I am a feminist.
Looking at me, you probably wouldn’t guess it. I don’t fit the physical and ideological characteristics of your stereotypical “feminist.” I shave my legs and wear makeup every day. I don’t walk around braless. I genuinely like most men.
But I believe in gender equality. I believe women and men should be paid the same amount of money if they’re working the same job and that females shouldn’t be objectified. It infuriates me when girls are taught that they must fit into a certain role in society: look pretty, make babies, don’t make a fuss. I find the number of women who are sexually assaulted at some point in their life—1 out of every 5—absolutely appalling. These basic principles, not the radical, ridiculous attitudes and behaviors feminists have become associated with, are what the movement is truly about.
If I walked up to any given person on the street and expressed my beliefs, I doubt they’d disagree. My stances—feminist stances—aren’t outrageous. However, as soon as I say the F-Word, I’m immediately branded as an extremist, a lesbian hippie with dreads and a marijuana addiction.
Like numerous other social groups, feminists are surrounded by a negative stigma thanks to a small group of fanatics. If you enter “feminist” on Google, the majority of pictures that come up are ugly women who seem to believe the entire world is against them. This narrow view of the movement is about as accurate as saying the KKK is a comprehensive representation of Christianity.
Believe it or not, feminists aren’t bad people.
In the words of Merriam-Webster, feminism is (a noun) the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Honestly, the definition of a movement couldn’t get more simplistic than that. Though the goals of the movement are wide and varied, at its core feminism is the belief that all people, regardless of gender, should have equal opportunities.
That’s all. Nothing crazy.
No, really. It’s that simple.The majority of us feminists are ordinary, everyday folk, just trying to make the world a better place for everyone. Unfortunately, the negative, inaccurate connotation of feminism is preventing the movement from being as effective as it could be. Few people want to join or support a social group viewed as aggressive and unforgiving.
So now we’re left with the question: how did this bigoted definition of feminists come to be?
People always notice the extremists; that goes without question. Suicide bombers make the news while other Muslims reap the consequences. On a much less fatal scale, this is why feminism is now associated with man-hating and armpit hair. Its basic principles have become so shrouded by the stereotypes reinforced by a handful of vocal zealots that most don’t even realize what the movement truly stands for.
This view is perpetuated by a lack of education in regards to feminism. People believe it is a fanatical concept because they haven’t been taught the true meaning. During the majority of my teenage years, I, too, believed the exaggerated, derogatory version of feminism. It wasn’t until I did actual research that I understood what the women’s liberation movement is actually about.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know the best way to go about changing the perception of feminism. However, I do know this: it’s going to be a group effort. One person standing on a soapbox can’t change an entire cultural standard, no matter how good of a public speaker they are. No Buzzfeed video will be seen unless we click ‘share’. Emma Watson’s UN speech would never have become well known if people hadn’t passed the word along. Even Morgan Freeman couldn’t change the world with his perfectly smooth, dark voice (Okay maybe Morgan Freeman could, but last I checked he isn’t a feminist.) If we want the public attitude towards feminism to change, it’s going to be a collaborative effort.
Of course, holding hands in a circle and singing Kumbaya isn’t going to do the trick either. It’s not going to be easy to change the way the majority of the population views feminism.
It has to start with education. We need to make the world realize that feminism is not, in fact, a militant attempt to destroy the patriarchy. Its most basic, overarching goal is simply for all people to have equal rights and opportunities. It’s time for feminists to reach out to those around them and show others what the movement truly stands for rather than allowing our country to stay in the dark.
Many of you may be thinking “Well, there’s still going to be sexist assholes who think feminism is stupid regardless of what it stands for.” And you’re right. Those people will always exist.
The point isn’t to make everyone become a part of the movement, though. Feminism isn’t a weird cult; I won’t murder you if you don’t join. I am a normal human being, just like almost every other feminist. That’s what I want the world to know.
I want to be able to stand up in a room full of people and say: “I am a feminist!” without feeling judged, or embarrassed, or ashamed. I want the world to understand being a feminist is just another political and moral belief set, not a radical, anti-bra, anti-man lifestyle. Being a feminist means caring about the equality of people of all genders. Being a feminist is about doing your part to right the wrongs in this world. And okay, maybe singing Kumbaya a couple of times wouldn’t hurt, especially if Morgan Freeman joined in.
I am a feminist. Looking at me, you won’t be able to tell, because I am an ordinary person.
But then again, maybe you will be able to tell. Because an ordinary person is all that a feminist is.