As feminism has become trendier, it has of course followed that (female) celebrities get asked about their opinions on feminism with more frequency. This has resulted in a smorgasbord of answers, from those in support of feminism to those that claim they are not feminists, some with answers reinforcing the ideal of the 1950s housewife. Then there is the new “neutral”, which is to say that you are not a feminist, but a humanist. I think this response is the worst of all.
This statement has many problems, but the first and largest of them is that, as Inigo Montoya would say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” The speakers are using the word ‘humanist’ to mean they believe in the equality of men and women, the very definition of feminism. Saying this reveals their ignorance on the subject and hurts the idea and goal of feminism as a result. They would be better off saying they aren’t educated enough on the topic to speak on it.
A humanist is someone who believes that people are inherently good, and if you believe this, great, as it’s a hopeful and optimistic way to look at humanity. However, it has absolutely nothing to do with equality. They are unrelated issues.
Another problem with celebrities stating that they are humanists, not feminists, is the implication inherent in their claim that there is something wrong with being a feminist. Again, this hurts the idea and goals of feminism. By trying to remain neutral, these women inadvertently take away from the women (and men) who speak out in favor of feminism by giving them the appearance of being extremists or fanatics on the idea of equality and women’s rights. This is where the stereotype of the man-hating lesbian as representing feminism comes from. Propagating this stereotype is hurtful to everyone, and unfortunately, like it or not, when a celebrity makes an ignorant statement, even one made inadvertently and with the best intentions, it gets more attention and more people listen to it blindly without looking into the topic themselves.
Calling oneself a humanist to refrain from seemingly taking a stand that could be interpreted as being against men misses the point of the discussion. Equality is great! Equality is the entire point of feminism! By saying you’re a humanist because you don’t hate men, you are missing the fact that we are not starting from a level playing field. We are not equal to begin with.
Women make less, women are most often the victims of sexual and domestic violence, women are much more frequently objectified in the media, women have less control of the economy and government, and women are more likely to be sexually harassed, both on the street and everywhere else.
While being in favor of equality is great (Welcome to the club! You’re already there, you just don’t realize it), the reason feminism exists is because women have to be brought up to the same level as men, and while many people of both genders are actively working towards this goal, there are still many people who are not, and it’s those people that require women, and men, to be feminists, openly and proudly.
P.S. To those wanting to have a more “neutral” response, the word you are looking for is egalitarian.