I was sharing some great old memories with a few friends on the weekend when a male I have known for most of my life leaned across to me and said, "you've become a bit of a raging feminist haven't you? It doesn't need to be like that".
For the first time in the 36 years I have known him I was speechless. On a number of levels, his statement was bewildering. For the sake of our enduring friendship I thought I would attempt to break it down.
- "You've become" suggests I previously wasn't. And while I would have previously disputed that I was a "raging" anything, I have always considered myself a feminist. dictionary.com defines 'feminist' as "advocating social, political, legal and economic rights for women equal to those of men". Yes, thats definitely me. The question in my mind is how could he not know that. As School Captain and lead female public speaker I often gave impassioned speeches about people's rights. But within the bubble of high school where young women were as bright and successful as any of the young men, even in the early eighties, it wasn't gender rights we were arguing for. Our 'causes' focused on the disadvantaged and the terminally ill. I recall that euthanasia was a hot topic of debate when I was 17. Before entering the workforce I had no idea that women hadn't achieved full equality. While it doesn't excuse my friend's misunderstanding, I think it explains it.
- What even is a "raging feminist"? I googled 'raging' and discovered a number of definitions, a couple of which I would happily identify with. It can mean violent and volatile as in "a raging fire". That's not how I operate and it's also not the most productive way to get people to listen to your views. 'Raging' can mean partying: "we went raging last night". I've been known to enjoy an all-night party. And it can also mean remarkable and extraordinary: "the book was a raging success". Suddenly the term 'raging feminist' has taken on a whole new positive meaning.
- "It doesn't need to be like that". My friend is concerned that by advocating for equality for women I have "become" anti-men. There appears to be a common misconception with men of my generation that we feminists want the whole sky when all we want is our half. My teenage sons have no issue with this. They are suitably horrified when they hear that women still don't earn the same as men for doing the same job.
If the content on Women's Agenda is viewed by anyone at all as being 'raging feminism' or anti-men, then the gender divide may be larger than first thought. Rather than representing the views and aspirations of a narrow few, we advocate for gender equality for the sake of everyone. Gender equality will only be viewed as the norm when the issues we discuss are embraced by the broader media so share our stories and help shape the new norms.