When I was growing up I recall having a very different feeling towards the word ‘Feminism’ than I do now. In my mind I associated it with an aggressive form of womanhood, I heard about the burning of bras and understood it as an anti-male sentiment. I was a child, it was before the more recent wave of feminism and since my teenage years I have embraced the word and am proud to call myself a Feminist as an adult.
My first real foray into ‘Feminism’ came when I was doing my French A-level and I decided to dive into the deep with the topic for my oral exam – I seem to always pick the challenges! I chose to talk about influential French women – from Simone Veil, the politician who fought to legalise abortion, to Simone de Beauvoir, the existential philosopher, and the women of modern French politics – Rachida Dati, Ségolène Royal etc. It was during my research for this exam that I was hooked and my understanding of the topic and it’s issues profoundly deepened.
Since my young, childhood naivety I have rarely encountered that view of feminism in my life, except of course on Twitter and a number of other online spaces. I have come to believe that most people are at least aware of the new wave of feminism and I always hope that it makes them think, I know many men and women who identify themselves with the term so I was recently surprised to be confronted otherwise.
The first occurrence was a Friday eve, enjoying a caña with friends after playing some basketball (very badly). I was discussing the fact that I am currently contemplating doing a masters in Gender Studies or something in that field with a Catalan friend, he made a comment along the lines of ‘Oh, you’re not a Feminazi are you?’. I was surprised at first that this was his reaction, I responded saying that I call myself a feminist and why is the term ‘feminazi’ the first thing he jumps to? He began to talk in the manner I had only really heard whisperings of before, feminism is women hating men, women thinking they’re better so on and so forth. I asked him if he believed in gender equality to which he responded yes, of course – I believe in equality for everyone, why can’t we just call it equality? His primary nuance was semantic, in Spanish the word for feminism is ‘feminismo’, the word for sexism/male chauvinism is ‘machismo’ – in his mind the word and therefore the idea relates to reverse sexism…I was too bewildered to even begin on the incorrect notion of reverse oppression.
My second encounter was with a student I give private English classes to. He was asking me about whether I will be staying on in the city after this school year and again I got talking about possible future plans. He asked, when I mentioned my masters thoughts ‘are a feminist?’, I said yes and he then asked ‘but equality, right?’ as if there was some other form of feminism. He questioned whether he had said it correctly as my face clearly showed confused, ‘Yes that’s correct and yes, equality obviously.’ He seemed relieved when he looked at his watch and realised the lesson was over.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised, I know currently everything is about ‘bursting your bubble’ but I couldn’t help feeling like a huge problem had just dawned on me. Is this simply two Spanish men? I know this country has a huge problem with machismo, with domestic abuse and murder. Or is it that most people haven’t grown out of the naivety I once had as a young child?