Trust me, you’re a feminist.

This past summer, I took a multicultural and gender course in my doctoral program. Let’s overlook, for the moment, the fact that this course exists as a single entity and has yet to be instilled in the very curriculum. The class consists of those whom, I consider, to be well educated and highly informed. However, when the topic of feminism came up I actually heard a girl say, “ew, no, I’m definitely not a feminist.”
Now granted, I have been involved in advocating for women’s rights issues for over ten years now and had just finished reading Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Women, so I’ll be damned if smoke wasn’t pluming out of my ears. It was all I could do to stop myself from shouting “ If it wasn’t for feminism you wouldn’t even BE in this classroom right now!” But I refrained (which is rare for me).
In the 1990’s Pat Robertson famously said, “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” While I believe that this opinion is extreme and offensive, I think some of this sentiment still rings true for many people today.  And that’s the crux of it- feminism has an image problem.
Hear me out. If you identify yourself as a feminist today many people will immediately assume you are man-hating, bra-burning, liberal. And I’m not putting down those feminists who do hate men and bras- good for them. But, I feel it is important to highlight the fact that, as with every social movement, feminism encompasses a variety of political tendencies and ideologies. And the feminism that I have come to know and love is not about putting men (or anyone for that matter) down. It is about equality.
            So, I’m glad that I held my tongue in class. My yelling and general hell raising would have just put this girl on the defensive, and I did not want that. In reality, I think she highlighted, for me, what is all too true- that most people who don’t call themselves feminists don’t really understand what feminism is. And that’s a lot of people. Only one-fifth of Americans identify as feminists, according to a recent poll conducted by The Huffington Post.  According to the study, just twenty percent of Americans - including twenty three percent of women and sixteen percent of men -believe that they are feminists. But all is not lost. When asked if they think, “men and women should be social, political, and economic equals,” 82 percent of the respondents said they did, and just 9 percent said they did not.
            And so, I believe it’s important to engage people in an informed conversation; one that highlights how important the movement for equality is both in the United States and worldwide. I mean ask yourself, do you enjoy having the right to vote? the right to have dominion over your own body? the right to own property? That’s what I thought… trust me, you’re a feminist.

Written by Adrian Tworecke

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