Folio · 2017

An Open Letter to People Who Don't Need Feminism

Myrrandah Sawaya

Dear Not-A-Feminist,

I’m not writing you this letter to berate or belittle you. You’re entitled to your beliefs and if I can’t change your mind, I can live with that. But I need to at least try to help you understand where I’m coming from.

Let me start by explaining what feminism is not. Feminism is not a plot for woman domination. It’s not fuel we add to the fire that is male hatred as we insist on their downfall. Feminism is not a lifestyle cookie cutter. It’s not overgrown armpit hair, uncapped rage at the general public, or the adamant opposition to being a mom or having a family. Feminism is not the unfounded belief that men and women are inherently the same and should always be treated exactly the same, regardless of circumstance.

Feminism is simply the belief of social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. With no preconceived notions, do you believe that women deserve a fair and equal chance at succeeding? If you answered yes, then sorry to break it to you, but you’re probably a feminist.

It’s ironic that we’re only even able to have this discussion because of the rights feminists have fought tooth and nail for women to have. Less than a hundred years ago our political system was pretty adamant that women’s opinions shouldn’t count for anything. That’s probably where you think the fight ended, isn’t it? Women are treated much better by society than before the Women’s Suffrage Movement, we should stop complaining and get over our victim complexes, right?

Feminism matters to me because I want the same respect a man gets. I want to be able to enter a public setting and not worry about how I’ll deter unwanted advances. I want to be treated as though what I have to say has as much credibility as that of my male peers. I want to like what I like without having my motives questioned, as though I have to earn the right to my interests. I want to be recognized for more than my physical appearance.

That being said, I know that my experience may not be the same as yours. Those things might not bother you. And, in all reality, I am quite privileged for those to be my only complaints. Don’t just take it from me, though, there are demonstrable injustices of sexism.

Like the fact that nearly one in two women has experienced sexual violence in her lifetime. Carrying pepper spray at all times, ensuring our drinks never leave our sight, and never walking alone at night should not be normal. There’s the fact that, at 50.8%, women make up the majority of the population and earn almost 60% of undergraduate and master’s degrees, yet still, hold very few positions of power. Women are only 14.6% of executive officers, 8.1% of top earners, 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and only 19% of the House of Representatives. There’s the fact that they essentially have no control over their image in the media, since they’re only 3% of creative directors in advertising, and only 7% were directors behind 2016’s top grossing films.

Lastly, we need feminism because sexism and inequality hurt men too. Toxic masculinity refers to the socially-constructed attitudes that describe the masculine gender role as violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth. Men get raped and suffer domestic violence too, yet seek help for it much less because it threatens their masculine role. Men suffer in custody battles, because of the idea that they are less emotional, more violent, and ultimately less able to care for a child. Men are considered emasculated when they have “feminine” interests or take part in “feminine” activities like style and fashion, drinking fruity drinks, poetry, etc. The point is, men suffer in these ways because femininity is seen as less than masculinity.

If you’re not yet convinced that you’re a feminist, I’ll be a feminist for you. Because you deserve opportunity and comfort in the world. You deserve support from your society to do the things you want to do and be the person you want to be. Your life and your well-being are important to me, and I will honor you in what you have to offer.


A Feminist

Folio · 2017