You should watch this great clip of Gloria Steinem.
What sticks with me most is her comment that she doesn't understand why people think that there always has to be a hierarchy, why people "can't be linked instead of ranked."
It made me think of the young woman from last week's town hall who asked the question about equal pay. She talked about the importance of reproductive rights and later said that she thinks that women should be treated the same as anyone else. And yet she said that she was "absolutely not a feminist" because she's "not only concerned with women."
This woman has the right to self-identify however she'd like, but I take serious issue with the idea that feminists are "only concerned with women." That wouldn't be the promotion of gender equality; that would be the promotion of a new power hierarchy.
Equality, by its very nature, is not a zero sum game. It's an everyone-wins scenario, and that's why it's so hard to achieve. We don't have many models for that kind of fight.
And let me be clear: it is a fight. While I believe that collaborative rhetoric has a place in achieving goals, I don't think that argument is a bad thing. That's why I think this video is so powerful for this particular topic. Her two main topics--the demonization of the word "feminism" and the need to raise children in homes that aren't violent so that they don't see the world as a dichotomy of victim and victimizer--may not seem that connected upon first glance, but look closer.
If you are raised in a world where you see everyone as victim or victimizer, then you are much more likely to victimize in order to ensure your own position of power. But if you are raised in a world that dismantles that dichotomy, you have the ability to see beyond those narrow labels and position yourself outside of a cycle of victimization. There are two ways to accomplish this.
In the first way, everyone gets along. If we live in harmony and agreement, we don't need violence.
In the second way, we fight without violence.
The first way is often dismissed because of its overly-optimistic approach and seemingly impossible implementation. The second way is often simply ignored. But we can fight without violence. We can fight without hatred. We can fight without victimization. When I fight for my rights as a feminist, I don't have to do so at the expense of your rights as a ______ (fill in the blank).
If we live in a dichotomized world of victim and victimizer, anyone fighting for their rights is viewed as a victim fighting to become a victimizer. That means that people who do not see themselves as victimized in that way fear that they are about to be victimized when the shoe is on the other foot. If a man does not see himself as part of the feminist movement, he might view feminists as trying to victimize him. That's the only way we can see the world when there are only two choices. But if we don't see the world that way, then someone's fight for their own rights does not have to be an attack on ours.
If people are linked instead of ranked, we can see how someone's fight against oppression is not a power play, but a move that makes us all stronger.