I often hear people throwing the word “feminist” around. Some people use it as an insult, others use it as a means of high praise, and a whole lot of people just don’t get it. As a self-proclaimed feminist, I’m here to clear the air. The following list should give anyone a good sense of what feminism is, the problems it hopes to address and why any self-respecting good human should want to be a feminist too:
1. Equal pay
We’ve all heard this one, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Women still make on average 70 cents to a man’s dollar, and frankly, that’s just not right. People should be paid for the work they’re doing and not for their gender. In this day and age, when women are no longer expected to be dependant on men for their livelihood, it’s time for this messed up standard to change.
2. Gender roles
Girls like pink, and boys like blue. Girls play with dolls, while boys play with Hot Wheels and action figures. Girls cook, and boys play soccer. The list goes on for days! All of these ridiculous concepts of how people are supposed to act get exhausting after a while, and I can’t even begin to describe how frustrating it is to always have to appear poised and graceful. These double standards don’t leave room for people to be themselves, and they definitely don’t leave room for people who don’t identify as men or women. It’s time we stop defining people’s interests by the parts between their legs, because it simply isn’t working. And for the record, I hate pink.
3. Rape culture
This is a huge one for me, and luckily it’s an issue that’s getting a lot of publicity these days. Still, though, we live in a culture where I feel unsafe walking alone at night, where I am constantly being policed on what I’m wearing, where one in four women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate college.
All the problems about gender roles — the idea that men should be domineering and aggressive — play into this; we teach boys that they can have what they want, and then we make women believe that they somehow deserve to be assaulted.
Nobody deserves rape, and nobody should feel ashamed after they’ve been assaulted. Women should be able to walk down the street without receiving uncomfortable comments about their bodies, and they should be able to go out drinking dressed however they want. Let’s stop blaming victims and start addressing the real problems here.
A disclaimer: I’m mostly touching on sexual assault of women, but I don’t want to write off the experiences of anyone else. Men can be raped too, while trans people and people of color experience disproportionately high frequencies of sexual assault.
I’m speaking from my own experiences as a woman, but I’m not trying to forget your stories.
4. Body image
Right now, mainstream media is producing a single image of what a woman should be: beautiful hair, not too skinny or too fat, perfect skin, shaved legs, porcelain skin. I’m not that “perfect” girl, and I doubt that there are many girls out there who are. So, why are we hurting ourselves to reach the unattainable? Women need to feel confident making their own choices about their bodies. We need to stop shaming and start loving and supporting the people around us.
Feminism historically has been a movement for white, middle-class, straight women. More recently, though, the feminist umbrella has started to include a lot more people with a whole lot of identities: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability status, etc.
I think it’s incredible that feminism has grown to be so intersectional with other anti-oppression movements. Fighting the feminist battle is completely inseparable from fighting racial injustice or homophobia, and by learning and caring about all of these identities, the feminist movement can only grow stronger.
6. All the haters out there
There are probably a lot of people reading this who think I’m crazy right now, or maybe they stopped reading as soon as they realized this was about feminism. I’m sure I’m being called an angry raging feminist right now. But, to all the haters, here’s what I have to say: yeah, I am angry.
I’m angry that there are so many people who don’t see me as a full human being because of my body parts. I’m angry that I don’t feel safe walking down the street. I’m angry that I’ll probably never make as much money as a man doing the same job. I’m angry that so few men want to talk seriously about their privilege.
Don’t run from that anger. That anger doesn’t mean my ideas should be discounted. Maybe instead, that passion and emotion should be the reason feminists are taken seriously.