Some weeks I find it difficult to write this column. I’m not ashamed of saying out loud that I’m a feminist, but being in a constantly combative state of mind is exhausting. Sometimes, I’m too tired to say “that’s sexist” because that invites an inevitable flood of comments about how feminists can’t take a joke. Educating people about harmful stereotypes is a noble cause, but it is also draining, especially on those days that make me question basic human decency.
Alida Nugent, author of You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out and Finding Feminism, accurately sums up what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century, post-women’s supposed liberation.
“Calling yourself a feminist is like making a comment on the Internet in real life: there’s always somebody who is going to disagree with your beliefs, and that person is going to express this disagreement with great passion and little digs at your life choices,” Nugent writes. “Some people won’t like you as much anymore. You will be uncomfortable and end up learning nasty truths about some people you thought you respected.”
Personal experience confirms Nugent’s claims. People look at you differently when you say, “I’m a feminist, and what you just said is hurtful to women.” Why is that, though? Is it because so many don’t understand what feminism truly is?
For my second article for this column, which reviewed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, most of the comments I received were negative. One user posted a meme with a picture of a woman’s face bracketed by two lines of text: “I want equality” and “But I also want special treatment.” Another user wrote, “You feminists cherry-pick, exploit and manipulate.”
It was strange because I had clearly defined feminism, which is the belief in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes.
According to Nugent, men do not like feminism because they’re afraid of being treated like women. The idea of suffering subjugation, the wage gap and other injustices committed against women is terrifying to those who commit such acts.
More importantly, some women do not identify as feminists. Whenever a classmate turns to me and says that she is not a feminist because she does not hate men, I’m certain that an angel somewhere out there is losing its wings.
“When a woman says she’s not a feminist, I always get thrown off guard,” writes a perplexed Nugent. “It’s literally for her. […] Yes. Okay. Men are great. They smell good. They play in baseball in stadiums that have good hamburgers and beers. I have no qualms with many of the men in the world! I only have qualms with men who call me babe in the middle of the conversation, men who sit with their legs spread on the subway and men who think that being good at football means you’re allowed to kill people.”
Casual degradation, manspreading and OJ Simpson? Check, check and check. Nugent is unrepentant. She does not shy away from the toxicity of the hyper-masculinity which infuses daily life. Nugent is also hilarious. You Don’t Have to Like Me is her second book, and it combines the tones of Rebecca Solnit and Roxanne Gay, both of whom are prominent feminist authors.
Like Nugent, I believe that it’s necessary to stand firmly in your beliefs despite opposition. There’s always going to be somebody who will disagree with whatever you say. I am a feminist, and I am not ashamed to say it out loud.
Noorhan Maamoon is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “The Hijabi Monologues,” runs on Thursdays.