Dear Ms. Watson

Ms. Watson, may I call you Emma?

Emma, you recently gave a speech in front of the UN. I agree with the spirit and message of the speech, gender equality is a noble goal worthy of pursuit from both women and men.

At one point you mentioned how it is regrettable that feminism has become synonymous with man hating. You go on to state the dictionary definition of feminism as the pursuit of gender equality. Your mistake here is not attempting to understand why feminism has been defined recently as man hating.

Feminism is a movement, an ideal, a pursuit; and as such has no formal leadership or requirements for membership. If you say you’re a feminist, then you’re a feminist. This means that for every rational person like yourself, there are others who are significantly more radical. People who with their zeal for the perceived idea of equality do damage to the very idea they believe they are fighting for.

There are the writers at Jezebel who mock male victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

There are the Tumblr feminists who call gay men misogynist by definition and shout about their love of “bathing in male tears”

There are the Twitter feminists who in the wake of significant news stories trumpet the M&M analogy and #killallmen.

I’m certain that if asked you would say that these are not feminists, that feminism is for everyone, that there is room for men’s issues as well. That is a good attitude, but for better or worse, these people are carrying your banner of Feminism and doing damage with it.

I’m also sure these people are a minority of the population, obviously the majority of women don’t want to kill half the population for being born with a Y chromosome. However, these are also the loudest voices to be heard online; even if these are 1% of self-identified feminists they are making 99% of the noise. For every link to your speech, there are articles about how proud they are that they have abused boyfriends, guides to “ending” white men and endless tweets about how the world would be better off without males.

So when a man goes online and sees “feminists” dispensing nothing but hate of his gender, it’s hard for him to separate the feminists who hate him based on his genitalia, and those like yourself who are coming from a place of compassion.

This is why you see men (and women!) choosing to go by the label “egalitarian” or “humanist” or say things like “I support equality but I’m not a feminist”. Because the label of feminist, to them, is associated with hate. Whether you believe it or not men support gender equality, a lot of us do. What they don’t like is being associated with a label that seems (on the surface at least) to want nothing to do with them.

Feminists need to call out this bad behaviour being carried out under your name, simply saying that those people aren’t “real feminists” isn’t enough to convince those who feel unwelcome in the movement. Condemning said acts of hate is the best thing you can do to gain even more support in the world, as it demonstrates true compassion for both genders. Ignoring the hate being dispensed in the name of feminism is seen to many as tacitly agreeing and I am certain that s not the message you wish to send.

I hope you take this message to heart, because I agree with your position. Gender equality is very important but it takes more than an offer of welcome and a hashtag to convince people that contrary to what they have seen, feminism does care for them.

I wish you the best of luck with your campaign,

-WH

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One thought on “Dear Ms. Watson

  1. I’d go a little further than this. The problem isn’t just that some people calling themselves feminists hold these extreme positions. It’s that these people include the most prominent feminists, the ones most involved with the feminism movement(s), and the people most eager to adopt the label of feminist. They are the ones most often referenced in news articles about feminism or interviewed on TV. Not only this, but the very name “feminism” suggests the promotion of the rights of women in particular. All this is reflected in the common understanding of what feminism is. Trying to redefine feminism to mean nothing more than gender equality, despite all those problems, means excluding very many self-proclaimed feminists while trying to include many who actively reject the label; it is a pointless and futile endeavour.

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