Here’s a wild thought: you’re a feminist. Now, before you all get sweaty/angry/offended by the big bad F word, let’s take a step back and re-examine why exactly the word “feminism” seems to elicit such defensive/terrified/sweaty responses in people. Consider the history of the word. When scholars talk of feminism, they often divide it into three waves. The first wave started in the late nineteenth century, when upper-class white women said, “Hey, I think we deserve to vote now” and fought for suffrage for nearly 100 years. Fast-forward to the radical mindfuck that was the 1960s, with all that free-love, rock-and-roll, sexual-revolution stuff going down, and women spoke up again to say, “Hey, maybe we can have the right to control our own bodies now” and fought for reproductive rights and equal opportunities at employment. We finally end up at the third wave of feminism, which began in the 1990s and continues to this day, where, as Pinkfloor states, “It’s possible to have a push-up bra and a brain at the same time.”
Sexism is still, unfortunately, totally relevant today (see: slut shaming, fat shaming, misogynistic politicians, double standards, chronically lower pay, the number of women presidents in America) and it’s crazy to think that people, oftentimes but not always male white people, think that feminism has run its course. It’s over. Sexism doesn’t exist anymore, everyone is equal, and hey by the way, I’m going to take my unicorn on a walk after I write this article.
Seriously people?!? The only thing that turns me, as John Green would say, into “a giant squid of anger” is ignorant people trying to hide behind their innocence. By saying, “Oh, I support women’s rights, but I’m not a feminist,” you are basically 1) confirming the patriarchy and the fact that women are still critically misrepresented in society today, while also 2) supporting the claim that feminists are just overdramatic women who need to chill out because they’re making the rest of us look bad. This is the reason people are scared of being labeled a feminist! Because people automatically associate it with extremism, and no one wants to be an extremist. Unless you’re Hitler.
The reason people run away in terror at the word “feminist” is because of the stigma associated with it. “Feminists” are flaming liberals who complain about getting catcalled and having to shave their armpits. “Feminists” rely on affirmative action to get into jobs or universities, creating a society of dependency, as anti-feminist Lauren Southern would say. (Southern also argues that feminists ignore the 1 in 33 male rape cases that happen each year, which means feminists don’t care about sexism towards males. She seems to forget the fact that it was feminist lobbyists who in 2012 got the FBI to change the definition of rape to include male victims after 80 years of defining rape as pertaining exclusively to women).
Feminists can be hairy if they want to be. They can be a size 2, a size 20, lesbian, transgender, male, female, beauty queens, athletes, models, physicists, stay-at-home-moms, CEOs. The whole point of feminism is that women have the right to be whoever they want to be. That means we can decide how we dress, talk, act, and yes, who we do or don’t have sex with (not that that’s anybody’s darned business). We can be virgins or sleep with twenty guys – this does not make us any better or worse a person than a male who is a virgin or sleeps with twenty girls (or guys). Personally I could care less about your sexual history, because that has absolutely nothing to do with who you are as a person (because, let’s face it, human beings like having sex. And that’s a lucky thing, because if we didn’t, who would ever have kids? Kidding. Kind of.)
Feminism is a fight for self-empowerment and self-love—what a radical concept! Women actually being proud of how they look and who they are? How terrible for the future of the human race!
Be empowered. Be proud of who you are, because you’re awesome. Care about clothes or don’t. Be into math or don’t be. But please, please be yourself, and please don’t apologize if you don’t fit into a “traditional” societal role, whatever that means. Labels are for soup cans anyway. As Oscar Wilde said, “to define is to limit”. Don’t be limited. Be empowered.