"Oh, you're a feminist? You're just another man-hater!"
I've heard this phrase, from men and women, more times than I can count. I have always proudly identified as a feminist, but with reactions like this, do you even have wonder why people are reluctant to join this movement? At times, I have felt the urge to reply to this and similar comments with biting sarcasm: "Oh, you sure got me! Here I thought our evil plan to overthrow mankind and create an entirely female society run by President Beyonce was a secret. Darn! We would've gotten away with it, too, if not for your excellent deduction skills!"
Sadly, I fear the joke would be lost on them, and so I don't bother. However, for those of you wondering what feminism is really about, the dictionary definition of it is: "" Doesn't sound too bad, right? Basically, we want equality; that's it. We're not out to destroy every man on the planet, contrary to popular belief. Unfortunately, there are extremists in every group. I've heard so-called "feminists" say that women who choose to have children and become stay-at-home moms are oppressing themselves. That's wrong, and I'm very sorry if you were told that. Remember: if no women gave birth, the human race would cease to exist! Feminism is all about having the choice to do what you want as a woman, whether that's having a career, children, a combination of the two, or anything else.
Now, according to some, we are currently living in a "post-feminism" era, meaning that we no longer need feminism because men and women are completely equal now.
Um, yeah, what Seth and Amy said. Last time I checked, white women get paid 78 cents for every dollar that men make. That number goes down considerably when the earnings of women of color are compared to those of men. Furthermore, studies show that on average, 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and1 in 6 women are victims of sexual assault. And these are only statistics from this country. Imagine how much worse these numbers could be in other places of the world. So, it's definitely not true that the world supposedly doesn't need feminism anymore.
Nevertheless, it appears that some people believe in feminism's pointlessness wholeheartedly. Last year, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with people who were part of the "I-don't-need-feminism-because" movement. People photographed themselves holding statements on whiteboards that said, "I don't need feminism, because I like it when guys open doors for me," or, "I don't need feminism, because I love my boyfriend." Well, I like it when guys open doors for me, too. I also like it when women do it. That's because holding a door open for someone is called "common courtesy," and isn't an anti-feminist act. (Plus, if there isn't an automatic door, I can't really do it for myself, because of the whole "I'm-in-a wheelchair" thing.) And I know plenty of women in happy, heterosexual relationships that consider themselves feminists, so that argument doesn't hold up.
But what frustrates me most is the use of the word "I" in those statements. Okay, you might not need feminism, but you're not the only woman on the planet. I personally need feminism because I shouldn't be seen as aggressive for having opinions and expressing them; because the fact that I would rather have a fulfilling career than a family shouldn't make me feel embarrassed; and because I worry about going back to my dorm at night alone, even though my campus is fairly safe.
However, these aren't the only reasons that I need feminism. I also need feminism because women shouldn't be harassed for seeking medical care in a women's health facility; because I have the privilege of receiving higher education, but many women in third-world countries, can't even obtain a basic education legally; because we still hear the lingering question, "What was she wearing?" after yet another woman reports her rape; because trans women, especially those of color, are beaten in alleyways and left to die; because young girls are still being sold into brothels as sex-slaves; and for many, many other reasons.
Even feminists can forget that this movement shouldn't just be about them. Feminism should be about fighting to end oppression of women across the globe, not only the oppression that affects just one portion; it's about being sympathetic and empathetic to the struggles of all women, and standing up for those who don't have a voice. When all of these problems are solved, only then will I stop calling myself a feminist. We've made incredible progress, to be sure, but we still have a long way to go.