By **Matt Petronzio**
When I was a freshman, my girlfriend’s philosophy professor took a poll of her class, composed of about five men and thirty women. “Who here would self-identify as a feminist?” he asked. Only one male student raised his hand. Even more shocking, only four female students raised their hands. Why wasn’t everyone raising his or her hand? I suppose we have to take shyness into account. But isn’t being too shy to admit you’re a feminist only exacerbating the problem, or at least proving that there’s a reason someone would be too shy? Why does feminism carry such a stigma in the 21st century? Aren’t we beyond this?
Apparently not: a year later, an officer of my college’s feminist club at the time, told me seriously, “You can’t be a feminist, you’re a boy.”
Last month, my literature class was reading Rebecca West’s Indissoluble Matrimony. In small groups, we were discussing whether or not it’s a feminist piece of writing. Everyone wanted to know what I thought, “the only dude in the group.” When I said that I am a feminist, one of my classmates motioned at me and said sarcastically, “Oh, yeah, here’s the face of feminism” while the others laughed.
Do I have to be a woman to believe in women’s rights? Do I have to be gay to believe in gay rights?
I think such ignorance stems from confusion over just what exactly feminism is. Take,
for example, the Julian Assange rape case. Prospects of a fair trial have been called into
question due to accusations that Sweden’s chief prosecutor Marianne Ny is a
“malicious radical feminist” who is “biased against men.”
The Guardian brings up a good point: what the hell do these accusers mean by “radical feminist?” Specifically, radical feminism was an aspect of the feminist movement in Europe and North America during the sixties, but only a fraction of radical feminists exhibited male hostility—not enough to define the movement. So why is the defense so afraid of having a “radical feminist” as chief prosecutor? Could the real fear lie in the fact that a feminist voice might ring true and work against them? As The Guardian points out, sixties-era radical feminists focused on fighting domestic violence, gender inequality, and sexual harassment. So I pose this question: in a world where these issues are still prevalent, why is being a contemporary radical feminist a bad thing?
Copyright 2011 Matt Petronzio
Matt Petronzio is an editorial intern at Guernica.