stigma of rough and tumble feminists taking over the world was too prevalent in the minds of some that I felt the weight of that prejudice just by saying my name.
Education and honesty are at the heart of equality. We need to talk openly to our kids. We need to tell our girls to be aware of behavior that shuts them down and that speaking up doesn’t make them a nag or a "ball buster".
We need to tell our heterosexual boys, look, I get it, a woman’s body might make you feel like you’re going to lose your mind, but it is your job to respect and honor her. It’s our job as humans to do that in general to everyone.
And this is where that antiquated phrase of, “Boys will be boys” comes into play. I think people mean to say heterosexual boys are going to be attracted to girls when their hormones arrive and they can’t help it, but the phrase needs to be amended to “Boys will be boys, but not at the expense of our daughters’ wellbeing. They’d better keep it in check because our girls aren’t standing for it like we did.”
Can we please update that?
Inequality between the sexes has surfaced in obvious ways for me but also in more subdued, unsettling ways that eerily creep their way into accepted behaviors. These quiet missteps are undetectable by those who have become accustomed to swimming with the current.
I’ve been told by a male supervisor not to have so much confidence at a job because it’s off-putting.
Years ago, when I was a waitress, I had male coworkers make comments on my small chest, and when I reported it to the manager, he laughed at how sensitive I was and reminded me that's just how men are.
I was told by a human resources employee that she (a woman!) first assumed I would not be able to do a job since I was a single mom, but now that I was remarried, she did see how I might be able to handle the job now. Then she went on to criticize my cover letter, saying it was too bold and seemed too cocky.
That conversation threw me so off guard that I just sat there, nodding my head instead of challenging her. Presenting myself as one of those women would mark me as too confrontational (a character trait that would translate as "confident" for a male) to hire. I instead went to my car, ruminating on all the things I should have said, if I had the permission.
The topic of parenthood and marriage would never enter the conversation with a male candidate because it would not be assumed he has to juggle home with work. We women are often prey to old norms that are fantomly navigating our behaviors, and we need to challenge this more. We need more women supporting women, and cannot put the focus solely on men and how they need to act better.
Feminism and any social movement asks us to be open-minded students, listening to experiences that might be beyond the scope of our own paths instead of assuming we know how others must feel or believing if we’re not offended by something, others should also be okay with it.
It’s still our job to listen and educate even if we’re not the participants. When we brush it off, we become participants, and when society’s women aren’t happy and cared for, you’re going to hear about it, the same way I will roll up my sleeves and speak up if anyone else isn't cared for.
Does all this mean you have to be on board with what feminists have to say? Nope. Not at all. You might see life through a totally different lens that makes you internalize things completely differently than I do. It’s okay to admit pushing ourselves aside to hear others’ input is challenging. If it were easy, the world would have very little conflict.
It’s hard work worth chipping away at if it means paving the way for those we pass the baton to. My goal for the girls in my life is when they hear one day, “Oh, so you’re one of those women?” they can proudly say, “You’re darn right I am” and the boys will unapologetically say they support them without fear of losing their manhood.
Scratch that—my goal is for the world to change enough for them to not have to hear that question because Team Humanity will continue to do better once it has learned better, the way we have proven we are capable of doing. Are you in?
This essay is an excerpt from a chapter from my book that will be out this summer called What Waits Ahead is Way Better and Way Worse Than You Imagined: True Stories of Balancing Joy and Poo in Life