"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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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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To The Girl Who Believes That Feminism Is A Lost Cause: It's Unfortunate You Can't See How Infinitely Capable Women Are

You said I am being too hopeful. You said that there is no point. I say you're wrong.
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It was a seemingly boring day. Most of us had just finished our state-based EOC's, but there were bigger fish to fry: Advanced Placement Exams would be starting the following week. These exams would determine whether we got the college credits for the college courses we had been straggling through all year. A group of my female classmates and I were taking a five minute break from studying in our AP U.S. History class when we got into a deep conversation about the Indian culture.

One of my classmates was asking simple questions about what the Indian culture was like; things like marriages, different societal expectations and other cultural differences came about into the conversation.

The conversation eventually moved to focus on education and dream colleges. The girl sitting behind me asked another one of my classmates if she had heard anything from the Emory Summer Program. They started talking about certain residencies they planned on doing, and I tuned out of the conversation.

That was until I heard this: "Did you know they don't bring girls down to see surgery? Only guys."

I turned around, and scoffed.

"Are you serious? Why would they do that?"

They both explained to me that something had happened in which Emory had brought a girl and a guy down to a surgery, but both of them fainted — or at least that's what they heard. The girl sitting behind me went on to say "girls are just more prone to fainting."

What? Listen, I may not be a biology major, but —

"I thought you said the guy fainted too?" I countered. She shrugged her shoulders, and said one sentence:

"It's not like girls can become surgeons anyways."

Seriously? I took a deep breath and said slowly,

"I think girls and guys can both become surgeons regardless of sex. They're both just as capable."

She argued with me that "statistically" guys had more of a chance to become a surgeon. That girls have no chance because universities looked for guys. That not many girls even tried to go the surgery field. She said there was a reason why she chose to not become a surgeon. Again and again, she said that girls had no chance in a male-dominated field.

She insisted that I was being too hopeful. That "realistically" changes in women's rights would not come in our generation but rather in our children's generation. That there was a reason why in history, men were better known than women. That there was a reason why men and women had separate events in athletic competitions.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. But then again, it made sense, right? The reasons why women still have to fight so hard for things such as equal pay — it's because thoughts like these still plague our society.

I was left speechless. My APUSH teacher appeared from behind me almost two seconds later. He asked her:

"Have you ever heard the story of Billie Jean King? The famous female tennis player who beat a man — I can't remember his name — but he said awful things about women and how weak they were."

She shook her head and stuttered out a "no," and he simply replied,

"It's a really impressive story," before walking away.

So, "statistically," sure, men may dominate the field of surgery. But they also dominate the fields of business (did you know there are only 27 women on the Fortune 500 list?) law enforcement, criminal law, the military or any STEM careers, etc.

This does not mean women are not capable of doing those jobs; it's the part of society that still believes we live in the stone age who thinks women are not capable of arguing in front of a judge or saving someone's life in the ER.

My all-time favorite quote is something my mother said two years ago when Trump won the presidency:

"It's not the women who are not ready for America; it's America who's not ready for the women."

And yes, I am hopeful. I am optimistic. Because so much has changed, but there's still a lot more to do for women. You say that that change cannot come in our generation but rather our children's — that mindset is the reason why we still fall behind today. But let me tell you why you are also wrong. Change has been happening throughout all the generations whether you like it not.

Change occurred in 1800s during Elizabeth Cady Stanton's time when she and hundreds of other women published the "Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen."

Change occurred in the 1900s when Susan B. Anthony and thousands of women fought tirelessly for women's suffrage and won with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Change has occurred with the recent #MeToo movement, exposing years and years of sexual harassment and rape perpetrators, not just in Hollywood, but in other industries as well.

We can't keep pushing saying that "it's not my issue" or "it'll happen later." We can't keep ignoring the issue; we have to face it and fix it . You said to me that, living in John's Creek, you have never faced sexism in your life, and I envy you for that. That does not mean sexism does not exist.

I pity you for the fact that you remain so close minded about the future of women. Though currently the field of surgery may be male-dominated, there are still women who work in that field. There are women who ignore that fact, study their butts off and work, successfully, as surgeons.

Eventually it comes down to this: you can hide and ignore the issues that beset our community, or you can stand up for yourself and the women around you. Your choice.

But know this: feminism is not a lost cause. I am a woman. I can, and I will.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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