BY LISA MARIE BASILE
When I was in college as an infallible, ignorant college editor, I wrote an op-ed called something to the effect of, "Why I'm A Humanist & Not A Feminist." God willing, the digital archives have ceased to exist, because I'm the first to admit how problematic that overflowing bowl of hot shit was. This was before I understood exactly what humanism really was, and why feminism was not just necessary - but urgently necessary.
Humanism is defined as:
I'm not sure how we fell into this feminism vs. humanism race. Unfortunately, there's a few culprits here. Women fear they'll seem unlikeable as a feminist, while men fear they'll be labeled a "pussy." Then there are the people who conflate "feminism" with "misandry." Then, some people actually believe that being a feminist means they're choosing the well-being of women over men. Wrong.
Feminism isn't black or white. Feminism lets both co-exist in peace. Humanism stresses the value of human life over divine life (which is good), but in no way is this at odds with the meaning or necessity of feminism, since feminism is:
Feminism, as defined, is the push for equal rights for all humans - it too values the human race - since, women are human beings (though that's been debatable, at least in the eyes of laws drummed up by men.) Therefore, being a feminist is intrinsic to being a humanist, and vice versa.
When people - especially other women - say that they choose to call themselves humanists, I feel sort of like someone pulled the drain chain from my belly up through my esophagus; it catches me by surprise and leaves me feeling empty. What are we so afraid of? Admitting that a marginalized group needs extra help getting by? We don't fight for gay rights because we hate straight people. We fight for gay rights because gay people are humans who deserve equal rights. Its the same idea. I try to have compassion and understanding for women who say this because I know how difficult it is to be a woman, though.
When men say it, it's just as disappointing. This might be a shocker, but feminism doesn't exist to oppress or avenge men; it exists to counteract the systemic oppression that kept women or is keeping women from voting, playing sports, earning the same wage, becoming president, or not being constantly silenced, objectified, raped and commodified. It exists to create peace and safety.
So, if you need a special word that means, "the women-identifying portion of our human race ought to be considered equal," because the men-identifying portion is NOT being oppressed in the same ways, why question it? The word 'feminism' defines needs, pushes for advocacy and says, "I love humanity enough to fix it."
And we still need fixing. Women are taught to exist in the in-between, and if we venture out, we may as well be branded modern day witches. We're told to be pretty but not threatening. We're told to be sexy but not slutty. We're not hired for the jobs we want because we want to start a family. When we're assertive, we're bossy. We're too loud, too emotional, too angry, too bitchy. And that's just the everyday sexism.
We need fixing because the majority of acid burn attacks victims are women. And because this woman was forced to marry her rapist. Because Emma Watson was requested not to say 'feminist' in her HeForShe speech. Because a feminist advocate was murdered on campus. All of this requires an understanding of not just humanity, but how gender roles have a part in this. We can't change laws or policies or the way people view women without understanding the subtle or atrocious ways we've seriously failed and abused them.
We need organized action backed by history and compassion - an understanding of women, men and the human condition. Once we identify our own sexism, we can begin to repair the injustices, stop requiring machismo from men, and start looking at people as people - not as bodies. Once we achieve this, we can let humanism take over. For now, women as a marginalized group need some extra help.
Humanism and feminism go hand in hand, and you can't have one without the other. If it's the terminology that's getting your panties in a twist, recalibrate: feminism is only a word, but it carries the weight of the world. You can't avoid it or else you are not an advocate.
And remember that the reason you shun the word feminism is likely the reason you need it.