Feminist Friday: What is a Feminist?

Friday, January 02, 2015

Photo Credit: http://casheefoo.deviantart.com/art/j-u-m-p-96276272
 What is a Feminist?
Clearing up the confusion over the new “f-word”

**This is another recycled post from last May, but after having to tell my brother and cousin that “feminist” does not mean “girl who hates men and thinks women are the superior sex” I decided it could probably use a repost. **


I was reading a magazine article the other day that broke my heart. In it, my favorite girl-power-anthem singing musicians (Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, and Carrie Underwood, specifically) were all quoted as denying their feminist beliefs. They all openly declared that they did not identify themselves as feminists, though their female-empowering lyrics surely suggested otherwise. 

But who can blame them? The word feminist has been associated with so many hateful stereotypes. It’s nearly impossible to stand up and say “I’m a feminist” when there’s so much confusion to what the even means. 

I witnessed this confusion first hand when I went to an event with a good friend of mine. My friend had lent me an obviously feminist book with an eye-catching cover that prompted a discussion with the guy sitting next to us.

“What’s the book about?” He asked.

“Women who think sexual promiscuity is feminist.” I answered.

“We’re feminists.” My good friend told him.

“Feminists? What kind? The male hating kind or the equality kind?”

Unfortunately, this is a common question when you declare yourself as a feminist. Either you hate men or support gender equality. It’s not automatically assumed that being a feminist means you support equality of the sexes. Which is frustrating because that’s exactly what being a feminist means. The stereotype of manly-looking women burning bras and bragging about their superiority over men is NOT FEMINIST. It’s not even close. In fact, it’s the opposite: It’s reverse sexism. And that is most definitely NOT the definition of feminist.

But okay, so if hating men and burning bras isn’t feminist, then what is?

Good question. And also very simple to answer.

A feminist is someone (whether male or female) who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. But what does that mean specifically? Let me break it down.

Social equality
This can be best described as the elimination of double standards. When social equality is present, women and men are held to the same social standards. Women can sleep with as many men as they want without being judged, go after what they want without being called “selfish” and make the first move without being considered “too aggressive.” This does not mean that women have to become more like men or that men have to become more like women to embrace social equality. It simply means that women’s actions or behavior isn’t judged simply because they are, well, women.

Political equality
The United States has done a particularly poor job at this one, which essentially means that women have the same political rights and responsibilities as men. This can mean accepting a woman as president or any other leadership role in government as well as making sure that women who commit crimes are held the the same standard as men. Women are just as capable of committing rape, murder, domestic abuse, and every other crime in the book, and should be held to the same standard of punishment as men who commit crimes.

Economic equality
This is the most basic of feminist beliefs that simply states that men and women should be paid equally for equal work. You should not be paid more just because you have a penis or muscular pecs. Nor should you automatically be given a job that a woman was just as (if not more) qualified for. I read somewhere that women lawyers are less likely to be promoted to partner at law firms for the fact that they’re likely to bear children someday, which is the equivalent of saying men shouldn’t be given a high paycheck because (gasp!) they’re likely to buy a house someday. Ridiculous? Incredibly. If the work is equal, the pay should be too.

Equality of the sexes. That’s the only belief you need to consider yourself a feminist. You don’t need to give up your dreams of marriage and kids or even being a stay-at-home parent. Nor do you need to hate men, makeup, or Victoria’s Secret. You simply need to believe that women matter just as much as men. And if you don’t believe that, well, then what are you doing here anyway?













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