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Officially, the Oxford Dictionary defines feminism as ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.’ However, when asked what feminism means to me, this isn’t the definition that comes to mind.

For me, feminism is the advocacy of both women and men’s rights. Unfortunately, the term ‘feminism’ seems to have earned itself quite negative connotations. Feminists are stereotypically assumed to be angry, man-hating, hairy, free-bleeding, no-bra wearing, easily offended women. Yes, some feminists of this description do exist, however not everyone who supports feminism or calls themselves a feminist has to act in this way.

Feminists aren’t a homogenous group of people. They do not all believe in and support the same things. The variation between the opinions of one feminist from the next one is precisely what invites the question ‘what does feminism mean to you?’.  

To me, feminism means the strive for the limitlessness of gender. I call myself a feminist precisely for the fact that I believe gender should not generate any presumptions, pressures, limits or restrictions. Feminism means that gender stereotypes should be redundant. Everybody should feel free to be the person they want to be and do the things they want to do away from the expectations that society may impose on them due to the gender. Just as many women should be considered for the position of a CEO as men, and just as many men should be considered for childcare roles as women (think about that episode of Friends when Rachel wants to hire a male nanny).

To me, feminism is selfless. Feminism isn’t about trying to increase your own opportunities but the opportunities, rights and treatment of everybody. I support feminism to protect the equal rights of women and men worldwide. Not just for my own benefit but for the benefit of girls who are victims of female genital mutilation and for men who aren’t given enough paternity leave to spend time with their newborn babies.

To me, feminism is questioning things. Feminism is continual reflection and evaluation on everyday events; refusing to accept things the way they are just because that’s the way they have always been. Feminism is asking yourself things like, ‘do I really want to be touched by strangers in a club without consent just because I’m a woman?’. Often this is the aspect of feminism that has gained the movement its negative reputation. It can encourage the misconception that feminists are irritating because they can find fault in anything you do. Although it must be remembered that things can be wrong just as often as they can be right. Being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to disagree with and oppose everything, it just means you’re consciously forming your own opinions that may sometimes differ from societal norms.  

Often, I question how far I really am a feminist. Can I justify calling myself a feminist? What do I tangibly do to advance equal rights?  However, it’s important to remember you don’t need to be Emma Watson to be a feminist. Hopefully, the extent to which you disagree or agree with this article emphasises the fact that feminism can mean very different things to very different people. Feminism can be as big or as little a part of your life as you want it to be. As long as everyone supports feminism in their own individual way, important and widespread changes are sure to be made.

 

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