Feminism, environmentalism, two words that are close to my heart and mind yet I can’t fully embrace. The problem with -isms, is that it is usually associated with a vehement defense of whatever the subject of the -ism is.
Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, has kept the “feminism” discussion in the news, following the likes of Anne-Marie Slaughter (who by the way is quite critical of Sandberg), and the nomination of Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo (and her subsequent actions as CEO). These three women are quite inspiring people and, regardless of their opinions or personalities, deserve to be respected if only for their achievements.
The main bone of contention on feminism is the fact that younger women (such as Mayer) refuse to be called “feminists”, some going as far as to say that feminism is no longer necessary nowadays (Carla Bruni-Sarkozy). Nowadays, when you think feminism, you may think Femen. And their particular way of advocating feminism (naked).
On the other hand, we have another hot topic on my mind: the environment (and anything related, such as animal rights, renewable energy as opposed to nuclear, etc.). When you think environmentalist, you could think GreenPeace (or PETA for animal rights, or GreenPeace again for anti-nuclear). And, same as for the Femen, you remember their particular way of demonstrating (naked in a cage).
Don’t get me wrong. Actions that attract media coverage may still be necessary to keep the subject in the public opinion’s mind. Every Greenpeace, PETA or Femen action reminds us that nuclear plants, animal rights, discrimination against women are still an issue of the 21st century.
But at the same time, I’m among those who are wary of generalisations and one-dimensional thinking. What a lot of people remember of these shock actions is the show. Or the stupidity (breaking into a nuclear plant might not be the wisest thing to do; although breaking in is supposed to prove the lack of security of the aforementioned plant, I’m not sure the organisation would be too happy to get one of their members shot dead either). I’m afraid of the “crying wolf” effect. I’m also subject to the same feeling of rejection that Mayer expressed in an interview: I’m not sure I want to be associated to the word “feminism” (and in my case environmentalism as well), because of what it means to the public opinion: half-crazy people who sometimes go naked just for the sake of something they want to defend but we’re not very clear what.
I love talking about these subjects though. Talking and thinking about them. How can we advance gender equality (i.e. not only women’s rights, but men’s as well). How can we eat more sustainably. What are the real environmental implications of renewable energies. How people could advance in their careers as part of a happier life (on that one, I’m a firm believer of work as an important social value, and I’m really keen on the idea that being committed to your job is the first step towards finding satisfaction in it — that is, until you find a better one).
And since I’ve started being interested in the consequences of how we eat, I’ve also started reflecting much more on how my actions are accountable, and how every little thing we do can help (and I’m not only talking about meatless Monday; paying taxes without complaining or trying to escape them is also something everyone should do).
So as Hanna Rosin swiftly mentions in her article (link below), maybe we need a new word to replace feminism, and, if I may add, other -isms as well (communism doesn’t have a very nice image overall either).
Or maybe we simply need to move away from stereotypes and broad generalisations on these issues. But that would take away the whole point for -isms, wouldn’t it?
- Marissa Mayer Thinks Feminists Are a Drag. Is She Right? (Feminism: is the term useful anymore?), by Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men:
- Anne-Marie Slaughter’s page on The Atlantic, with a whole bunch of cool articles
Some good references (books I’ve read):
- Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
- Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
I may want to read Sandberg’s book as well.