I walk around my campus proudly with pins all over my backpack. Most of them reading empowering statements. "Feminist AF," "Girl Gang" and "Pro-choice, Pro-pugs, Pro-Pizza" (my personal favorite). I wear them because they are fun, because they reflect my values and because girls are strong as hell.
I ALWAYS end up getting THAT comment. The one from a boy looking to make a joke to degrade women, yeah I know, hilarious. "You must hate men, right?" Only the misogynistic, uninformed ones!! For some reason, there is this stigma that surrounds the simple idea of girls supporting girls. What's wrong with that?
I decide to call myself a feminist not because I'm into an institution full of men-hating, obnoxious and over-sensitive women because that's definitely not what feminism is about. It is a movement of individuals that believe women and men should be treated equally. That's it. It is not as radical as people make it out to be. The stigma that surrounds the word itself makes people scared to label themselves a feminist.
Part of the way feminism is viewed has to do with the way it has evolved. To many young girls, it has become a trend that they like to advertise across their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter hoping to gain the followers of the "girl gang." This is an awesome way to promote self-love, and confidence in women but at the same time, it stigmatizes feminism even more, making it seen as a "trend." This evolution of the term in no way lessens the fact that a woman earns 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns. Or that one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives. And, it absolutely does not validate demeaning comments towards women. What many heedless men that mindlessly spew comments are ignorant to is how much harder it is for women in this world than they think.
They will never get the feeling I get when I walk outside as passing men holler degrading comments out their car window.
Or when my mom gives me pepper spray to "defend myself" when I travel to New York City alone.
When I screenshot my male Uber driver's information and send it to my parents, just in case.
When I pretend to be on the phone with someone to avoid a staring man from approaching.
When I pick out the right outfit that is cute but doesn't make me look too "slutty."
Thinking that I have to say "sorry" even after a minor inconvenience.
Saying "no" and being labeled "prude."
Of course, I know being a man is not a walk in the park and both men and women have their own struggles. I am trying to diminish the stigma around feminism as I am sick and tired of living my life in fear of walking alone. In fear of being judged. In fear of the capability of a man. I don't want to be the one to enforce the stereotype that all guys have malicious intent towards girls because that is not the case at all. I want to believe that guys like my brother will do the right thing when necessary. I want to bring my future daughters into a world where they could just be girls.
Yeah, girl power is cool but what is even cooler is universal respect for everyone!