Feminist. This word has so many negative connotations surrounding it. People think feminists are radical, men-hating women. And yet, this could not be further from the truth. Feminism is defined as the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. That’s it. It neither advocates that women are superior to men, nor that men are bad and we should rebel against them. Feminism merely means equality.
I think it’s important to start off by recognizing how far women have come since the mid 1800s when feminism first began. After all, today, women in the United States are no longer considered the property of their husbands, and we can now attend college, get a divorce, vote, and do much more than was possible back then. Some parts of the world have not yet progressed even this far. And yet, despite these “advances”, which seem to me like basic rights, it is even more important to recognize how far women still have to go. Women experience inequality every single day. Take the wage gap for example. Women currently earn 78 cents to the man’s dollar. Really? It’s 2016. Women should be paid just as much as men for the same job. Plus, women endure sexual objectification significantly more than men in advertisements, music, and pretty much anywhere you look. This dehumanizes and diminishes our value as people. Take a closer look at the next ad you come across, and I’m sure you’ll immediately see what I mean.
So why don’t people just get on board with feminism?
To some extent, I get it. The word “feminism” can be misleading. It sounds like it’s exclusively for women. But I also don’t get it, because even once people understand the word’s meaning, they are reluctant to support it. This doesn’t make any sense, particularly for women. Women don’t want to profess that they’re feminists because they don’t want to seem radical or averse to men. This is a huge problem. If women themselves refuse to advocate for the equal treatment that they deserve then who will? It seems that for men, saying you’re a feminist warrants that your masculinity be called into question. Again, this doesn’t make sense. Since when did supporting equality, a word that we so often revere, signify weakness?
Here’s the bottom line: we need to stop acting like “feminist” is some kind of dirty word that is worthy of our fear and instead we must embrace it. Everybody should be a feminist. We have to face the facts: things are different, harder really, for women. This is not to say that men don’t endure challenges because of their gender because they do. However, these challenges pale in comparison to those that women face. From childhood to adulthood, women are taught very different lessons and values than men are. If a boy is mean to you, he likes you. If you don’t like the color pink or enjoy playing with dolls, you’re weird. Wanting to be a superhero for Halloween rather than a princess is frowned upon. The examples could go on and on. These socially constructed ideas of how women are supposed to act starting from childhood need to change. They perpetuate a culture that encourages women to feel subordinate to men from a very young age. This is why feminism is so important, and it partly explains why some women might feel uncomfortable standing up and proclaiming themselves as feminists. If you’ve been taught your whole life that this is just the way things are, then even seeing that there’s an inequality issue may be difficult! We can’t continue to allow young girls to be raised thinking that they are worth less than men. This is a fundamental problem in our society. If you are a parent or were to become one, would you want your daughter to grow up constantly having society ingrain in her that she’s the second, less important, less worthy sex? I can only hope the answer would be no.
As a society, we must move on from this stereotypical and, frankly, dated notion that women are weak and in need of a man for economic survival or happiness. The feminist struggle has been going on for over 150 years. If each person could change their mindset and recognize that feminism is not a war against men, but rather a fight against injustice, then this country would be a better place. Legally, there is still a long way to go, as the Equal Rights Amendment did not successfully become a law in 1982. However, until then, what people can control is their ideology. I believe that one day the entire world will come to realize that you can’t oppress half of the world’s population forever. So be a feminist, and be one proudly.