January 23, 2015

The ‘F’ Word

Ah, yes the ‘F’ word. Many of us have been socialized to fear this word and far too many times disagreements stem from the different interpretations of it. For some, it emphasizes something they are passionate about. On the other hand, some don’t seek to understand it and vilify it for its meaning. University students love talking about it on Facebook and nothing stirs up a lengthy conversation like the issues surrounding it. Let’s not beat around the bush any longer folks; I’m talking about Feminism! My aim here is not to argue who is right or wrong when it comes to the philosophy of feminism, but rather the  problematic approach I have encountered some taking to express it.

In a world where a lot of us are free to express our views publicly (especially through social media), it is important to seriously consider how we propagate messages. This is because issues such as the politics behind feminism could have the potential to divide humanity to a dangerous degree when carried out in a poor fashion.

6028235190_156d666c0c_b      Social unrest is dangerous
Image from Flickr

Before I joined university, my scope on certain political issues was minimal. I can’t recall ever debating about feminism at length before coming to Vancouver for further studies. Different cultures prioritize social issues differently and feminism is not particularly at the top of the list in my home country. This is not to say that it is a rejected perspective, but simply that a different dynamic is at play in that part of the world. Therefore, my attitude was shaped around not really focusing on a lot of the information offered in feminist arguments.

Culture plays a huge part in how people view issues and we must consider this to a degree when striving to push different ideologies, especially in a diverse environment like Vancouver. Considering the potential differences, we must be much more sensitive as to how we present arguments on touchy issues if we wish to educate others on them.

That being said, my initial encounters with feminist ideologies tended to go over my head. The loudest voices were often those championing an anti-male ideology rather than equality (which is not what feminism is about). This approach potentially drives a number of people away from engaging in the discussion. I acknowledge that at the time, my lack of openness played a part to a degree. However, there were numerous distasteful remarks I witnessed that served to mainly alienate others from the discussion as a whole. Unfortunately in the past, I concluded that feminism was a movement aimed at denigrating and excluding the male perspective in favor of a predominantly female one. Today, I am informed enough to know that was an unfair generalization.


A simple case of a few bad apples

A case of a few bad apples
Image from Flickr

Considering my prior distance from the topic as a result of a bad first experience, it took time and a close friend’s initiative to explain feminism to me before my attitude began evolving. I began to realize that there are many issues that we must be open to discussing as a society. These issues need to be at the forefront rather than the habitual and unnecessary “cool crowd” mentality that social groups may foster in certain individuals. It is sad to think that there are many others out there who will not get the chance to come around and truly understand that feminism goes beyond man-hate.


Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time
Image from Wikimedia

I acknowledge that we all can’t have someone hold our hand and explain everything to us. However, I think it is necessary to be more inclusive in our approach as a society. Everyone has their limits, but we should start off with positivity. After all, one does not emerge from the womb an expert. Similarly, all newcomers have a responsibility to approach issues with a level of respect and willingness to learn. This requires a lot of effort but can be done with the right attitude.

Anybody can play mental gymnastics, but humbling ourselves to listen/teach effectively enables real change. Feminism arose from oppression, but fighting fire with fire does more harm than good in this case. I will always be grateful to my friend who took the time and effort to explain to me the ways we can use feminism to resolve issues rather than alienate each other.  The issue is bigger than any bitterness we may hold on to from isolated moments. Overall, we should shift our attitudes and evaluate why we argue in the first place so that we have a cause and not just aimless fighting.


Featured photo via Flickr


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