If you were to ask someone, “Do you believe in defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women?” most people – including men – would respond, “Of course.”
But go up to someone and ask, “Are you a feminist?” and most people – even women – will say something closer to, “Umm, I don’t think so,” despite the fact that both questions mean the same thing.
Why is it that a movement that stands for equal gender rights has such a negative stigma among our generation? Most people believe that it is a battle that has already been won.
Those same people perceive feminism as an anti-male rampage that makes women out to be the victim and think that if we stop pointing out injustices, then the injustices do not exist. They could not be more wrong.
I never considered myself a feminist until recently. It first started when I observed a difference between a friend’s sense of humor and my own. She is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, but she draws a line when it comes to comedy.
She’d never smile when someone mentioned they “raped that test.” And she wouldn’t indulge in lighthearted debates that began with generalized statements such as, “It’s because girls are so dramatic.”
I noticed the kinds of actors and TV characters she admired and questioned her on her choices. Why would you admire Catelyn Stark over Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” or Betty Draper over Don Draper from “Mad Men?”
Through her everyday actions, she made me aware of the disparity in the treatment of males and females in our society.
As I delved deeper into this seemingly hidden issue in our society, it took me no time to see the injustices around the world taking place today against women. Women in Saudi Arabia are legally prohibited from driving a vehicle. Women in Dubai are raped, then charged by the government for having extramarital sex. Girls in Africa skip class or drop out of school because of their menstruation and often resort to using rags, newspaper or bark as a substitute for pads and tampons.
Taking a stand against these issues should make anyone proud to be a feminist. And while these international issues make contemporary gender issues in the U.S. seem insignificant, they are not. Changing the way we speak and behave at home can affect the importance we give to more extreme issues abroad.
Awareness is the start of eliminating injustice in society. Feminism aims to expose truths and bring awareness to issues that most are not aware of. Why would anyone be ashamed to be a part of something like that?
Yes, I am a feminist. I no longer smile when someone tells me they “raped that test” because I know that, somewhere in the world, there are girls being raped at that moment.
And I won’t laugh when someone jokes that women can’t drive because, even without scientific proof, there are parts of the world that have made it illegal for women to do so.
Ask yourself one thing: What are some real, quantifiable differences between men and women, aside from the anatomical and biological distinctions? The longer you take to answer that question, the more aware you’ll become of the false stereotypes placed on gender by our society.
Feminism is something we can all stand behind. Maybe the label needs to change in order for it to resonate on a wider scale. Better yet, mainstream ideals should change for the better, subsequently giving the word a new meaning – one that has less to do with burned bras and more to do with setting fire to ignorance.
Amilynn Soto is a senior majoring in advertising and psychology.