Reversing The Spin:: What Being A Feminist Really Means

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I am a feminist.

I am a feminist because I think there is a common lack of understanding for what feminism means.

A lot of men seem to think that being a feminist means you believe that men are evil, or worthless, or that their opinions don’t matter. A lot of women, I find, internalize that definition and feel like they have to qualify what they say with “I’m not a feminist, but…”

But that’s not what feminism is.

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To me, being a feminist means that I recognize the different ways that our society is unfair to women, and that I am a voice for trying to change the culture. “Feminism” isn’t some dirty word; some people just try to make it appear that way. Republicans have done the same with the word “liberal,” but I’ll proudly identify as one of those too.

There are hundreds of ways that our cultures–Mississippian, American, or global–treat women differently than they treat men. Some of these differences are small and seemingly innocent–like the fact that most American men are more likely to hold a door for a woman than for a man. Some of them are vast and exist for a lot of different reasons–like the statistic showing that women working full-time earn about 77 cents for every dollar that men working full-time earn. And some are ugly beyond belief–like the feelings that inspired the killings in Santa Barbara a few weeks ago.

We have never had a female President. Mississippi has never had a female governor. Only around 20% of our lawmakers are women, whether we’re talking about the state level or the federal level. We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the structure of our society is biased in favor of men.

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I think many people don’t really see the little cultural and social things that we do or say that make women feel like they are treated as inferiors, or like their minds and feelings matter less than their bodies. Cat-calling is not a compliment, it’s a degradation. Telling a woman that she should smile more implies that you may not give a damn about what’s going on in her life that’s affecting her mood; you just care if she looks pretty. These little transgressions can seem innocent to some people but insulting to others, and I think that’s what sparks a lot of backlash from well-meaning people who don’t understand why the woman who they gave a compliment to gave them a dirty look. I see reactions to things like this on Facebook all the time, and sometimes those people become more wary of “feminists” because of those interactions. I want to counter those feelings as best I can by being as positive a voice for feminism as I can.

I am a feminist because some people who benefit from the existing power structure will take more notice if both men AND women identify as feminists, instead of only women. Which is why we need feminism in the first place, because only in a patriarchal society can the concerns of women, who make up more than half of the population, be dismissed so easily by some.

I am a feminist because people un-ironically using the word “feminazi” makes my blood boil.

I am a feminist because little girls can play with action figures and be “cool,” but if a boy plays with dolls he’s a wimp.

I am a feminist because “men’s rights” activists exist, who are under the delusion that women have men under their thumb, exactly where they want them. That is ludicrous.

I am a feminist because when John McCain or Chris Christie yell at people, I’m told it’s because they’re “strong” and have “leadership skills,” but when Hillary Clinton does it, she’s “emotional” and a bitch.

I am a feminist because my mother, sisters, girlfriend, and all women should be able to be seen as the human beings they are, rather than just for their physical appearance.

I am a feminist, proudly and unapologetically. Join me.

One response to “Reversing The Spin:: What Being A Feminist Really Means

  1. Thank you for this. You managed to encapsulate my reasons for leaving MS for Smith back in 1998 (talk about doing a complete 180!). I was tired of being called a “feminazi” and a “bitch” because of my outspoken-ness. I looked tame and reserved compared to many of my fellow Smithies. I had a lot to learn about feminism. I learned that feminism wasn’t just about female symbols, The Vagina Monologues, and unshaved legs. It wasn’t just about man-hating and the glass ceiling. I learned that anyone could be a feminist–yes, even a man! And for those women who say that men can’t be feminists… well, I think that’s a decidedly un-feminist view of things.
    I’m proud to say that I live in a household of feminists. My husband and I are conscious of our parenting–it’s fine that our son’s favorite color was pink until he was 5 (“It’s so pretty!”), and it’s fine that his favorite color is now red. It’s fine that our daughter would rather play with Brother’s Matchbox cars than a tea set, but we are all up for some teatime when the mood strikes. Cheers!

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