I recently met someone while exploring the San Diego Museum of Art. We were both in awe of the stunning details within the gold shrines of Mecca and Medina, intrigued by the caligraphy on the photographs by Lalla Essaydi, and even chuckled over the blunt title of “Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber”. I thought, “Finally, a guy who is cultured and isn’t only interested in leg day and beer fests”. As we walked around the exhibit together for hours, I gave him my introductory monologue (you, know? the one we all practiced during freshman year orientation). After talking about our jobs, our pets, and our favorite chips, I mentioned that I was the Campus Correspondent of Her Campus UCSD, a women’s empowerment online writing community. Puzzled, he asked, “So are you a feminist or something?”
I get this question quite often and it rubs me the wrong way. Some people have a misconception that feminism is for man haters, or that it is for prude women who do not think men deserve them. To people’s surprise, feminism is defined as the women’s right movement for political, social, and economic equality. Don’t believe me? Look it up. It simply means you believe that women deserve the same rights as men. In other words, if you aren’t a feminist, you don’t believe in gender equality.
So, why is “Are you a feminist” a question that constantly gets asked? The question means, “You think women should be paid equally to a man when performing the same job?” or “You think women should have equal rights in a marriage?” or “You think women should be protected against domestic violence and sexual assault?” These questions are offensive and the answers should be obvious. Of course I am a feminist; I am fighting for myself, my mother, my friends, and my future children to be living in a world where women take an active role in determining the laws that affect their lives, in a world where women receive a justified paycheck, in a world where women are not afraid of getting assaulted, and in a world where women are not treated as objects, but rather, human beings.
Do I sound a bit dramatic? Decide for yourselves–here are the statistics:
- Women create half of the work force and are equally breadwinners of families (times changed right?), yet they only earn 78 cents for each dollar than a man makes.
- Only about 18% of Congress, senators, and party representatives are women. This means women typically live according to laws that men create.
- 1 in 4 college girls get raped, while 98% of rapists never spend a day in jail or prison.
- 1 in 4 women experience severe domestic abuse in their lifetimes.
- 3 women die from current or former male partner abuse every day.
How many men do you see that are scared to go out at night? How many girls do you see holding pepper spray or their keys up while walking from the grocery store to their cars? We can see these examples of gender inequality in our daily lives.
Feminism needs to be praised and supported, not ignored and looked down upon. Just as race inequality (aka racism) is wrong, gender inequality (aka sexism) is wrong as well. Women are just as necessary to the world as men are, and we simply want the same rights that they have. I am not a man hater; I love men. I do not think men are any lesser than women; I think men are equals to women. I know most people believe in gender equality and I am not rebuking people who claim not to be feminists. I am simply trying to make the point that gender inequalities are present and need to be righted. We could not bridge the gender gap without the support and participation of our male and female feminists. As Germaine Greer once stated, “We are not feminists because we hate men, we are feminists because we respect and love men and we don’t understand why they do not always return that respect.”
This whole time, you may have simply had the definition wrong; you may not have known what the term “feminist” entailed. If this is the case, then change your attitudes on feminism and support the cause. With the combined efforts of both men and women, feminism is making advances; women have more rights and support than ever in 2015. Things are looking up for women, and we feminists are not going to stop fighting for women’s rights until it becomes a natural part of life.
You tell ’em Bey.