Typically, I get three responses from men to whom I express my feminism.
A) “Well, don’t worry, as far as I’m concerned you are equal with me.” My response to this is something along the lines of “Thanks, but no thanks.” The fact that you think it is necessary to tell me that I am equal with you shows that we have a problem; equality is not granted, it should be understood as a basic premise. Feeling virtuous for having allowed that I am, in philosophy but perhaps not reality, equal with you is just wanting a Klondike bar for being a reasonable human being.
B) “But you’re not a feminazi…right?” I have tried not bristling and pointing out that whatever extremists there are are not really what defines feminism nor what it is about. My reward for trying to be reasonable and address their fears? An argument a priori that feminism is made worthless or unreasonable by the (assumed to be accepted) “fact” that some feminists are feminazi man-haters.
C) Insisting that we discuss whether women are physically capable of performing all jobs that men are, or that we discuss whether women are physically identical to men in strength, etc. I suppose this is the “gender essentialism” that we have banned from our comments and discussions here. This is the one that really annoys me the most; I am continually frustrated that a person who is boring me by insisting we talk about how evil rape is (it is, I just don’t always want to talk about it) can turn around insist the only useful conversation about feminism is whether or not women are always as physically strong as men. My personal experience is that most guys are stronger than me, and most women are not, so I don’t care to argue the point – who cares? I don’t find that most men and women that I know make a living based on their physical prowess; I live in a high-tech civilisation where it is possible (gasp) to make a living based on mental acuity, social skills, and computer use.
Perhaps it is because I place a high value on listening and understanding a person’s perspective before I start talking, and perhaps it is because I have enhanced sensibilities due to my frustrations with my own activism being downplayed, but I firmly believe that if I met someone who held a viewpoint I was prejudiced to think was silly, and if I believed that person to be an otherwise reasonable and interesting thinker, I would listen carefully and ask questions to understand their viewpoints. It is patently absurd to assume that a reasonable person will bring up a belief that millions of people hold and have no reasons for holding that belief themselves; it is ridiculous to dismiss another’s viewpoints out of hand if you have any intention of actually convincing them of your point of view. After all, even if you think their position to be absurd or irredeemably flawed, rational discussion is the way to show them that, is it not?