A war on words: feminism vs. egalitarianism
February 1, 2018
Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. The term and movement is often misrepresented as man hating or a white women’s cause but at its core, feminism calls for all women to be able to reach the same potential as a man and with as much ease as many men have. Egalitarianism is the doctrine that all people should be treated equally and deserve equal rights and opportunities. The fundamental difference between the two is that Feminism believes gender discrimination needs to be eliminated so that Egalitarianism can reach its maximum potential. Under Egalitarianism, each time men are given new opportunities, women are given the same. However, it is naive to think that gender discrimination can be fixed by moving forward and immediately treating everyone the same. At some level, all identities face discrimination but there is a difference, although no less important, between a man being expected to fulfill the expectations put on men to be strong and a woman earning between .59 and .83 cents for a white man’s dollar.
Egalitarianism isn’t the ideology that will be most constructive in achieving gender equality because it advocates for everyone to be equal, but has a history of making no tangible actions that work towards that goal. Our society is already generally egalitarian minded and the treatment and depiction of women and all genders has not improved enough. There is nothing wrong with everyone being equal; it’s a broader form of feminism, but the egalitarian mindset isn’t enough to make the changes that America needs to make regarding gender.
Sexual harassment has been endured by all genders and that needs to be remembered so that the notion of gender discrimination being admissible is forever a crime. Feminism is rooted in equality of the sexes and thus activism involved with the movement only serves to benefit all people. Each time someone that labels themself as a feminist knowingly criticizes others actions, or directs the same negative language used on them at another person or gender, they are perpetuating a society where gender discrimination is conditional and thus allowed. Furthermore, they are contributing to the misrepresentation of feminism as a movement that solely promotes a female identifying agenda.
The demonstrating that many hardworking and self identifying feminists are doing to create a more accepting and diverse world is the lens through which this society needs to see feminism. None of the truly groundbreaking and life changing work that policy makers, grass roots organizations, and other influential activists are doing involves a vision of women being more important than men or bring preferred. It’s about needing to be seen as equal. Feminism is more than a mindset, it’s a movement that understands that while technically everyone is equal, they are not being treated equally. Egalitarianism is a blanket statement that has a history of being inactive and neglects to acknowledge that disparities in gender treatment need to be addressed before change can occur. Feminism encompasses the statement that everyone should be equal but then goes a step further and demands that an increase in volunteering and advocacy is necessary for that change to take place.
The idea behind Feminism is great. The word itself, however, is not. Feminism: a movement emphasizing complete socio-political equality among the sexes, has for over a century been used in America as a unifying group and a rallying call of equality. But, as we close in on that long awaited moment of harmony, the very word that helped bring it about is now standing in the way of total coalescence between genders.
The simple truth is that the word feminism is a gendered term: the root, fem, translates to woman. It is simply impossible to achieve complete equality when the very word used to define it is gendered. Additionally, by being gendered, the word itself acts as a deterrent of inclusivity for those who don’t identify as female.
My proposition is for the term egalitarianism to be used. Egalitarianism similarly means that all people deserve equal rights and opportunities. Ungendered and untampered, egalitarianism is the perfect fit for the final push and eventual descriptor of the world of equality between sexes. To clarify on the wording, untampered, or rather tampered as it relates to feminism, refers to the difficulty that feminism has had going mainstream. According to a 2013 Huffington Post Poll, only 1 out of 5 Americans identified as feminists while over 80% agreed with the feminist agenda that men and women should be socio-politically equal. The probable explanation for this drastic separation is the association of Feminism with progressive extremists and radical groups like Antifa (a domestic terrorist group). As with politics and religion, social causes too are following the dangerous trend of extreme polarization with a shift away from ‘moderates’. This is causing deeper hatred and leaves many who want to be ‘moderates’ either isolated or compelled to become more extreme in their beliefs.. Maybe, just maybe, rebranding is exactly what the feminist / gender equality movement needs to garner greater support and backing.
I hope we can all agree that men and women deserve the same opportunities regardless of opinions on wording. In uncertain times as these, unity – not division – is what the country needs. It is under this pretense, and out of no spite for those who identify as feminists, that I encourage the rewording of the movement to egalitarianism. A word that is all encompassing will help us see past our differences and allow us to reach our shared goal of equality.