Feminism (n) : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. The belief that men and women should be treated as equals.
Crazy, I know. It's the same concept as the golden rule that we all learned in kindergarten. To treat others as you would want to be treated. Why is it, then, that people are so reluctant to label themselves as feminists? It seems that with all of the media attention centered around the actions of radical feminists, we have lost sight of the movement as a whole and what it stands for. Equality. It saddens me to think that people reject the notion of feminism without fully understanding what it means. As a society, we need to stop perpetuating false ideas about what it means to support feminism.
Feminists do not hate men. This is actually called misandry, which is another issue entirely. Somewhere along the line in the battle for gender equality, someone decided that females demanding equal rights meant that they hated men. This is not true. Feminists are not out to get men. If they were, it would get pretty weird, because many men consider themselves feminists. Wanting to be treated with as much respect as men does not equate to hatred in any way. There may be individual feminists that don't like men. This is a personal preference, just like your preference for ice cream, and does not speak for the movement as a whole.
Being a feminist does not mean you must be independent. People seem to have the idea that not only do feminists hate men, but that they refuse to accept help from men. In my opinion, as long as you both view each other as equals, there is nothing wrong with a woman letting a man take care of her. It's perfectly OK to let a man pay for your date or be the sole provider for the family -- if he is not doing so because he sees you as a lesser being. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with a woman that prefers to be independent and take care of herself. Her choice is not part of a vendetta against men, it's just her preferred lifestyle.
Labeling yourself as a feminist does not limit you. These days everybody is afraid to use labels for fear of causing a stir. If you believe in something, why not say so? Being a feminist should empower you. Feminists can be pro-life or pro-choice, single or married, stay-at-home parents or CEO's. Labeling yourself as a feminist does not isolate you. It links you to a larger group of men and women that are just as unique as you are.
Feminists are not trying to be men. The common misconception is that women are trying to take over males' roles in society. Again, not true. Feminists are not trying to oppress men. We do not want to take away opportunities offered to men, we want to share in them. We do not want to be superior to men. We simply want to be treated as equals- nothing more, nothing less.
By no means am I trying to force anyone to be a feminist. However, I want to make sure that people that choose not to support feminism are not doing so misguidedly. Men and women both have a lot to learn from each other. Feminists simply want to foster and promote this co-existence. Believing in gender equality does not make a woman crazy, nor does it make a man weak. Don't let false ideas scare you away from a goal towards which we should all be working.