“Are you a feminist?”
A decade ago, whenever I was asked this question, the answer would always be an emphatic “yes.” Of course I’m a feminist. Every human being should be a feminist — who wouldn’t stand for equality? Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, money, etc. is wrong. We were taught this in school. To me, the reply was a no brainer.

As I’ve grown older, my answer has become less sure. Sometimes I even avoid the question altogether.

The thing is, as soon as you say you are a feminist, you get labeled. The picture that gets created is that of a loud, aggressive activist who hates men. Once you have that label, men always give you a wary glance. People assume that you will give a “feminist comment” in every conversation. You could be discussing the shoes your aunt wore to her cat’s birthday party, but at any moment someone from somewhere will say “Knew you would say that, you feminist!”.

I can’t handle that. I can’t handle the assumption that “Oh, this is how she will be” that invariably comes with the word “feminist.” It is as if this is a separate all-women segment of people that behaves in a uniformly hostile manner. I mean, the entire idea of feminism is to dismantle stereotypes and here we are just creating another stereotype: the stereotypical man-eating feminist.

What troubles me is the extreme pigeonholing the idea receives. All the interpretations of feminism are so dramatic — she must be burning her bras, she must be a cutthroat monster at work, all her relationships with men must have failed. I mean, why can’t feminists be seen as what they are — regular people. Not crazy and not necessarily all female for that matter!
Feminism is not fanaticism

I shy away from saying I’m a feminist because I do not associate with that imaginary extremist. I’m not that person. I’m simply someone who is against any kind of discrimination. I think that’s what all feminists are. That doesn’t mean we hate pink (it’s my favourite color and I don’t care if that’s a cliché — pink makes me happy and blue is a snooze fest). It doesn’t mean we hate men (except if they forget to put the toilet seat down), we are not competitive monsters at work (come on — that is just exhausting!), and we don’t stop caring about others and their opinions in our quest for personal liberation (no, we are not about to sprout wings and fly away alone to set our souls free).

Feminism is neither an anti-male concept nor a pro-female concept; in fact, its very basis is that it is not about gender, folks! It is a concept that says let human beings be judged on their own merit rather than the attributes they have by birth or circumstance. I’m quite sure that every single person in this world has felt wrongly judged at some point or other, whether the basis is their looks, their gender, their color, their money, their accent, their religion, their eating habits, or even the brand of jeans they choose to wear! Feminism simply says NO to that. You continue to be the normal peaceful person you are, you continue to love the people you love (including men!), and you continue to be a regular integrated part of society. You just have a point of view that says “I will respect that person (or disrespect them) for who they are rather thanhow they were born or brought up.”

Feminism is not the propaganda of the “belligerent female”; it is the gender-agnostic principle of the “reasonable human.” I don’t care if you are a man or woman or anyone else that you choose to be; you have to believe in equality! You have to be a feminist!

If anyone is not a feminist, I consider them extreme, I consider them fanatics, and I pigeonhole them as a segment of people one should be wary of.

So, this is what I have decided: the next time anyone asks me “Are you a feminist?”, I’m going to say “Well yeah, duh! Are you not? Are you a ‘Discriminist’?”

op-ed pieces are opinions of the writer and in no form, convey the opinions of Volts Africa and its affiliates.

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