Feminism, like many activist movements, has faced countless forms of resistance over the centuries. From political protests demanding the vote, to domestic revolutions as being a woman living alone—all of such ideals were (in many cases ‘are’) challenged constantly. However, today I would like to discuss another sort of opposition; a mindset that stands as both a defense and condemnation of the movement feminism. The term Equalism is defined simply as the pursuit of equality for all genders—meaning that no matter how an individual may define themselves, they still should be treated equally and fairly. Overall the name reveals an austere definition without any gratuitous embellishments. In regards to the meaning itself, the label is harmless and in no way damaging to the feminist ideal. It is only an issue, however, when it is proposed as a replacement for the movement and term feminism. For instance, when one looks up the definition Equalism on Google, this is the first link that appears:
“Equalism is the belief that all human beings, regardless of gender, race, age, ethnic origin, or any other factor that defines our individual differences, are totally equal.
So why do we need Feminism as a word when there is a perfectly good word to use that will cover more aspects that require equality?”
This is not the first time I’ve heard this proposal, yet I understand the initial positive thoughts it inspires. Why do we use feminism? Isn’t it too slanted towards women? Too negative? Equalism sounds much more welcoming.
It is the very same reason why we shouldn’t respond to “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter”—it defeats the ultimate purpose and significance to the movement itself. Feminism is the definitive of the campaign because we do not live in a world of equality between the sexes. Women are the oppressed at issue, and therefore, we must fight for them specifically to achieve said equality with men. This includes those with defined ‘they’ pronouns as well as transgender and transsexual individuals. For the purposes of this article however, I will no be focusing on this aspect of gender prejudice. (It is an issue I would like to tackle in a future article).
It is with the emphasis on equalism instead of feminism that a negative persona has begun to attach itself to the term. Words such as “feminazi” have begun to sprout as rebuffs to various women activists—in fact, the name is defined as “a radical feminist.” Where does this hostility come from? How has feminism become so polarized? The answer is as vague as why we have a Donald Trump for president, however, I have a similar comparison that could shed some light on things.
“I Spit on Your Grave,” or the director’s preferred title “Day of the Woman,” is considered a “sick, reprehensible and contemptible” film as well as an example of horrific misogyny. It was denounced by many as such, including the large feminist movement of the time.
The original, released in 1978, was directed by Meir Zarchi—with the intention of being a “feminist feature” of sorts. Allow me to clarify: Zarchi had explained his reasoning for the film as a response to a life experience of meeting a rape victim in a park—he and a friend had attempted to help her by contacting the police only to “encounter hostility and apathy.” In fact, the cops began to “interrogate the rape victim mercilessly.” This is explained in a very well made review of the film by a youtuber called Count Jackula of The Count Jackula Show youtube channel. He successfully analyzes and discusses the various aspects of the film in two parts—demonstrating how it is in fact “far from being the misogynistic film of its reputation” and instead more of a rise to self-realization and heroism of ‘The Woman.’
There’s a specific part in the review I wish to discuss involving the idea of horror. Out of the various genres, horror is one that people tend to have the most issue with. What I mean by this, is that often times the genre is criticized and regarded as the very thing it is objecting to. The reason? Horror uses intense imagery and disturbing conceptual scenes (such as gang rape) in order to deepen (even scar) the message into you. Fear is a powerful catalyst. A good example is another review of “I Spit on Your Grave” by Julie Bindel, a writer for the Guardian, titled “I was wrong about I Spit on Your Grave.” She explains here:
“the worst of which, we feminists argued, was I Spit on Your Grave (ISOYG), a rape-revenge-horror movie depicting the violent sexual torture of a young woman. "Rape is not entertainment," we chanted….It is nothing if not an exploitation movie. Why then, do I still believe both versions of ISOYG to be more feminist – albeit in a purely accidental way – than The Accused, the much-lauded 1988 film starring Jodie Foster?”
Bindel continues with this concept, describing how “The Accused” was based off a “true story, but with a somewhat different outcome.” For while the film ended in a wrapped up happy ending, the true victim of the gang-rape was left vilified by the populace and media. Though “the rapists were convicted…the onlookers” were acquitted—and “a huge march through the community was organised to celebrate the acquittals and the woman was, in effect, run out of town.” The writer continues to describe “The Accused” as a fine fantasy, but “I Spit on Your Grave” as more reality to the feminist ideal. Reality though, in the sense of the desperation portrayed. The main character in “I Spit on Your Grave” is an example of a rape victim and how such cases are handled by our society. The recent declared mistrial of the Cosby case, as well as the various sexual assault cases in recent years, have all demonstrated the lack of empathy and means to act on such situations. Not to say there hasn’t been significant change—but just as racism is forever an issue, so too is that of misogyny. “I Spit on Your Grave” emphasizes the fact that misogyny is a real monster, one that causes an individual such as “I Spit on Your Grave”’s protagonist to be ostracized and shunned. Therefore, she is driven by the plot to take back her identity as a person, as a woman, through acts outside of the law. This recapturing of her individualsim is not the realism of the film, but it is the desperation and the loss of self.
Just as “I Spit on Your Grave” is a film with directly polarizing views, so too is Feminism. The term itself now grows with a negative connotation due to, honestly, ignorant motives. Equalism is a wonderful concept and hope, but like “The Accused”’s ending, it is a fantasy. We cannot assume misogyny is dead or a fossil word—it is ever present and essentially invisible. It is not something we can easily identify, but instead, an enemy we must analyze. Misogyny is a way of thinking above all else; it is heavily integrated in our society to a point where it is almost impossible to recognize. Though there is, sadly, no ideal notion of an answer to such issues—it is something to understand and realize.
Please join me in my continuation of this discussion with, again, the power of words. Except, instead I will be focusing on the gender associations with specific word use as well as their literary significance.