When you hear the word feminism, what do you do? Do you quickly scan the room like a naughty child to see if anyone heard, or do you roll your eyes at this discussion again? Feminism is a word that usually produces a major reaction from others – and not in a good way. For something that started out so good, how did it get sullied to become so bad? To understand feminism and why it’s still important today, we must first take a look at what it stands for.
At its very core, feminism is equality. It is social, political and economic equality for all men and women. It puts men and women in the same playing field, so we all have equal opportunities. But, if feminism has the same meaning as equality, why can’t we drop the former word, which has developed a negative, uncomfortable connotation? Because even though they signify the same thing, equality applies to a broader audience that can include race, class, wealth and more. It is an abstract word that represents everything, while doing nothing.
Feminism, on the other hand, specifies gender equality, even though it has become synonymous with a dirty word. For many people, it embodies the groups of women who hate men and who only derive pleasure from seeing men fail. To claim to be a feminist is to risk alienating yourself from everyone you know. But women (not just feminists) deserve more than that.
The idea of equal rights for women and men has been around for centuries. Many authors, from Jane Austen to Charlotte Brontë, have portrayed injustices against women in their novels, while activists, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, fought for education reform and women suffrage. Despite the struggles and hurdles, these women succeeded in providing more rights for women.
Yet, the concept of feminism still exists, which may in itself be a reason to fight it – huge strides have already been made on women’s behalf, so what more needs to be done? Research has shown that women are still paid less than men, are more likely to be harassed on the street and at work, and are still criticized for either not spending enough time with their jobs or kids. Women are still seen as the weaker sex.
The more we fight labeling ourselves as feminists, the more we resist what it stands for: gender equality. Everyone has a difference in opinion, but no longer treating feminism as a dirty word is the first step to creating an ongoing, open dialogue about equal opportunities for both genders. Are you a feminist? Join the discussion at www.wcmagazines.com!
Natalie Maris, Staff Writer