The Collegiette's Guide to Being a Feminist

 In light of the recent digital fist fight occurring over Emma Watson’s UN Speech for #HeForShe and Time Magazine’s ludicrous article in response, I supposed the best way to start the Her Campus relationship advice column would be to take this acclaimed issue by the, so to say, horns. I mean, let’s be honest, the word feminism has such a bad connotation that men are angered and woman fear it! If I had a dollar for every time someone rolled their eyes, laughed or didn’t take me seriously after telling them I was a feminist, I’d probably have at least a hundred dollars. I’d have even more money for how many rape and period jokes I’ve heard, how many “Are you b*tchy mood because you’re on your period?” I’ve heard, and how many “Honey, if you don’t want anything bad to happen, don’t dress like a sl*t,” I’ve heard. This culture we live in supports women being the problem for harassment, sexual violence, lower pay because of child bearing prospects and glass ceiling expectations. I will not accept that, and neither should you.

In case you were hitting the books so hard you missed it (if which I commend your dedication), Emma Watson, star of the Harry Potter series and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, made a speech for the launch of a new organization called HeForShe. This organization aims to link men and women together in the fight for gender equality, seeing it as a human’s right issue, not just a women’s issue. When I first listened to Emma’s speech, I couldn’t help but tear up. Finally, some change and progress! Who knows, maybe in 20 years, I won’t have to walk to my car at 10 p.m. with my keys out, ready for anything. Maybe in a couple years, I won’t have to worry about over compensating in education and qualifications in order to earn as much money as a man less qualified and in a lower ranking position. Maybe in a couple years, I won’t be scolded for being “too serious” or “too uptight” when I, and Nicole Moore, in her article Rape Jokes Are Never Funny, mention a certain rape joke or patronizing comment wasn’t funny, even from the men in my life.  

Wonderful, right? Emma Watson included men in this gender equality issue, acknowledging that there are gender role issues they face every day, like being manly enough to now show their emotions. What a wonderful view- we all have crap we have to deal with. But no. It wasn’t enough. Cathy Young, a contributing editor at Reason Magazine, decided that the campaign for HeForShe wasn’t enough with fixing men’s issues. Young, challenging the motto of the new organization, said, “But today’s mainstream feminism, which regards sexual assault and domestic violence as byproducts of male power over women, tends to reinforce rather than challenge such double standards.” Does she even understand the definition Watson gave for the word “feminism”? That we’re all fighting for equality and not more power? See, Young’s view of feminism has been skewed by her idea of the feminists’ agenda, and it’s not just her. Everyday, young men and women are either opening their eyes to the truth of it, or closing their minds to the idea and connotation behind it.

So what’s my point? Even in my long term relationship with a guy who has respected me and treated me as an equal, I see signs of misogyny. Even with what I considered the perfect relationship of equality and harmony with my mother and father’s marriage, I see signs of gender bias from my mother; She would  tell my sister and I that we looked sick and tired when we didn’t have makeup on and judge a boy I was dating for being in theater. I don’t blame these loved ones for their misogyny and gender biased thinking, but it has been a long struggle pointing out their insensitive remarks and trying to make them more aware. So. With that being said, here are some tips as to pick up on the everyday misogyny you might encounter and how to deal with it, even if it’s with a boyfriend or girlfriend. I’m glad that we, as women, are sticking together and giving lessons in Bystander Intervention and the College Community, but we have to start from the source in order to really change things - the source are those who don’t know.

  • Tip 1: COMMUNICATE! I can’t stress enough that if you don’t feel comfortable to communicate, you shouldn’t be in that relationship! Or, to be less extreme, you should consider why you feel you can’t communicate and confront it. Are you afraid they will judge or think you’re crazy? Are you nervous in general about talking about your feelings? It’ll take some deep thought, but it’s worth the time and effort. To get past this issue, you have to communicate. You have to bring up the issue or your feelings because the person you love is not a mind reader. They can’t, and probably won’t, understand or recognize their actions and words as hurtful or oppressive.

Okay, okay Dakota- just tell us HOW to communicate. Ergo tip No. 2:

  • Tip 2: Use the stupid “I” messages. I can remember in middle school, going to health class and having the most boring lesson on communication and how to relate your feelings without attacking the other person. Lo and behold, it’s true. You won’t get anywhere if the other person thinks you hate them or that they did something awful- they will defend themselves till the end. You can use phrases like “I felt a little attacked for wearing what I wanted the other day when you said [insert their words here],” or “I don’t really like when you say [insert their words here]”. It’s all about telling them how you felt and explaining why it’s wrong. You can use phrases like “What you said was gender based and we need to rise above that,” or “I would like you to respect my body and decisions because I am a person too and deserve that kind of respect”. The key is to assert yourself in a polite but confident way.

  • Tip 3: Be aware that anyone and everyone, even yourself, can let gender biased thinking and misogyny dictate their actions. The crazy, hippie feminists who give the word a bad rep are the ones who judge hard-core of others who aren’t as sensitive to it. So don’t go crazy with it. Talk to the person in a calm way that fully explains why and what you are hurt or bothered by  without judgement. Be open to the commentary of others pointing out your mistakes- we’re all human and need to learn. You see, we’re brought up in a specific way that could be implementing gender roles and misogyny without us even knowing it, so we all will slip up sometimes. But catching ourselves and apologizing for it is what matters.

  • Tip 4: Don’t be scared. It’s easy to be intimidated by the unknown, A.K.A. other’s responses. Sometimes, in all honesty, it will be bad. They can roll their eyes or huff and puff at your “seriousness” but be persistent! They just aren’t used to it and some may honestly think their patronizing comments and judgement of your clothing choice, word choice or actions are justifiable; they are not and therefore need to be pointed out time and time again. It’s easy to let it slip a couple of times because of fear but by letting it go, you are reinforcing their ability to act in that manner.

I know this all sounds so serious, but from first hand experience, if you let the small stuff slide, it will get more serious. Making the other person aware is a step in the right direction, no matter how frustrating it is. The misogyny and gender biased thinking will not dissolve within the next few years, but if we don’t do anything about it, we can be sure nothing will change. The sad truth is, we will have to think about safety and how to Protect Yourself: How to be Smart and Safe at Night, but let’s view that issue as a human safety issue, not gender biased. At least for now.

So try and recognize it, communicate, be understanding, and don’t be afraid of confronting it! You can do it, you budding feminist you, and you know Miss Dakota will be proud of you!