Despite the rise of #MeToo and other women’s rights movements across the world in recent years, polls show that most young women — and older ones — continue to reject the term feminist. But the reason why women decline to be called feminists, writes Dr. Christina Scharff, a senior lecturer in Culture, Media, and Creative Industries at King’s College London, appears to correlate more strongly with fear of being stigmatized than it does with women’s equality.
In an Op-Ed for the BBC, Scharf notes that fewer than 20 percent of young women self-identify as feminists, according to polling in the U.K. and U.S. And while the popularity of the term has risen somewhat in recent years — a 2018 YouGov poll found that the number of British women who said they were feminists had increased to 34 percent compared to 27 percent in 2013 — that same study found that 80 percent of respondents believed that women and men should be treated equally in all respects.
According to Scharf, it appears that people — and especially lower-income groups — support the idea of feminism but not the word itself. Since the 1920s, she notes, feminists have been denounced by society as unfeminine, sexually undesirable, and deviant. A hundred years later, she wrote, her own research shows that fear of being associated with “man-hating, lesbianism or lack of femininity” was a key factor for many young German and British women who eschewed the feminist label. Despite the discouraging lack of support for feminism itself, Scharf concludes, the fact that the majority of people now appear to support women’s equality — at least in principle — should give feminists reasons for optimism.
Read the full story at BBC News.