Why the reluctance to call ourselves feminists?

Last updated 11:21 07/03/2017

Do you do anything to improve the rights of women?

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This Wednesday, the 8th of March is International Women's Day with the theme #beboldforchange. This got me thinking... am I a feminist?

When the New Zealand media recently reported that Bill English didn't know if he was a one and that Paula Bennet was a feminist "on most days" I saw the media's contempt for their uncertainty and lacklustre affirmation as a challenge for me to decide where I drew my line of lipstick on the mirror.

I know that I am one of the privileged ones because I haven't experienced blatant sexism or felt disadvantaged because of my sex.

I'd always thought of a feminist as someone with hairy arm pits, brandishing a loud speaker and protest signs about how much they hate men. But is that even a fair representation of what a feminist is?

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I decided to go back to basics and googled it.

The definition of Feminism is "someone who advocates for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men".

Well that all sounds rather reasonable to me and I think it would be difficult to find a female who didn't think those rights should automatically be extended.

But there is one word that stands out there - 'advocates' -  and something else that becomes apparent: if it is so reasonable why are women reluctant to call themselves a feminist?

Let's start with "advocate". To advocate is a verb, so subconsciously wanting and expecting to see equal rights fall into your lap isn't the same as taking steps to ensure that women achieve those rights by influencing social, political, legal or economic outcomes. The difference is action.

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Do you do anything to improve the rights of women?

We know sign-waving, passionate speeches and petitions to those in positions of power are overt actions.

Blogging, signing online petitions and sharing 'Beyonce-style, motivational girl power posts' on social media are all passive, but still actions which many of us do.

In fact I'd argue that the act of supporting women just because they are women is feminism.

Women and men supporting women in business, in politics, in mothers' groups, for pay equality and against women's violence are all expressions of feminism.

So why the reluctance to call ourselves feminists?

Is it the stereotype scaring us away from claiming the 'feminist' title? Or is it that we don't think we do enough to earn it? What is enough to earn it?

This year the theme for International Women's Day is #beboldforchange. Will you be bold? I will be.

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