Why Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word

Suhyeon Choi
Suhyeon Choi

This morning, I was called a feminist. This word was spit at me like a pejorative. The man who was calling me a dirty feminist was someone I had, at one point, wanted desperately to impress.

On our dates, I did up my hair. I decorated myself with makeup. I sat quietly. I listened while he talked about women being too fat to be attractive. I didn’t argue when he told me his ex, who happened to be a friend of mine, looked like a badly aging witch. I tried to please him by agreeing when he told me he had dodged a bullet by not being with her. In fact, I sat there and worried about whether I was pretty enough for him. Barf!!

This is not feminist behavior. I have acted borderline misogynistic, at times, in an effort to please men. This shames me.

I was looking at my Facebook the other day. I noticed that I had a good deal of profile pictures. I scrolled through, and I could remember posting some of these pictures directly for men who were in my life, or for men whom I hoped would someday want to date me. Many of the pictures showed off my figure, or some other asset that I hoped a man would find attractive.

I felt incredibly uncomfortable as I thought about my desire to be found sexy or desirable by men simply because of a provocative outfit or good hair. What about the fact that I had a killer sense of humor, or had received a 4.O for two advanced degrees? That wasn’t really showcased in selfies of me in a bikini or doing yoga on the beach.

How often did I try and please men, and in doing so, sell out my own womanhood or femininity? How often did I sell out a friend in order to make a man happy? The uncomfortable realization is that I was NOT acting like a feminist, at all.

The problem is that it is often hard to be feminist because the word is considered so dirty. If I stand up for myself, I’m a bitch, difficult, irrational, or overly emotional, instead of simply being right.

The other day, I was at the beach about to surf. A male acquaintance of mine drove up. I innocently gave him a negative report about the waves. He then began to chastise me for bringing him down. He told me I should remain positive at all times. When he was done instructing me on how I should behave around him, he then smacked me on the ass as he walked away. I was angry, but that anger would only be viewed as inappropriate when I expressed it.

Apparently, I’m suppose to be okay with being told how to act, and having my ass be used as his punctuation point. But, I’m not okay. I’m not okay with it, at all.

I spend a good deal of time online dating, far too much time than I’d actually care to admit. A good percentage of men have no problem asking me directly to sleep with them. When I politely decline, I am often called uptight, or a bitch. Upon rejection, these men feel no shame in calling me ugly or letting me know they didn’t really want to be with me in the first place. I’m always shocked by this, and have gotten to the point where I am tired of just laughing it off.

On the reverse end of this, if we as women do sleep with men, we are then labeled sluts or desperate. We are judged by our actions, but men are not. Men are given a free pass for this behavior. And, not just by other men. How many times have I sat with my own girlfriends, and bashed other women for their actions? I would say, far too many.

As women we are up against an impossible standard. If we express a desire to want a relationship or to be treated better, we run the risk of being called needy. Women are considered emotional and unbalanced. Men are stoic and strong. And, so to be attractive, I dumb myself down. I worry more about the shape of my ass than I do about my intellect. The result is nothing but disappointment with the men I date.

Patriarchy is woven into the fabric of our culture. If you don’t believe this, just turn on the news. For the first time in this country, we have a woman running for president. But, we also have a man running against her who has a long and public history of woman hating and shaming. These two candidates are neck and neck.

I can’t even shake my head or point a finger at our country, when I contribute to this cultural norm every time I sit quiet during a date where a man bashes women, or I post a picture hoping to entice a man to date or love me. I am not just part of the problem, I am the problem.

So, I have to change. I have to vow not to maintain friendships with men who believe my ass is fair game to be grabbed or smacked. I have to stand firm when a man believes he can dictate my behavior. I cannot judge other women or call them sluts or whores by their pictures or their actions. I have to be fearless in my convictions even if they are unpopular with men I find attractive. I have to support and stand by my female friends 100 percent, and not sell them out to gain my own access into the patriarchy. I have to love my own body, and know it’s worth more than selfies posted on social media meant to garner likes and self esteem.

But, it’s not enough for me to do it. We all have to do it too.

If we do, the idea of a woman in the white house won’t seem so far fetched, and a man who calls women dogs and pigs would never be given a platform to shout out his hate.

We’ve been taught that good manners can save us, but all they do is keep us directly under the thumb of men who spit out the word feminist like it’s a curse word instead of a call for unity. I say, rise up! Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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