Emma Watson’s United Nations speech on feminism last week generated a pretty enthusiastic response from much of the media, though it’s beyond me why: it’s not as if the speech was particularly bad, but it wasn’t very good, either; there were some decent parts about global women’s issues and some rotten parts that were composed of standard feminist boilerplate; altogether it felt like a wash. That didn’t stop a fifteen-year-old boy from penning what the Huffington Post termed an “amazing letter” in response to Watson, which read, in part:
Feminism is not about man-hating or female supremacy. It is, by definition, the opposite. It’s pretty simple really: if you believe in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes, you’re a feminist.
This is problematic for any number of reasons—it’s not clear what “the social, political and economic equality of the sexes” would look like, or what “believing” in it entails—but focus instead on the absurd implication: if you have the same philosophical inclinations of feminists, then you’re a feminist whether you like it or not. This is a hallmark of modern feminism, which in recent years has become comically desperate in its effort to grow its own ranks: feminists wish to preempt you from opting out of their ideology in any way, declaring you as one of their own even if you don’t want anything to do with them.
You could be a staunch advocate of gender equality and not call yourself a feminist; the wishy-washy but serviceable term of “humanist” would work just fine, for instance (it would work better, actually, given that it’s an explicitly de-gendered designation). However we choose to describe our own convictions, we shouldn’t feel bad when some whiny and irritating faction tries to describe us in their own preferred way. You should strive for a world in which men and women have the same opportunities, are treated with the same respect, and are on equal footing before the law and before society in general; that’s a great thing to work towards. You should also feel free to reject the label of “feminist”if you feel like it; if you don’t want to call yourself a feminist, you shouldn’t have to worry about a bunch of insecure, paranoid bullies calling you one anyway.