Untangling Feminism

October 20, 2011
By Dynagirl BRONZE, Crozet, Virginia
Dynagirl BRONZE, Crozet, Virginia
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Last week, I was sitting in my literary theory class, which, I'll be perfectly honest, sometimes bores me almost to tears. But that day, my professor stood up and asked us a yes or no question. Three people raised their hands for yes, and I was one of them. I was shocked, surprised, and a little appalled at that meager number: out of 18 people, only one sixth agreed?

So now I'll ask you something: what do you think that question was?

“Do you consider yourself a feminist?”

It’s not a question that gets asked a lot these days. In fact, it’s not a topic that gets a lot of attention, either. Why is that, and why do so few people describe themselves as feminist? There are a number of responses I’ve heard, most prominent among them: “It’s not an issue anymore, we don’t need feminism,” “I support equal rights, but feminists are just out of control,” “I don’t think that women are better than men, so I don’t consider myself a feminist.”

I have a huge problem with these responses – not with the people who give them, but with the responses themselves. When, as a society, did the definition of feminism become based in man-hating rhetoric and the innate superiority of women? I have never in my life heard anyone honestly express a view as extreme as that in a serious way…so why is that what we think of when we hear the word “feminist?” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of feminism in relation to society and politics is simply this:

“Advocacy of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes).”

Sounds pretty reasonable, right? Note that there is no anti-male sentiment in that definition, no mention of feminists being inherently angry, sexist, violent, or crazy. Obviously, we’re all human and different, and in the past there were certainly people who were some or all of these things as well as being feminists. But the idea that all feminists are all of these things all the time is irrational, fictional, and absurd.

Yes, there are extremists. There are in all political or social ideologies. I’m not really prepared to offer commentary on radical or extreme feminism, honestly I don’t know a whole lot about that branch specifically, save to say that I don’t consider myself one. No, I’m just a regular old feminist. I believe in equal rights for everyone, regardless of sex, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. I think that people who do the same job should get paid the same amount, that everyone should be in control of their own body and decisions that are made about it, and that everyone should have to same opportunities and be able to take advantage of them. And in reference to women’s issues, that makes me a feminist. But it doesn’t make me angry or violent, or a man-hating witch, right? Please don’t make me burn my bra, I don’t want to! (Author’s Note: Also, that probably never really happened…look it up.)

But honestly, I think (or hope, at least) that there are a lot of people out there who share the views I just expressed, the ones that make me a feminist. So why are people so appalled by the label? Why do people roll their eyes when someone presents a point of view called feminist? Until a few months ago, I had no idea how important it was to truly be able to stand up and say that I am indeed a feminist. I didn’t know how many people were afraid to do so, because I never thought I had a reason to be afraid. It seemed like common sense to me. But having realized that it is a label with a certain stigma attached, I can say that while I understand why people might be shy about admitting it, if there were ever a time to do so it’s now. Don’t wait – we’re the youth, the future of the nation and the world. There should never be any shame or embarrassment about admitting that you believe in equality. Trust that the people whose opinions matter aren’t going to think any less of you. And if they do, explain to them why they shouldn’t.

Literally anyone can be a feminist. Young or old, boy or girl, woman or man, gay or straight, short or tall, black or white, big or small. At its core it’s about equality. And that is all.

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