Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines egalitarianism as:
1: a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs
2: a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people
Based on those two definitions, anyone who supports universal equality supports egalitarianism. So if you are a feminist trying to convince people that feminism is about promoting equality for everyone, you may want to avoid writing things like this:
Too often in online forums or casual conversations men confuse egalitarianism with feminism and further defuse an incredibly important social, political, and personal force for women.
And I thought “feminism is for everybody.” It appears I was mistaken.
According to James Plunkett and Meghan Murphy, feminism is only for women. Men can be allies, but they cannot be feminists, and as such men have no place in the discussion other than:
[…] to not become enablers of the post-feminist myth for the betterment of self-image or to ease some kind of patriarchal-guilt. Recognizing that sexism still exists, especially in the most hidden and dangerous of ways, is a critical step in the realization that feminism, both as a personal identity and a radical social movement, is necessary for the eradication of inequality.
Attitudes like that are the reason why people think feminism needs re-branding. On one hand, feminists claim that their movement wants equality for all. On the other hand, feminists only want to address women’s issue. And on that magical third hand that comes out of nowhere, they claim that their movement is egalitarian when anyone holds them to the previous point.
One can understand why a movement with that kind of disarray would need re-branding. Feminists cannot keep their message straight. It changes at random, flip-flopping between supporting all marginalized groups and only supporting women, welcoming men and excluding them, allowing men to participate and silencing their voices, wanting more men to join the movement and disallowing them to even call themselves feminists.
Murphy mentioned in her article:
[…] I have yet to see Marxists working on their marketing campaign […]
That is because Marxists do not change their politics to suit the audience. They are unapologetic in their concerns and views, and do no resort to language like Plunkett’s:
First of all, it is not my intention to define feminism or attempt to make some absurd statement about who can be a feminist or what kind of actions are feminist. These type of grandiose statements have only served to minimize discourse concerning feminist movement and even if they did not, to be quite frank, as a white American male I think it would be grossly inappropriate for me to define what feminism is or isn’t.
If the problem is that people misunderstand the term, education, for example, incorporating women’s studies into elementary and high school curricula, would be a more effective solution than a glossy marketing campaign.
Feminists will continue to be called man-haters so long as they threaten to undo patriarchy, a decidedly unfashionable pastime. Part of joining a movement that goes against the grain is that you risk being unpopular with those who are invested in maintaining the very power and privilege that is being challenged.
Those two comments are a perfect example of the problem. Plunkett tries to weasel out his obvious attempt to define feminism by citing a white Canadian female’s definition of it (because white women are obviously the authority on the matter). Murphy undermines her own suggestion on how to make people more accepting of feminism (ignoring that people have tried that suggest for the last 50 years) by claiming that people will continue to hate feminists no matter what.
What Plunkett and Murphy fail to realize is that the point of a social movement is for it to reach a point to no longer be necessary. That does not mean all the problems will be solved, only that people no longer need the movement to solve them.
When my godson was learning to ride his bike, there came a point where his father had to let go of the seat and let his son ride on his own. Did my godson fall? Yes, several times. But because he had ridden with the training wheels and had his father there to hold him up for so long, my godson had learned to control his balance and knew he could ride the bike by himself. So each time he slipped, wavered, or tasted cement, he got up, got back on the bike, and peddled by himself.
He did not need his father to hold his hand anymore.
People like Plunkett and Murphy are so invested in feminist ideology that they cannot see past it, and as a result they forget the purpose of their movement: to reach a “post feminist” world.