Forget the stereotypes and embrace feminism

by Madison Hopkins

Labels dominate our existence. We can be black, white, gay, straight, single, nerds, stoners, liberals and anything else you can think of. Identifying ourselves as a part of a group is a natural part of the socialization of life, until it gets scary. Certain labels hold an element of the unknown and scare away those unwilling to truly understand.

Feminism falls into this category. It’s equated with so many negative stereotypes that many who believe in the ideology fear coming forward with the title. Those who identify as feminists are openly subjected to preconceived notions born out of ignorance.

I face this reality regularly. I notice it when strangers see my transcript and are impressed with my GPA, until they realize it came from a women’s studies minor. I hear it in the skeptical voices of my friends when I tell them I’m going to a women’s group meeting. I feel the awkwardness when a boy I’m interested in finds out about my taboo self-empowering feelings, and wonders secretly if he’s dating a lesbian.

I’m not trying to equate my issues with other discriminations. I’m a white, middle-class girl with a world of available opportunities and I recognize my limited perspective on this situation. But that doesn’t mean my feeling of not being considered equal to the men around me can be pushed aside as nothing more than the whining of a deluded white girl.

In a world where racism and other discriminations are openly condemned, I can’t understand how believing in equal rights for half the world’s population is still looked down upon. The only conclusion I can come to is that the extent of people’s stupidity causes them to fear the name more than the actual idea.

The definition of feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” As you can see, there are no mentions of bra burners, man-haters, lesbians, hairy armpits or angry masculine women. That’s not to say these types of people don’t exist within feminist communities. But just like all other stereotypes, it’s not true for everyone and the perpetuation of such myths tarnish the underlying message. Feminists come from all walks of life, but stereotypical social associations push away acceptance of the name.

To add to the misconceptions, several women in the public eye have abused their positions as role models by enabling inaccurate views.

At the 2012 Billboard’s Women in Music event, Katy Perry said, “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.”

What does that even mean? Does she believe in the core ideologies of feminism but is just too afraid to say the name? A woman in her position has the opportunity to change public perception, but chooses to protect her own reputation first.

Lady Gaga once said “I’m not a feminist. I hail men, I love men.”

Because, apparently, that’s what feminism is about. One can only assume that anyone who makes comments such as this is either stupid or enjoys spreading messages they know to be inaccurate. Both options are inexcusable for a public figure and, really, any educated adult in general.

These women, and many more, reject the title of those who got them where they are today. For all women who don’t consider themselves feminists, I ask you to think about what life would be like without feminism. If generations of strong women before us hadn’t paved the way for equality, what would your life really be like?

First off, you can bet you wouldn’t be in college. You can thank a feminist for the right to equal access to basic and higher education. You wouldn’t vote, your husband would have the legal right to rape you and if you could even get a job, your options would be limited to those deemed appropriate for women. Let’s say you meet a cute guy. You better think twice before going home with him. Why? Because you don’t have birth control. And if you did happen to get pregnant, you have very few options.

Essentially, unless you are an illiterate, weak-minded, sex slave bound to duties of laundry and sandwich-making with no other options in life, you are reaping the benefits of feminism. Our generation is so quick to take our rights for granted without truly acknowledging their crucial aspect in our lives. Feminism enables women to choose from all paths in life. Feminists are stay-at-home moms, CEOs, men, lesbians, feminine women, masculine women and anything else you can think of. To say you are anti-feminist is to say that what you believe women’s lives should be limited to your judgment of what a woman’s proper place is. It’s saying that what you think is the right way is the only way. This is the definition of bigotry.

I’m a feminist because I believe my gender is not a weakness, but simply one aspect of my life. To claim anti-feminism is to deny the self-worth of women everywhere. And that says a lot more about a person than any stereotype you could place on feminists.