A friend of mine recently asked me, “Why can’t you just call feminism equality? It would make it easier for people to understand and support.” Truthfully, I sputtered and wasn’t quite able to give an eloquent answer, rather stating “You just can’t!” Not my proudest moment, I’m aware. I should have been able to give a better answer, but I was kind of shocked that someone would even question why we call it feminism. The entire history of humans is called “mankind,” so why on earth would someone take issue with a movement for gender equality being called feminism? The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that we should never reduce feminism to just the simple term of “equality.” It is so much more complex and multi-layered than that.
What stood out to me in my friend’s statement is that it would make it “easier for people to understand and support.” The point of feminism is not to be easy. It is meant to be difficult. For me, a white woman, it means confronting the ways that society has given me advantages simply because of my race. It means confronting the fact that I am incredibly privileged, and have never experienced the awful reality of things such as police brutality, poverty, etc. It means often being the only voice in a room trying to talk about difficult topics. It means sometimes being made fun of, or called names. For a woman of color, it means fighting against an oppressive society designed to help whites and suppress black voices. For a transgender youth, it means struggling against a society that may not accept him or her. Feminism is not designed to be easy. It is not designed to be simple. It is a complex movement, designed to be intersectional. Everyone has their own take on feminism. Everyone applies it to their life in different ways. We cannot sum up such a complex idea in a neat little term like “equality.” To do so would be to diminish the very real strides that feminism has made for women all around the world.