I've seen a lot of articles and social media posts recently with headlines and captions like, "I'm 20 years old, and I hate feminism." The question that I always want to pose is, "Why?"
But I already know why. It's because people see women waving signs with messages that make them uncomfortable and they think that's all there is to feminism. I'm not here to say whether those messages are right or wrong, but I do understand not agreeing one hundred percent with everything said and done in the name of feminism.
The thing is, this is a necessary part of making people aware. I seriously doubt that events like the Women's March would be publicized to the degree they are if everything about them made people feel completely at ease. The difference made is sometimes in the discomfort caused.
Another big topic of discussion I've noticed recently has been the idea that women are simply whining.
I take a much bigger issue with this, because here's the deal: there's a problem.
In high school, I had a teacher tell me not to worry about my exams, because I was "pretty enough, I'd find a husband and wouldn't need to worry about grades."
Last semester in one of my classes, a male student raised his hand and said, "I don't understand why it's so easy for women to get a job in STEM, because they're always worse at science and math anyway."
A couple weeks ago, one of the male students in another class raised his hand and said, "As someone who is clearly much more capable of serving on the Supreme Court than any of the female students in this class..."
Never mind the fact that all of these statements are obviously offensive, they show a stark inequality in our society. These statements were upsetting, but no one dealt very extensively with them. It was expected that the women affected hear the statements, accept them, and move on - no apology was expected, and there were minimal, if any, repercussions for what I would consider to be the guilty party in each instance. It is considered okay for someone to talk to and about women in this way.
Of course, there are many other issues that could be mentioned, including the gender pay gap, the opportunity gap, or government representation.
To come back to the broader point though, feminism isn't necessarily about marching with an anatomically correct female reproductive system on your head. Of course, it's an option, and if that's how you feel you can best show support, go for it.
But feminism is literally just supporting women. It doesn't mean hating on men either. It means building up women, so they can overcome the inequalities present in society - like the fact that it's okay to say it's "too easy" for women to get certain kinds of jobs or suggest that they just find a husband. It's 2018, people, and no one should be allowed to talk to women like they are secondary citizens–they're 51 percent of the U.S. (and world!!) population!
It's pretty simple: support women. Instead of competing with them (something of which we're certainly all guilty), support them. When the girls around you do something cool, encourage it. When they're following their dreams, motivate them. And when someone says something that's not quite right, call them out. Being nice and being passive are two different things, and there's no reason you can't be polite while also telling someone exactly where their comments can go.
There's no reason that feminism needs to threaten anyone's masculinity: feminism is not about being "better" than men. It's about being on the same level, and being treated as equals. That means that supporting women can go hand in hand with supporting men!
This #yesallwomen attitude means that we need to support women no matter what it is they want to do. If her plan is to become the best surgeon in the world and make millions while saving lives, then #yesallwomen. If her plan is to become the mom who bakes the best cookies on the block, then #yesallwomen.
And if her plan is to serve on the Supreme Court, get a job in STEM, or just ace her exams, then #yesallwomen. If her plan is to do all of the above, then #YESALLWOMEN. Feminism isn't about tearing men down, whining, or even necessarily making people uncomfortable, it's about supporting ALL women, everywhere, no matter what their dreams, plans, passions, or goals.