Every time a woman utters the phrase, “I’m not a feminist, I’m an egalitarian!” a suffragette spins in her grave.
Don’t get me wrong; I believe egalitarianism is a noble trend of thought. In fact, I consider myself to be an egalitarian. However, I also consider myself to be a feminist, because they are separate philosophies.
Egalitarianism is the belief that all humans are equal in fundamental worth, and should therefore be treated as such. Feminism is not just the belief that the sexes are equal, but also a current and lively movement dedicated to political, social, and economic equality between the sexes.
Feminism fits neatly in the warm, motherly arms of egalitarianism, right alongside the fight for civil rights, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wallstreet, and other movements working towards specific areas where equality has yet to be reached. The difference is that these movements are active, whereas egalitarianism, as a movement in and of itself, is inactive.
In other words, while many people identify as egalitarians, they are not typically out there fighting for equality under the egalitarian “banner.”
Don’t believe me? Well, when is the last time you’ve seen an egalitarian march or demonstration?
Never? Well, what about T-shirts?
…an active Facebook group for egalitarian keyboard warriors?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
When you say you are an egalitarian, but not a feminist, you are essentially telling the listener that you are either, A) afraid of the backlash that can come with identifying as a feminist or B) you don’t really want equality of the sexes, and are therefore attempting to derail the conversation.
And, hey! That first one is completely understandable. After all, a lot of people in that second category are very good at making people uncomfortable about identifying as feminists. I understand the inclination to shield yourself from their insults, but if you are truly interested in equality, taking a stand is extremely important.
Identifying as an egalitarian sounds good on paper, but most people do not even know what it means; a point that is attractive to those shying away from the feminist label, as they do not want to be associated with what mainstream society considers to be negative aspects of feminism. Calling yourself a feminist is often a lightning rod for attention, but that is necessary in order to create visibility for the movement, which in turn fosters legitimacy in a society resistant to true change.
If you truly believe in equality between the sexes, don’t treat “feminism” like it’s a dirty word. Wear the feminist identity with pride. One of the only real alternatives to feminism is womanism, but that is an article for a different day, and a different author who can speak about it from her own experience.