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Life Why you are a feminist whether you know it or not

Some undeniably horrendous things have happened around the world recently, but I don't actually believe, as so many of our politicians (and Facebook friends) seem to, that some humans are inherently evil.

People do evil stuff, but it's not impossible to comprehend why. Misguided and secretly terrified people have been bigging themselves up by forcibly converting others to their religion, annexing sovereign territories, terrorizing the innocent, even committing rape and genocide for quite a while now. It's about achieving control and power through violence – a very twisted way of feeling safe. These acts are certainly barbaric, but they are hardly inexplicable.

As a species, we are inherently tribal. But that doesn't mean we should fear other tribes. It means we should fear our fear of other tribes – because that is the root of true evil. All the other stuff – the black flags, beheadings, rape and killing – is just a grand, cartoonish horror show to distract from this terrible underlying fear.

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Which brings us to the anti-feminist opponents of Emma Watson, who have this week put on a good show in the Internet-wide pageant of comic-book-style villainy that is sweeping our world.

Earlier this week, the Harry Potter actress stood up in the United Nations and gave a powerful speech to launch the UN's new gender-equality initiative for which she has been named ambassador. It is called He For She, and it seeks, quite simply, to get men on board in the fight for gender equality – a fight that Watson explained is not just for women, but for everybody. "If men don't have to control," she pointed out, "women won't have to be controlled."

Ah yes, there is the rub of it. If the oppressors don't feel the need – the fear – that leads them to oppress in the first place, then there will be no victims of their oppression to defend. Quell the tribal fear and the problem will be solved.

In theory. Within hours, the sexist online roar against Watson had reached a deafening volume – the typical social-media tsunami of rape/death threats to which we have sadly become accustomed. But taking the seemingly evil-doing a step further, a mysterious website appeared bearing the threat "Emma You Are Next," with a countdown to the release of naked photos of the actress on the online platform 4Chan.

While that website has since proved to be an elaborate hoax and no such photos have been leaked, the intention was clear: Shame to her who dares speak the truth – that the tribal distinctions between men and women must be broken down, and misogyny, in all its forms, hurts not just half of us, but all of us.

Why don't the seemingly evil-doers want us to know this? Why do they attack a young woman for making such a simple, salient and undeniably good point?

Because – I suspect – they feel safe in their tribe. The tribe of men and women who turn women-hating into sport, who think it's funny, or necessary, or even somehow "natural" for women to be routinely reduced to tradable, rateable flesh things, divorced from personhood. A tribe that has found voice and comfort in the anonymous and often pernicious airspace of contemporary social media.

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This is the same tribe that has perpetuated the fearful nonsense message that feminism is about hating men rather than simply working toward equality. This, of course, is a lie. Feminism is about the opposite of hate and the opposite of fear. It is about tearing down the walls between tribes rather than erecting them.

So for all the women and men out there reading this who think they don't identify as feminist – that feminism simply isn't your tribe – allow me to explain why you already are one, whether you want to admit it or not.

Just taking a stab in the dark here, but I bet if you are reading this, you believe women should have the right to vote, own property, work and operate motor vehicles. In fact, if you are a woman, you may have even done one or more of the above at the same time – in which case you are definitely a feminist.

"Hey wait," you may be saying to yourself at this point. "Are you saying it's a feminist act to simply drive my Mazda to my job as a dental hygienist? That sounds a bit extreme."

But no, it is not extreme. Because just a few generations ago, if you happened to be a woman, you would not have been permitted by law to have a postsecondary education, so you would not have been permitted to have a skilled job, thus you would have had no money to purchase your Mazda, which you would not have been allowed to drive around on your own anyway.

And all of this, obviously, was because you couldn't vote and had no political stake in the world around you. This state of affairs was not seen as extreme subjugation – it was simply the way things were for women. All women. Until a bunch of scrappy ones fought long and hard, at great personal expense, to change it. And it wasn't even that long ago. In fact, it's pretty much the way things still are for a huge number of women living in the world today.

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So if you believe women have the right to work, vote, etc., you are a feminist. I don't care if you call yourself one. You just are.

To call yourself anything else is just evil-seeming. And I don't believe you or anyone else is inherently evil. I really, really don't.

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