She was a raging leftist riotgrrrl who hung out in the punk and oi scene and didn’t seem to mind the company of blatantly conservative tradskins and apolitical street punks.
(Oh, and if you’re not keen on punk subculture, tradskins are ‘traditional skinheads’, not to be confused with nazi skinheads… they’re totally different, tradskins are not racist.)
Although I harbored some radical ideas back in my youth, I was always fairly pragmatic and libertarian-leaning when it came to politics.
Anyhow, I laid out my ideas in regards to women’s rights to this person. Which, essentially, were that I wouldn’t stand in your way or attempt to hoist you up. You should be absolutely free to succeed and free to fail on your own.
I later learned that my beliefs were congruent with liberal feminism.
She said because I believe that a woman should be treated equally, paid fairly, allowed to be a career woman, a housewife or whatever the hell she wanted to be, that I was, by definition, “a feminist”.
Quite naturally, as I didn’t like the word feminist, I argued that while that may be true, I still wouldn’t call myself a feminist.
This pissed her off. She was angry that, despite me being completely in agreement with her on the politics, I wouldn’t call myself a feminist.
I told her that the word ‘feminist’ has weak connotation. It’s reactionary, pompous, and defensive whilst attempting to appear domineering. The word ‘feminist’ doesn’t accurately represent the egalitarianism the women’s rights movement aimed to achieve.
She accused me of being afraid of strong, confident women, drawing the assumption that I felt an instinctive defensiveness at the threat of losing power that was bestowed upon me by centuries of systematic, patriarchal dominance.
I responded with the truth, that I actually preferred strong, confident women as opposed to fragile, timid women who don’t stand up for themselves.
I was then accused of being a misogynist, that, while I politically agreed with the dismantling of legislative and institutional oppression, a lingering social rejection of women still resided within me.
At this point I thought, you know, maybe it’s possible that I have some subconscious, ingrained sexism that isn’t vividly clear to me because of how I’ve been raised and how society has enforced and normalized subjugation.
So I asked, “If I concede and do what you want me to do and call myself a feminist, will that mean I’m not a misogynist anymore?”
And she said “It’d be a good place to start”.
Flash forward 15 years or so and I still don’t call myself a feminist. It’s not out of spite or to be an asshole (I still believe in women’s rights), it’s just one of those rare times when what you thought as a youth turned out to still be true as an adult.