I’ve never considered myself a feminist. In fact, I used to associate the word “feminism” with a very negative meaning. A while ago, I believed the feminist movement consisted solely of radical, patriarchy-loathing women whose main agenda in life was to spite the male gender. Within the past few years, various media outlets and pop culture have brought a new light to feminism. The movement is no longer restricted to a minority group of women, and people of all genders and backgrounds are jumping on the bandwagon.
Male figures like Seth Myers and Ryan Gosling have all expressed their views in support of feminism. Additionally, Joseph Gordon Levitt blatantly declared that he was a feminist in an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show":
“My mom brought me up to be a feminist. She would always point out to my brother and me that our culture does often portray women like objects ... if you don’t stop and think about it, it just sort of seeps into your brain and that becomes the way you perceive reality. I do call myself a feminist. Absolutely! It’s worth paying attention to the roles that are sort of dictated to us and that we don’t have to fit into those roles.”
Although celebrity figureheads (both male and female) are paving the way for women’s rights and gender equality, the list of challenges women face in their everyday lives is ongoing.
For example, last week I was told that I am no longer allowed to wear tank tops or shorts to work because my outfits would provoke rape among the store’s male customers. After discussing the incident with a few friends, I was met with mostly supportive feedback, but one particular comment stuck out to me. Someone called me a Feminazi. Taken aback by the word, I later learned that its formal definition is “an extreme or militant feminist.” (Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for bringing the word into existence over thirty years ago.)
Derogatory terms such as this are what perpetuate the negative stigma surrounding feminism. First of all, embedding the word “Nazi” into a movement about equality is erroneous and extreme in itself. The Nazis fought for superiority and dominance — ideals that stand at the polar opposite of the feminist agenda. At a rudimentary level, feminism is the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men. Emphasis on the word EQUALITY. This includes a right to give women the freedom of choice in their lives —whether that includes a career, marriage or children.
Feminism isn’t about women who want to break from just one ideal. It’s more or less about allowing women to transcend many ideals or even to create their own ideals of what it means to be a woman. The girl found perusing the aisles of a local bookstore, latté in hand, could be a feminist. The college student who chained herself to a statue in protest of the unequal distribution of birth control is a feminist. Your local Starbucks barista could be a feminist. That’s the beauty of it all — you can’t spot one person off the street and claim that he or she is a feminist, based on appearance alone.
Feminism transcends all genders, appearances and beliefs. It is an inclusive movement for equality and empowerment, rather than the tyrannical misandry it may appear to be. So really, what’s the fuss over supporting people who want equality in their lives? After all, you don’t want the so-called Feminazis to come after you.