In defense of feminism

Allison Browne

“Hey Ally,” one of my classmates approaches me after class. “You’re a feminist right?”

“Yes,” I answer uncertainly, not sure of where this is going.

“Real quick, why do you think women are better than men?”

I’m slightly shocked by this question. Is this what people think feminism is? Is this why so many reject the idea? They assume all feminists are man-hating she-beasts?

Feminism is currently defined as, “the advocacy for women’s rights on the grounds of political, economic and social equality to men,” by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

I personally define feminism as so much more.

Feminism is being viewed as an intelligent, free-thinking human being. It’s about
being able to make my own life decisions, free of traditional expectations. Feminism is being able to take care of myself, with or without someone by my side. It’s evening out the playing field and allowing women the same opportunities as men.

Before I go any further, let me make this very clear —- no, I do not hate men.

I do not believe women are superior in any way. I have not renounced my femininity, and probably spend more time each morning on my hair and make-up than anyone else I know.

That being said, I do believe women should be treated equal. According to the International Labor Union, women only earn 76 percent of what men are paid for doing the exact same job for the same amount of time.

Female representation in government is still severely lacking as well. The WCF Foundation reports that only 22 percent of elected representatives are female, and only six states have a female governor.

Violence against women is so common, it has a category of its own within the justice system.

A 2009 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that of 652,660 violent crimes analyzed, more than 551,500 had been committed against women. These included rape and sexual assault, but also robbery, homicide, aggravated assault and minor assault.

Some may see these statistics as women “victimizing” themselves, but others see them as deeply concerning.

What I find deeply concerning is, despite the undeniable gender gap, so many women are afraid of being called a feminist.

The statements range everywhere from pop icon Lady Gaga saying, “I’m not a feminist —- I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle car.” to political activist Phyllis Schlafly writing “Feminism is doomed to failure because it is based on an attempt to repeal and restructure human nature.”

Popular culture’s idea of feminism has slowly shifted from the strong women of the 1920’s fighting for the right to vote to whiny, unattractive feminazis.

Women—- identifying yourself as a feminist does not mean you must burn your bra, refuse to shave your armpits, abandon your family, and hate all men. It means weather you want to be a stay at home mother or join the workforce, it is your decision.

I guess I am a modern-day feminist,” singer Beyonce said in an interview with British Vogue. “I do believe in equality and that we have a way to go and it’s something that’s pushed aside and something that we have been conditioned to accept.”

it is not extreme to believe in equal pay, protection from abuse and freedom of choice, and it is certainly not extreme to have a word for it. You should not be afraid of being viewed as “less of a woman,” or offer an apologies or excuses for your beliefs.

As author Mary Elizabeth Williams writes, “You don’t have to twirl your hair and stamp your toe delicately into the ground and sweet-talk that maybe you guess it’s OK that men and women be treated equally …
It does not and should not be considered a diminishment of your femininity or an indictment of men to say, ‘I’m a feminist.’ You don’t have to be afraid that you will somehow undermine your va va voomy image.”

Men —- it doesn’t emasculate you to support equality between the sexes.

Frederick Douglas, an escaped slave who was a strong supporter of equality, once said, “A woman should have every honorable motive to exertion which is enjoyed by man, to the full extent of her capacities and endowments. The case is too plain for argument. Nature has given woman the same powers, and subjected her to the same earth, breathes the same air, subsists on the same food, physical, moral, mental and spiritual. She has, therefore, an equal right with man, in all efforts to obtain and maintain a perfect existence.”
Think about your daughters, or future daughters. Think about your sisters, your mothers, your grandmothers, aunts, friends and girlfriends. Don’t you want to know that they will be safe? Don’t you want them to have every opportunity to succeed?

At the end of the day, the issue of feminism isn’t simply just black and white.

It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s a human issue.