The thing which often astounds me is how women can say that they aren’t a feminist. That they don’t believe in feminism. It’s strange to believe that some people really aren’t interested, in fact are repulsed by, a movement which campaigns for their rights.
I don’t deny that these women are entitled to their own opinion, I just can’t help but wonder why? Why do they choose to contradict a movement which seeks only to empower them, not to keep them down? What part of their thought process notices this movement and decides to ignore it? Perhaps it is the submissive element of their brain which tells them to just let things be. Or maybe there’s something else going on involving a deeply ingrained stigma against the idea of feminism.
Feminism is a movement which supports equal rights for all genders, a movement which promotes justice, fairness, and love. Almost everyone I speak to agrees that gender equality is an issue worth advocating (mainly because I’m lucky to find myself in a society which empowers women, something which I know many people haven’t been so lucky to have.) Note, however, that they agree with ‘gender equality’, not feminism.
Why is it that my parents and friends, who often engage with me in discussions about feminist issues, sigh and roll their eyes when I tell them that I’ve joined my school’s feminist society?
Why is it that if I even mention the word ‘feminist’ to a boy they turn and run as far as they can because they think I’m trying to undermine them?
Why is it that, despite the near-synonymous meaning of the two different terms, people are more reluctant to associate themselves with the word ‘feminist’?
The simple answer is that history wrote the story of feminism wrong. Why? Because men wrote the history books, and the men disagreed.
This stigma surrounding the idea of feminism creates yet another barrier for women, especially young women who are just entering the movement, to overcome. We know that things need to change, but we don’t want to speak out about it, to call ourselves a feminist, for fear of having unacceptable insults like “feminazi” hurled our way, or to be met with resistance from “meninists” who campaign for ‘men’s rights’, as though this isn’t encapsulated in feminist ideals as well.
Of course ‘feminist ideals’ might mean slightly different things for everyone, but let’s just stick with the basic concept of gender equality.
Gender equality does not mean empowering women and stamping men down.
Gender equality does not mean refusal to see how society mistreats men as well.
Gender equality is quite literally what it says on the tin.
It means empowering women where society has trodden them down.
It also means lifting up the men who’ve been told that crying, or being ‘weak’ is ‘just for women, not men’.
It includes the non-binary, who fall into neither category, and yet are oppressed more than the two put together.
It includes and protects everyone, so why does the word ‘feminism’ come with such a backlash?
Being a feminist is not something to be ashamed of, but the stigma in society tells us that it is. That feminism is something which happens in the background, something we shouldn’t admit to too openly, something which ‘already happened, something we should just ‘get over already’. Society dictates that feminism is not something to be outwardly addressed, it is to be discussed quietly behind closed doors. Those who outwardly proclaim themselves ‘Feminists’ are radicals who seek to disrupt our carefully constructed patriarchy. But you know what? I don’t give a shit about the patriarchy.
I’m proud to stand up for my rights and the rights of my friend, no matter what their gender is. I’m proud to have the confidence and the passion to do so.
I will not bow down and hide in the corner. I will make my voice heard.
Because I am a feminist, and I’m proud to say it.
Emily, despite being only 16, has big hopes for her future, and isn’t afraid to express her fairly strong opinions to anyone who will listen. She’s also a big dreamer with an addiction to stationery who hopes to one day dye her hair blue, when she’s no longer restricted by school uniform guidelines. You can come and scream with her about feminism, fandoms, and the fact that she really should be working on Tumblr.
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