Feminism has nothing to do hating men, hating makeup, hating bras, or hating other women who love those things. Feminism is simply the concept that people should be allowed to be who they want to be, and society shouldn’t punish them for their choices. Feminism allows women to be lawyers, stay at home mothers, strippers, doctors, cabinet makers – it doesn’t matter, it’s cool, as long as that’s their choice. True feminism doesn’t dictate what someone should do – it protects everyone’s right to have a choice about what they think and what they want to do.
I’m going to throw myself under the bus here. Judging by what society seems to think makes a ‘good feminist,’ I’d probably be kicked out of the club. I’m a white, cisgender, straight, conventionally attractive sorority girl. I die my hair blonde, have regular spray tans, own way too many clothes for my paycheck, and know my way around a good push-up bra. I spend hours a week maintaining what I hope others consider a “hot body”, and have spent my college years dating athletes and fraternity boys. However, if for one second someone told me that I wasn’t a real feminist, I would in stand on the front lawn of my tulip-lined sorority house in high heels, swearing up and down that they were incorrect.
See, I’m allowed to do all of these things because of the feminist movement. I can only attend college because women before me fought for the right to an education. Without them, we’d all still be married off at sixteen in exchange for some cattle and the promise of well-used birthing hips. I pay for my beauty regimen, clothes, and the rent for my adorably decorated bedroom with money from my job last summer, which paid me the same as my male coworkers, unlike when my grandmother worked as a woman in the 1930s for almost nothing because “women have men to support them.” I’m able to have relationships with boys I choose without parental supervision, which is a lot better than my sisters from the Victorian era who only got to hang out with bae when their governess or old Aunt Mildred was present. I can have sex with partners who view my pleasure as an important part of the process, which seems like an obvious truth, but actually wasn’t a value of American society until the late 20th century. Seriously, if you’re a woman, thank feminism for every orgasm you’ve ever had – because you could have been born in, say, Egypt, where 91% of women had their clitorises cut off to prevent them from having ‘shameful’ sexual pleasure. If that doesn’t scare you into feminism, I don’t know what will.
What turns a lot of people off about feminism is that it’s stereotyped as only being for women who don’t care what the rest of society thinks of them. Start a joke with “A feminist walks into a bar” and a large number of people automatically imagine an unlikable, ungroomed woman (wearing no bra) who hates men and is always ready to start ranting about the evils of the patriarchy. Men don’t want to date her, parents don’t want their daughters to grow up to be like her, and no one wants to listen to what she has to say. This archetype is the negative image that follows the term Feminist in our society, and it’s what makes many girls and women too afraid to stand up and say, “YES, I believe in a movement that says that I should have equal rights!”
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t agree! I don’t need feminism because no one has ever tried to take my choices away because I’m female, I’m equal to the men I know, I have privileges from being a woman, etc, etc.” Well, I hate to tell you this, but you are 100% a feminist. The very fact that you believe that you can formulate your own opinion puts you in that category. Without feminism, you wouldn’t have been able to read this article, because you probably wouldn’t have been educated enough to be literate. You also probably wouldn’t process information, determine what you agree or disagree with, and then come to a decision on your opinion, because you would have been told your whole life that you didn’t have the sensibilities to make valid judgements.
If you’re a living, breathing, thinking woman in America in 2016, you’re a feminist. Welcome to the club. Make yourself at home, since you’ll be here either for your entire life or until you decide that you’d like society to revert to the dark ages. There’s coffee, tea, Diet Coke, whiskey, sparkly pink champagne – whatever you want, it’s your choice, girl! This is the modern world, after all.