"Feminism" Isn't A Bad Word

"Feminism" Isn't A Bad Word

There are some bad "F" words, but this isn't one of them.
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Women's rights have come a long way since the early suffragette days, but feminism still has negative connotations attached to it. Nothing hurts my heart more than seeing someone turn his or her nose up at the mention of “feminism” because of preconceived (and quite often false) notions that are perpetuated by society. Here are my responses to some of those notions.

“Why is it even called feminism if it’s for everyone?”

It’s true, feminism is for everyone. By Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” So why, then, is it called feminism?

Well, historically, women have been the ones who suffered inequality and sexism. Women were the ones prohibited from learning how to read, owning property, voting, purchasing birth control, opening a bank account…the list goes on. In fact, it wasn’t until 1975 that the Supreme Court retracted the ban on women serving as jury members in a trial. That’s only 42 years ago! Men have not had to fight for equal rights, and if they had, it probably would’ve been called “meninism.” (which, annoyingly enough, is a term that has recently begun appearing in popular culture…but don’t get me started on that).

Feminism, as a movement, began because women were being treaty unjustly. They were not (and in some cases are still not) equal to their male counterparts in politics, economics, or society. Feminism is called feminism, not because women want to have a higher status than men, but because they want the same status.

"Ugh, feminists are just man-haters."

Again, feminism is not about the hatred of men. Yes, it so often feels as though fighting for equality is a 'women vs. men' war. But, as I mentioned earlier, feminism isn’t about hating men; it is about being treated the same as them. Just because I identify as a feminist doesn’t mean I hate men. In fact, I want them to benefit from feminism too.

In her book We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, says,

“We stifle the humanity boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.”

The rigid boundaries of masculinity are as toxic to men as they are to women. How often do we hear “boys don’t cry” or “be a man”? What do these statements imply? That showing emotion is (a historically “feminine” trait) is a weakness that must be avoided at all costs.

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I don’t want men to be afraid to show their emotions or talk about their feelings. I don’t want them to be so scared of feeling weak or seeming vulnerable or that they aren’t allowed to just be human. If in society, men and women were treated equally, then there would be no more “boys don’t cry” because crying wouldn’t be a weakness.

It’s really difficult to be happy when you’re trapped in a cage, so dispelling the thinking that men can’t ever show “feminine” traits without being seen as weak would mean a lot more well-adjusted, emotionally healthy men.

“Aren’t feminists just loud women who burn their bras?”

Fun fact: the original “bra burning” trope comes from a 1969 protest at which no bras were actually burned. The protest took place on the Atlantic City Boardwalk where it was illegal to start a fire, so the protestors put typical “feminine” items in a “Freedom Trash Can” instead. These items, which included bras and other beauty products, were representations of the beauty standards that society enforces on women. Unfortunately, the “bra burning” falsity stuck and was used to belittle the movement and disregard the message protesters were trying to send. So no, feminists aren’t just women who burn their bras.

“Feminism isn’t needed anymore.”

Things do seem better for women now. I mean, I’m writing this article, so that means I was taught how to read and write. I’m in college, so I was allowed to pursue higher education. I voted in the last election, which means the suffragettes work paid off. So we’re all good now, right?

Gosh, I wish that were true.

Unfortunately, women are still discriminated against. We still aren’t paid the same as men. Women are often the target of abuse online. One out of every six American women has been the victim of sexual assault. Women only make up 104 of the 535 (19%) seats in Congress, 21 of the 100 seats (21%) in the Senate, and 83 of the 435 (19%) of the seats in the House of Representatives. This might be part of the reason that, in most states, tampons and pads are not seen as “necessities” and are therefore still taxed like other “tangible personal property.”

Clearly, we still need feminism. We can’t afford to think we live in a post-feminism society just because things “aren’t as bad as they used to be.” We can always do better. We must do better.

Cover Image Credit: Vanity Fair

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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Educate Yourself And Spread Facts, Not Bias

Do you know the truth? Or are you allowing rumors to cloud your judgement of the political arena?

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In our society, the government has grown to be a capitalistic effort. Payout, backroom deals, we are unaware of many actions those that represent us take behind closed doors. The transparency we think we see is unrealistic and just not the way that politics actually work. In the entire world, governance has become essential to the survival and future of society. No two governments are the same, and they are essentially ever changing as many people of power change constantly.

This being said influence from these individuals rule the political sphere. Whether it be a local councilperson, senator, governor, or even the president.IN the U.S. our daily lives and wellbeing rest in the hands of the few. Some of these politicians are honest and work genuinely for the people. However, agenda frequently takes over the arena and leaves the decisions of our livelihood to the gains of politicians.

Our generation has the lowest voter turnout, leaving the decisions that we do have to older generations. Some of those hold ideologies that are not relevant nor acceptable to the climate we live in today. This is not a call to action but more of a thought. As someone who was incredibly uninvolved in politics, I wanted to look at why I lacked the care that other people my age held so passionately. I believe it starts with my distaste of conflict, which many people my age also agree with. Politics can lead to confrontation and negative conversation.

Therefore, who would want to make friendships and interactions awkward with an avoidable subject. I found myself straying from these conversations and becoming uncomfortable when friends assert opinions that I do not agree with. However, in taking classes where this environment hinges the change in industries I study. I was forced to form some type of opinion in the matter.

From here I decided to change the lens on how I looked at politics. Instead of shying away, I really listened to what my professors felt about it and their assertions. I then did my own research, looking into the history of matters that my peers and professors talked about. Educating myself on what the facts were, versus believing in rumors that I heard through the grapevine.

I started engaging friends in a positive manner, as opposing opinions are valuable in a holistic situational viewpoint. I became comfortable in the discomfort of politics and worked to learn what may be in store for our world. My point for this is to educate yourself on genuine fact. Do not assert opinions based on information that your friend or even a professor gives you, keep your knowledge on the subject relevant.

You never know when legislation may come out that seriously effects your way of life. Most importantly, knowledge is power and power is what those that leave us in ignorance have over us.

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