On Asking People About Feminism

This week, The Cut did the unthinkable: instead of asking famous women whether or not they identify as feminist, they asked famous men.

The results, unsurprisingly, were varied.

On the one hand, men like Harrison Ford, Phil Donahue, Jason Momoa, and even Kelsey Grammar were like, “Uh, duh, and how dare you ask me this.” On the other, Zachary Quinto identified as a “humanist” (sure!) and Anthony Mackie got so overwhelmed by the word he couldn’t answer the question because he “doesn’t know enough” (okay!). So, a lot. A lot of things were said, and a lot of men were asked, and some have obviously not educated themselves enough to just answer with a simple “yep” and others maybe have and have decided they’ve got better stuff to do. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I don’t know these guys. Some seem great and others I would prefer to avoid forever.

But I do know this. (Pause for dramatic effect.) I’m getting a little tuckered out from the lip service paid to feminism instead of action on behalf of it. It’s very easy for men — or anybody, actually — to sit back, call themselves a feminist, and wait for the Twitter likes to roll in. But it also takes more than just condoning equality and living your life as you were living it before. To live as a feminist means having the actual backs of women — all women — and not just saying you’re into women voting or appreciate strong ones. (I mean, that’s great if you are, but that is certainly not the extent of feminism’s grasp.)

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about, especially since the Internet makes it so easy to be a person who says a thing without doing a thing. Which, I understand, is very overwhelming. It’s scary to wade into a cause or political ideology or social norm and/or say, “No, what I’m seeing happen is wrong and it needs to stop.” It’s scary not to sit on sidelines or to be a person who speaks. It’s scary to decide to be a person-person and not a pod person. But it’s also important, because otherwise, why are any of us here?

We should all be reading and writing and listening and learning, and we should also never stop because it’s impossible to. Yes, it takes work to educate one’s self. True, you never stop discovering things or making mistakes because no perfect person exists and if somebody claims to be, they are probably a ghoul and your home has been possessed, and I’m sorry. But considering we’re living in an increasingly politically/socially aware cultural landscape, it’s embarrassing not to learn and grow and fight and defend. Especially since to do all of the aforementioned usually consists of first, absorbing knowledge, talking to people who know more than you do (and there are a lot, and they are so great), then working to teach other people what you’ve learned (and in turn, learning from them). That’s the starter’s kit. Then, you find out how your gifts can help, and what you define as “help,” and then go from there.

There are many variables, and there is also much effort needed to be a socially-aware, feminist person. Chiming in is great, answering “yes” to “are you a feminist?” is wonderful (and thanks for the shout-out!), but you’ve got to wade in and weigh in. And sometimes, that means condemning something you wish you didn’t, or calling out something that’s super popular, or being a person to say “What I’m seeing isn’t fair, and that’s a problem.” It means acting the part as much as speaking it.

So I mean, hey — it’s wonderful to hear some famous men respect women. And nobody here is going to get bent out of shape over Harrison Ford’s obvious “go fuck yourself” tone he probably used while speaking. But dudes, if you’re reading this, we need a bit more. You don’t need to be a white knight (please don’t be a white knight), but be a feminist, don’t just say you’re a feminist. One is useful, and the other just earns Twitter likes.

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, feminism

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