I am a feminist. I became a feminist after living with a women's studies major for eight years. Then I looked it up in the dictionary. At that point, I became a feminist.
A feminist is one who believes in and advocates for the legal, political, and economic equality of a woman to a man.
That definition's kind of unfairly stacked in favor. I mean, I read that - there wasn't any wiggle room at all! How could I not be a feminist? That definition makes anyone not a feminist pretty much a moron. I didn't so much "become" a feminist as realize I am one. What the heck does a heterosexual man who is not a feminist want, in terms of a woman? What does he aspire to? What kind of dip-stick wants - no, needs - an inferior partner? What kind of coward not merely settles for but demands a partner who is not at least his equal?
It's a good definition, because it focuses on the cause itself. Feminism is a cause. It's my cause. I don't own it, nobody does. It's mine because I believe in and advocate for it.
However! I'm aware over the years that there's another definition of feminist, with which I'm entirely cool:
A feminist is a woman who believes in and advocates for the legal, political, and economic equality of a woman to a man.
Sure, everyone that description fits is a feminist. The accent there is slightly more on who can belong to the club. That's cool too. There's an esprit de corps, people, that can only be felt between those who've shared the same trenches, being fired upon. It's precious, it's sustaining, and it binds people together like nothing else. Whatever your involvement in the struggle, men: you haven't shared those trenches.
I mean, even if hypothetically you went to a literal feminist rally, and it literally happened that you were fired upon by literal bullets and had to dive behind literal barricades with your fellow feminists - you haven't. Even if you literally got shot in that hypothetical incident. Because to some of them, verging on an ideological majority by now I believe (depending on who you ask, and sometimes how), you are not their fellow feminist, and you can't be, because you are a fellow. How is that fair?
How about I just tell you how it's true. No matter what your involvement in the cause: you haven't remotely sustained under the same withering fire they have. You haven't walked around your whole life doubting, being doubted, flinching from implications, worrying which ones were deliberate and which were just ignorant, getting cut down, discarded, disregarded, all because you weren't empenised at birth. You were not in those trenches. You have DICK PRIVILEGE. Don't be a dick; own it.
Solidarity's important, and esprit de corps is important too. Living through the same kind of lifelong struggle forges real bonds between those who've lived it, and can therefore relate. You haven't lived it; you can't relate. Thank your lucky stars you can't.
Now: this is not to say all feminists hold that only a woman can be a feminist. Only that within the movement, most of the women seem to - and you ought to see and get that there are sound reasons why. Be sensitive to that, and don't try to horn in on the club when a feminist is right there telling you you can't be a member. You don't need to hobnob in a club. You've got a cause.
And what are you doing for it, by the way? If you don't mind my asking?
I'm not talking about being "allies." I don't understand this "allies" biz. The war is long since declared. We don't need allies. We need active combatants. Don't even consider yourself an ally if the extent of your allyship is to express your support to true believers! You'd better be doing more than that. When sexism rears its ugly head, you need to be right there shoving it up its sweet ass. Encounter! Engage! Confront! Oppose! Advocacy does not consist in preaching to choirs! (Exception: atheist advocacy.) The enemy is sexism, and you need to engage and confront that enemy wherever it is encountered. Otherwise, no: you don't believe in and advocate for. At best, you can claim to believe. Not enough.
Confession time. I must confess: I'll still say I'm a feminist. I'm always going to say I'm a feminist.
It's my cause. I can't understand any man whose cause it isn't. I can't understand any man who doesn't see how incredibly much we've all benefited from gains made towards equality. I'll always put it forth that I'm a feminist. But I'll put it forth tentatively, and absolutely without insistence. The cause is what's important, and I don't need to crash the club. Often enough, the feminist I'm talking to proves cool with what I'm claiming. Big deal, yippee for me! Doesn't mean I don't retract and clarify at the first objection, and without argument, each time that happens. Because the definition of feminist that ipso facto excludes males is a legitimate definition. Because the reasons for that sentiment are valid. And because it cannot be valid for me to contest with someone dedicated to my cause, over some ego-need of mine to force my unwanted way onto her membership rolls.
I mean, that's practically obvious. You'd think.
So as a handy term to cover this sort of thing, I hasten to clarify that I am effeminist. Which indeed I am.
It's a specialized term, recent of coinage. It characterizes a man who believes in and advocates for the legal, political, and economic equality of a woman to a man. Generally, I use it in the adjective form, but it probably nouns out about the same. As language evolves, as understanding evolves, we need new terms from time to time. I made it up myself! Nice, right?
Only potential problem: the pronunciation. It's pretty much exactly homophonic to "a feminist." Thankfully, in practice it's not a problem. In my experience, it's always easy to clarify.
I'm always a feminist the first time you ask, but from there and as needed, I'm as effeminist as it gets.