Both my mother and father raised me on the idea that women and men are equal. Not that one gender was better than another or that women were superior to men, but that all genders lie on the same line, and they balance the scale in the same way. For this, I am grateful. Since I was young, neither of my parents ever told me I couldn’t do anything—whether that was my dreaming to be an author, a superhero, or a professional fisherwoman (I went through a fishing phase). My parents told me that with my own agency, I could do anything.They never told me that I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. Never did they tell me that I was not strong enough, or that I had to be maternal, or that I couldn’t have the position of CEO one day. They also never discouraged me from wanting to do what I wanted to do, whether that was be a stay-at-home mom or the Editor-and-Chief of a magazine. My mother raised me by telling me about amazing people like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass, people who fought for freedom and equality. My father would tell me about women who flew planes in World War II (he’s a history buff) and broke codes during the Cold War. I was raised learning about people who were inspiring and who weren’t afraid to fight to themselves, and I was always told to fight for what I believe in. For this I am eternally grateful.
Feminism is not about having women be better than men or about bringing men down, nor is it about encouraging hatred of men. I was never encouraged to do any of these things. Rather, I was told that feminism and girl power wasn’t about being better than men at all. It’s about being a strong, capable individual who needs only themselves to thrive in life.
I think that in this day and age, feminism gets a bad rep because men sometimes feel that feminism is focused on women, and it leaves men out. Well, yeah, it does. But, here’s why: women were not granted the same opportunities as men were for the majority of history. The amount of time that women have been allowed to vote has not yet surpassed 100 years, and women of color were still dissuaded from voting until the 60’s. Many women did not have property rights, the right to divorce, or birth control for hundreds of years. And, for these hundreds of years, men had all of those rights. Feminism is about telling girls that they can do and be anything they want to be, because for a long time historically, women were denied these rights. Feminism is about trying to challenge stereotypes that still exist, so minorities get the chances they have missed out on for most of history.
But feminism isn’t about hating men, nor is it trying to make men the minority. Hating any group of people based on their gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or religion is wrong. Feminism is about inspiring and empowering groups of people that have been historically marginalized so that they have the same rights men have had.
I am grateful that my parents never told me that women are better than men or vice versa. Instead, they told me everyone—regardless of who they are—are people that deserve respect. This is what my feminist parents have taught me. And goddamn, am I ever grateful for it.