When asked “Are you a feminist?” most people reply with “Of course not!” or something along the lines of “I believe in girl power, but I am not a feminist.”
Most people turn away in shame from the label of feminist, overpowered by the image of so-called “feminazis,” or stereotypically unattractive man-haters. However, I think this stems from few people understanding what the word “feminist” actually means.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Even though the word has been in usage since 1895, many people still wrongly confuse feminism with something akin to hating speech against men, when really the word simply means that all people should be treated equally.
Being a feminist only requires one thing–the belief that men and women should be treated the same in spite of their gender. Contrary to popular belief, it does not require a shaved head, a militant dislike for men, or a general disgust for stay-at-home mothers.
In addition, feminism is not a synonym for oppressing men. Equality for men and women means equality for men and women. Feminism is only oppressing men in the sense that according to the definition, men should be required to go the extra mile and treat women like people, instead of sex objects or less intelligent counterparts.
For many, even that simple request is too much. The rhetoric pushed by Donald Trump, who brags of sexual assault, or the constant barrage of demands by right-wing politicians to defund Planned Parenthood, the organization that provides women all over the country with basical medical care, displays that the United States is not yet a country that can do without feminism.
As a teenager about to face a world outside the bubble of Wellesley, I see before me a future filled with challenges because of my gender. I cannot walk outside at night in my neighborhood for fear of sexual assault. I will be paid less than man for doing the same work. Society will frown upon my decision to have a career over kids. And, if I dare speak out against the oppression that I face, I will get a list of “nasty” names, the nicest of which being “bitch,” thrown back at me. Even labeling myself a feminist incurs backlash.
“Feminist” is not a dirty word. It is a word that advocates for my rights as a human being. It word that unites women and men against misogyny. I’m a feminist and proud of it. Are you?