Yesterday my boyfriend asked me what kind of feminist I am. Choosing to avoid the confusion and politics surrounding the exact distinctions between all the different waves and subcategories, I simply chose an adjective: “understanding.”
I am an understanding feminist. And here’s why:
We can only ever truly understand our own realities. We can’t possibly live the life of another, therefore it is impossible to understand all the subtle nuances and deep complexities of another’s subordinate identity.
Analogy: I, as a white person, will never be able to truly understand all the triggers, difficulties, complexities, idiosyncrasies, and common understandings of a black person’s reality. In the exact same way, a man will never truly be able to understand the complications, perceptions, side effects, and confusion of womanhood. He can’t live it, so he can’t understand it. I think we can all agree on that.
But a more difficult topic to agree on is how to handle this difference. Angry, man-hating feminists of the world, you are shooting us all in the collective foot. I don’t know about you, but if someone hated my guts just because I happened to be born with a specific set of genitalia, I would probably want to continue the systematic repression too. Just like we couldn’t help being born women, they couldn’t help being born men. Accept it.
But do not misunderstand me. I am still a feminist. I believe men should support women and women should support men who support women. Call me naïve if you like, but I fully believe that through teamwork and mutual understanding, true gender equality can be achieved. But it will take patience.
Women, we need to be patient with men who just don’t get it. Don’t be afraid to take them by the hand and give them a free, guided tour of the magical world of mutual respect and equality. If he wants to learn, that means he’s a good one. Explain to him calmly why you have beef with whatever super uncool, hella dicky thing he just did or said. Help him to understand. Share with him your well-deserved perspective.
But if he doesn’t want to understand, that’s another matter entirely. If he offends you and refuses to listen to why or how, feel completely free to label him a sexist, misogynistic sonofabitch and defame him to everyone within earshot. But make sure to use big words he can’t understand while insulting him. This shouldn’t be too difficult, as it is only a complete idiot who refuses to listen to the reasonable thoughts of another.
Remember: it is extremely easy for a dominant party to forget their dominance. It’s human nature that we become accustomed to our own realities and then forget the rest. It is important that we understand this, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it.