I Need Feminism Because…
One anonymous male and converted anti-feminist admits that we really do need feminism to battle the sexism that lurks within.
First things first: I used to self-define as a feminist. I have never knowingly disrespected anyone because of their gender. I respect my mum, my sister and my girlfriend more than almost anyone else I know. But when I came to Cambridge, I was basically told to shut up about feminist issues by the first ‘proper’ feminist I spoke to: being a man, I had no right to opinions. In fact, I would say that the attitude of the ‘official’ Cambridge Feminists was the thing that really turned me away from the movement.
I still always thought, and think, that women are, and should be, equal. I also think that, in some ways, they aren’t yet. Of course, most of these ways are outside Cambridge – a university that, for its many faults, is ahead of the curve. But yes, the battle is not completely won.
Nonetheless, I have styled myself as an egalitarian since my first few weeks here. I don’t want to campaign for women’s issues, or men’s issues. I want to campaign for equality.
That all still stands. But this week I had a realisation: campaigning for equality is important and useful, but it doesn’t mean we don’t still need feminism. And I need it as much as anyone.
On Tuesday, I became aware of the “I need feminism because…” campaign in Cambridge. I’d seen a similar one in Oxford, and, as is my way, I decided to go through the pictures explaining to myself why each reason was either ill thought through (which some of them are) or actually a valid point on why we need egalitarianism.
I reached a certain picture that, like several others, said something along the lines of, “I need feminism because I didn’t ask for sexual attention”. The picture was of a woman I didn’t find particularly attractive. Before I could stop myself, a little thought popped into my head: “Yeah, I bet YOU didn’t ask for it”. It was a repulsive thought, said in my ‘Lad lad lad, banter banter banter’ voice (which sounds like Alfie Moon from Eastenders). I didn’t mean it, and I’d never have said it out loud. It was just a joke, by a ‘persona’ I would hate if I had to talk to. But I can’t get past the fact that it was the first thing that popped into my head.
I’m writing this anonymously because I’m ashamed of that reaction – and because I think there are lots of people out there who go through a similar process. And that’s not ok.
So yes, Cambridge doesn’t need feminism as badly as certain parts of the world need it – not like places that allow genital mutilation, not like places that encourage forced marriages, and not like places that ban abortions or contraception. Not even like America. But we still need it.