I know what you are thinking. Yet another white guy hoping aboard the feminism train to look good. Well, be that as it may, I take a firm stance as a feminist and in this post, I will detail the story of how I came to consider myself a feminist. Most of it concerns my great friend Erik and how he convinced me in a conversation we had just shy of a year ago.
Growing up in Sweden I have always had very liberal opinions, especially when it comes to all types of social issues. Naturally, I have always held equality as a core value in all of its shapes and sizes. To me, it is preposterous to think that people should be treated differently because of their stature, gender, beliefs or ethnicity. Although I have always thought of myself as an egalitarian, for the longest time I failed to identify as a feminist because of semantics, fear and non-understanding.
This all changed as a result of a single, somewhat heated, argument with my friend Erik, and two other friends of mine, in last year’s spring. As we tackled a different problem entirely, we made the age-old mistake of shifting focus in the middle of an argument to something only tangentially related. Generally, I try not to do this since I believe it facilitates the transfer of animosity from one issue to another; instead I find it better to solve one conflict first before going on to discuss the next. That tangent aside though, I am eternally grateful that we did go into the issue of feminism that afternoon, Erik, a feminist, and I, everything but just that.
Feminism per se is of course a word that stems from the latin word for woman: fēmanā. I had an issue with this, semantically, because I found it hypocritical that a movement that fights unnecessarily masculine words such as chairman and congressman should be identified with a word that is unnecessarily feminine. Of course, the reason we use the word chairman is because in the man-dominated western society of the last several thousands of years, only a man would hold the position of chair. Anything else was until recently not even regarded as unthinkable, because no one every seemed the entertain the thought of a female chair long enough to label it even as that. I said that I was an egalitarian, and for the record I still am, because that word held sexual equality per se but whereas the word feminist did not.
Erik countered this held belief of mine with the simple argument that it does not matter. Chairman is masculine because men historically held the position of chair. Feminism is feminine because historically, women were the oppressed ones (and this is indeed still the case although thankfully to a somewhat lesser extent). However, we can as modern feminists, excel above this and simply state that chairman is no longer a title only for men, and feminist is no longer a title only for women. Chairman is becoming replaced with chair, because the former word is no longer required. Perhaps feminism will one day become replaced with, or engulfed by, egalitarianism. However, this will only happen when the word feminism is no longer needed, and that will not happen by itself – it will be facilitated by feminists.
My second, and bigger issue, with feminism was that I feared the association with extremists. Indeed, there are quite a few vocal extremists in feminism. Without pointing out specific names I recall having read statements such as “all men are pigs.” That statement is one I have a lot of trouble with, and I do believe that is rather natural. I take a clear stance of distance from this statement because firstly, I do not believe I am a pig, and secondly, because I do not believe it is productive to blame groups of people without discretion; indeed, there are examples of this in history that are nothing short of horrific.
However, this fear of mine was eliminated by Erik – with the same elegance as was my first issue with semantics – through two points. The first point was that, if I believe it is unproductive to indiscriminately view a large group of people, such as men, as one and the same, I should have no problem identifying as feminist. I already firmly believed that while I am a man, that does not automatically make me a pig; in that same vein, I could indeed become a feminist without automatically becoming an extreme one. Secondly, and this final point is what swayed me almost single-handedly, Erik made the argument that by distancing myself from the entirety of feminism out of fear of being identified with the extreme, I gave the word feminism to the extremists for the taking. As a matter of fact, for every person like me who decides not to identify with the group, the proportion of extremism becomes bigger. Indeed, this makes perfect sense: I want to be the best feminist I can, one that shows respect to all people and sways people with sound argumentation yet holds true with firm vindication. That is how I want to contribute to feminism as a whole, but how could I ever have done that without first making the statement: “I am a feminist”?
Today, I finally put it on the record, here on my personal website, and it makes me very happy to do so. I genuinely hope this story was enjoyable and please know that Erik has proofed and consented to his portrayal in it. I want to give a huge thank Erik, and his extraordinary girlfriend Tilde who’s writing for Girls’ Globe I recommend everyone to take a look at. If you are not swayed, please comment on this post; I am happy to defend my stance.