In society today, I've noticed an alarming trend: feminism becoming synonymous with man-bashing or man-hating. Since graduating college and entering society as a thinking, educated adult, I've encountered this strange and inaccurate concept: that being a feminist must mean you don't believe in marriage, or that you don't believe in chivalrous manners, or that you don't believe in having children. I've been asked questions along the lines of:
- So you think a woman can do everything a man can do? Like, lift the same amount of weight? Well what if a woman wants to be a firefighter? How would she carry a big grown man out of a burning building?
- So you must look down on women who stay at home with their children, then right?
- Well what about chivalry then? Don't think men should hold open doors for women? Be polite to women?
- Oh you're a feminist. So you hate men?
- How can you call yourself a feminist and then go get married? I thought feminists didn't get married. And what about kids then? Don't feminists think having kids limits you?
- Well if you're a feminist... shouldn't you always vote for women in politics?
- Oh, you're a feminist. Do you like... not shave then? Ew.
- Well you can't be a Christian and be a feminist.
Friend, these questions indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the term feminism in our society today. Rather than truly comprehending the term, many people, it seems, have developed this stereotypical notion of a feminist, envisioning this cartoonish, angry, man-bashing woman with a thatchet of armpit hair who scorns the opposite sex, talks about her period, and has emblazoned the bumper of her energy-efficient car with zealous calls-to-arms stickers.
Allow me to dispel that myth right now with this simple definition:
Feminism is the advocacy of women's rights--political, social, and economic--as equal to men's rights. Feminism does not seek to diminish men or to elevate women above men. Instead, it strives for men and women to be viewed and treated asequals. Feminism does not seek to limit what we women can do--because, heaven knows, society has done enough of that already-- it seeks to broaden what we all can do, as equal citizens with equal rights and equal capability.
So what does this look like?
Well to name a few... equal pay for equal work. Paid maternity leave and paternity leave for working parents. More women hired to high-level positions in business. More women involved in politics. Women who are allowed to make their own choices about their own bodies. Women who have the same opportunities available to them, regardless of their gender. Less instances of sexual crime. Men who are not viewed as weak or unmanly if they express sadness or fear.
Did you know that a female teacher will make less than a male teacher? Did you know that women's credit scores tend to be lower than men's, even if the two individuals have an identical credit history? Did you know that --as of 2015-- less than 20% of U.S. Senators are women?
Do these goals seem irrational or unfair to you? Also, I hope that you notice that the goals and ideals listed above do not apply solely to women but also address men's issues and rights. Again, feminism does not seek to diminish men or to elevate women above men... the movement instead seeks to establish equal rights for both sexes.
So yes. I am a feminist. I believe that all people--regardless of their sex or race-- should possess equal rights. And no. I do not hate men. I quite like men, actually. I do not think that women are better than men or that we somehow "deserve more" from life. But I certainly do not believe that women deserve less from life. Nor do I believe that women should be ridiculed, shushed, or vilified for expecting equal rights, equal pay, and equal representation.
I hope that this brief description will help dispel some of the stereotypes and confusion surrounding the term feminism. And I hope that you too will feel proud to call yourself a feminist--a person who advocates for the equal rights of both sexes-whether you are male or female. As the oh-so-brilliant Emma Watson said, "If not me, who? If not now, when?'