Last week I was given an academic award at my university for scholarship in feminist writing. I was incredibly flattered in receiving this award as to me, it was one of the best complements I have received. In my past two years of college I have been passionately spreading the good of feminism around campus and have worked to try and create discourse around gender-based issues at large. During my time at St. Lawrence University, I have learned the discourse around Feminist Theory and how important it is to be, well, a feminist. However, upon returning home from the award ceremony I soon became discouraged by a housemate of mine when she asked me: “Feminist writing – that is a thing? I don’t think feminism is award-worthy.”
At first, I felt incredibly offended by her comment. Feminism is something I embrace as part of my identity as the term encompasses the values of equality in which I deem important. I felt like asking her if she thought racism was not a thing as well! Feminism, at its very core, is the belief in equal rights for men and women. As a woman who feels empowered by understanding the importance of equality, I often wonder why other women wouldn’t feel the same way. Perhaps this student had not learned about feminism in her course work and I am just biased as a gender studies minor. Or perhaps this woman has been socially constructed with the negative connotations often attributed to feminism in our culture. Either way I wanted to tell her it is not only okay to embrace feminism, but it is important.
Feminism, in my opinion, is something that every person should come to understand as it deals with unpacking basic human rights around class, race and gender. However, far too often many act as if the term means something malicious and defer from using it. Perhaps my housemate was surprised I identify with feminism as technically by societal terms, I am a feminine person and some might view feminism as something only masculine girls would want to identify with. This stereotype is not only false, but it is a mind set that only confirms our patriarchal past. Another stereotype I have encountered since identifying myself as a feminist is that feminism is something of our past as men and women now have equal rights. While gender equality has made great leaps in our society, there still are inequalities based on ones gender. Like racism, gender-based issues will always need to be in discussion as inequalities never really disappear. It was only years ago that our mothers and grandmothers were fighting in the name of feminism for equality. What is it that they fought for if the current generation of women refuse to affiliate themselves with feminism. If you believe in the equality of men and women please do me, and all other feminists, a favor and use it to identify your beliefs. Help me take back the term “feminism” as I strongly believe it will only help foster societies to believe in equality for all.