Now it’s clear why American conservatives, who traditionally scorn feminism, have become so eager to embrace the term while still renouncing the ideas behind it. Feminism is popular . Really, really popular. New Pew research shows that the majority of people worldwide embrace feminism in theory, if not so much in practice. The basic tenet of feminism, which is that women should have equal rights, is accepted by huge margins in Western democracies (more than 95 percent in most), but you also see 60 percent of Egyptians and 64 percent of Indonesians who say they support women’s equality. Only in Nigeria did a 55 percent majority oppose women’s equality.
Numbers like these support the contention that far from being some boutique hobby of rich, bored women, feminism is a worldwide, radical phenomenon. It wasn’t all that long ago that most men in the United States (now at 97 percent official support for equality) refused to even let women have the vote, for fear that they might want to do things like wear pants if they got it. Rarely do you see everyone drop one set of values for another in so few generations.
Of course, as any feminist knows, just because everyone says they support our basic claims doesn’t mean that we just get what we want. That people mouth basic platitudes about equality doesn’t mean they actually support it. We live in a nation full of people who will rant on about ” welfare thugs ” or refuse to believe that the president was born in the United States , but heaven forbid you point out that they might be a little bit racist. You run into the same problem when it comes to feminism. We live in a country where some people preach that women are required by God to submit to their husbands, and they work themselves into pretzels trying to explain how that’s not inequality. Or swear they’d never oppose women’s equality while voting against requiring insurance companies to cover contraception if they cover Viagra, blocking laws that insure equal pay for equal work, or voting against measures that would make it slightly harder for federal contractors to cover it up when one of their female employees is gang-raped by male employees. American anti-feminists are experts in the practice of peeing on your leg and telling you it’s raining.
No wonder 64 percent of Americans agreed that we still have a long way to go before we actually achieve equality.
Photograph by Leslie Kossoff/AFP.