In this day and age, the definition of feminism and the fight for women’s rights are often skewed by the media. Over the years, so many stereotypes of feminism have emerged that have given feminism a negative connotation and have made women turn their noses up at the very thought of being called a feminist.
Feminists are made out to be bra-burning, man-hating, single women who never shave and don’t care about personal hygiene. People will tell you that all feminists are aggressive, pushy and that their goal is to take over the world and alienate the male sex. Feminists are seen through a lens in which they never ever want children or families, and all they do is carry picket signs and yell about inequality.
Many women reject the idea of feminism right away because of these preconceptions and stereotypical descriptions. They grimace at the very idea of a feminist because they’ve grown up in a world in which the media paints feminism as a radical ideology of hate and aggression.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term feminism as: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”
The Oxford Dictionary states that the definition of the concept of feminism is: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”
There are different aspects to feminism as a movement and as a concept and these different aspects carry their own definitions, but the bottom line of feminism is the belief that women should be equal to men. Whether it’s in how much money they make for doing the same job, or how their roles within the household are perceived, or just the overall treatment of women regardless of age, race, sexuality, or gender identity.
Feminism is not about the way you look, what clothes you wear, or your involvement in protests, marches, activism, etc. It’s not a bad word, it’s not something you should be ashamed of, and it’s not something that you should let people scare you out of believing in. If you have educated yourself on what a feminist is and still choose to not identify as one, that’s your prerogative. It’s just frustrating to see women reject the idea of feminism because of everything that they think it is, based on all the stereotypes they’ve heard.
I think it’s important to realize just how inequality affects women, especially in the workplace. According to a study done by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2016 women with full-time, year-round jobs made an average of 80 cents for every dollar made by a man in the same position. Despite the fact that women make up half of the workforce and tend to receive more college degrees than men, they’re still underpaid.
In Ohio, the wage gap is slightly larger, with women earning 77 cents for every dollar made by a white male. The variations don’t stop there, the gap gets larger and larger when you factor in race. For example, Hispanic women made only 54 cents for every dollar and African American women made 63 cents for every dollar their white male counterpart made. Through tracking the wage gap over the years, women aren’t expected to receive equal pay until 2059.
Feminism is not a term coined by women to identify ourselves as the superior race. It’s a term that goes back to the late 1800’s when the first women’s rights movement began in the United States. It’s a concept meant to empower women to reach their full potential.
Calling myself a feminist means that I’m standing up for myself and other women. It means that I believe in equal rights for all people. I believe in feminism because there are women, still today in 2018, that don’t have access to basic healthcare, education, or the right to vote. I believe in feminism because of all the girls in places like South Asia or and parts of Africa under the age of 16 who are forced to be child brides. I am a feminist because I don’t want women to feel like they have to choose between having a family or having a career.
I am a feminist because the sexualization of women and young girls needs to be stopped. The normalization of rape, sexual harassment and victim-blaming need to be stopped. Feminism is a way for women to feel unified and feel accepted and protected by their fellow women.
When I was younger, and even as I’ve gotten older and have started to make my own decisions in life, my mother has always held firm in the belief that I can be anything I want, anything I set my mind to. I want every kid around the world to grow up being told the exact same thing, that they can be whatever they want, that girls can be engineers and politicians and boys can be nurses and preschool teachers, without thinking twice about the gender roles constructed in society. That’s why I’m a feminist.