We’ve all heard it before. There’s the girl in your class who bravely puts her hand up and states that she’s not a man-hater, so she can’t be a feminist, but considers herself an “equalist.” Or the guy who asked you out saying that you’d be much more attractive if you called yourself a “humanist” when he sees your “feminists have more fun” hat.
The people who claim that they support equal rights, but definitely not feminism, have long fought against the label because of the misconceptions about it. I’ve dealt with this my whole life, but on Sunday, I finally lost it.
Yes, Sunday was the Miss USA pageant, and for some reason that I still can’t comprehend, I watched it. All the way through.
I must say, I was impressed with the contestants and their answers to some questions I know I couldn’t answer in front of that many people (and the fact that they can walk in heels that high on national television without face-planting is astounding).
But when it came down to the final question, I knew I was in for a treat. The question? “Do you consider yourself a feminist?”
Miss New Jersey, Cchavi Verg, killed it, promptly saying yes and explaining exactly what feminism is to a captive audience. Meridith Gould, representing Minnesota, wouldn’t actually give an answer, which goes to show that many women are afraid to give their answer because of the backlash they might face from either side. And the newly crowned Miss USA, Kàra McCullough, didn’t hesitate to say that she identifies as an “equalist.” And then, I was fuming.
And then, I was fuming.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think Kàra McCullough is a great person with the potential to change the lives of thousands of girls. The HBCU graduate is kicking butt as a chemist for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and also runs a program for children’s science education, which is doing great things in the D.C. area. She’s well-spoken and incredibly intelligent and America loves her.
But she honestly may not understand the difference between equalism and feminism and why equalism is actually really toxic for women. So Kàra, let me break it down for you.
Feminism, unlike equalism, acknowledges that there is still inequality between men and women, using facts like the pay gap, reproductive and healthcare rights, education, and many other facets of society to support their claim. Contrary to popular belief, it does not advocate for the superiority of women to men, but instead the equality of the two. We just want men and women to be equal in all economic, political, and social aspects. Is that too much to ask?
There are two thought-processes behind equalism. One of these is that feminism had a reputation of being a man-hating, bra-burning faction of women who want to destroy men and reign supreme over all the earth. Many public figures, like McCullough, don’t want to be associated with that image, so they back away from the “feminist” brand.
Equalism allows for just that; it’s a concept that people can hang on to when they don’t want to be labeled a feminist but still want people to think they’re politically correct in thinking that the sexes should be equal. It says that the sexes are already equal and we don’t have to be “those die-hards,” as the new Miss USA so eloquently put it.
Others that call themselves equalists argue that because women have the right to vote and (in most states) the right to an abortion, along with the rising number of women in the workforce, we as a society have achieved gender equality and need to keep it that way. Some, like McCullough, cite their personal experiences as evidence of gender equality, so we don’t need the type of activism that feminism provides. This isn’t completely wrong; many women have become leaders in their workplaces and active voices in their communities. But we can all say that there’s still work to be done.
My point is most people who identify as equalists or humanists don’t really understand what feminism is. They’ve seen it on TV or heard someone talk about it and had this sort of mindset ever since then. So what do we do to change this? Education.
Don’t be afraid to go out and talk to people that identify as equalists or humanists. Go talk to that girl who was disgusted at the thought of man-haters. Text the guy who sneered at your pride for feminism. Engage them in a conversation about feminism and (calmly) explain your point of view to them. Sometimes all people need is someone to educate them on what they don’t understand.