My male friend asked me the other day when I claimed to be passionate about feminism, "What does being a feminist entail then?" For the moment I replied, "Believing in the equality of every man and woman regarding every race, sexuality and religion." He nodded and then said "Oh, okay then."
I like to be under the impression that my response made him think. Or at least understand a little more of what I so ardently believe in. I am also sure that he agreed with me, even though he didn't then suddenly propose to also be a feminist and attempt to fight for equality. I think it was because my friend found the F word a little daunting, certainly as a teenage boy. Maybe he believed some great commitment was attached to declaring one's self as a feminist, as if you have to go through an initiation process and give sacrifice as you swear never to be sexist or discriminating. I was worried he thought I'd suddenly pull off a mask and reveal my true feminist identity as a butch girl wearing no bra and having a shaved head and hairy armpits. That my girly skater skirt would slowly fade away into shapeless shorts.
Perhaps it was the uncertain concept of the 'ism' usually involving some sort of war and a band of opposing 'isms' to follow. What I don't think has ever been explained to him or most people in general is that feminism isn't a political ideology, or a particular way of life, it is simply an active or passive agreement to fight as peacefully as possible against the discrimination of any human being.
I don't think anyone has officially told my generation about the new age of feminism, about its revised meaning. That whilst the original hard bearing feminists of the 60s/70s, or the suffragettes, were forced to be fairly aggressive in method in order to reach some form of equality between genders, they have now given us the chance to push this equality to be absolute. They have given us the chance to be able to express this new feminism so openly, and so widely.
We should be informing the ignorant not to forget or criticise our bra burning warriors of equality, but to learn and understand from them that we need to continue the fight until it is done.
I think feminism needs to start being promoted as a thing to be proud of. Not as a way of life, or a definite commitment, or a daunting, aggressive opinion, but as a united crusade for every man and woman to have equal rights. And that it does not need to change your image or person because feminism is as much about choice than anything.