Respect feminism for its rightful meaning

by Anthony Berteaux

“Are you like, a feminist or something?” This is often the joke made when one of my friends and I discuss women’s rights and gender equality. Without fail, the automatic reply to this is, “Yeah, I’m just your everyday bra-burning, man-hating femi-nazi.” We continue to chuckle as though our jokes about feminist caricatures hold no more levity than a few laughs.

While this harmless exchange may be thrown off as a joke, it underlies a major issue that lies in our society — one that has been further highlighted with TIME magazine’s controversy regarding its inclusion of “feminist” in its annual poll of words to ban. It’s 2014 and women still make 78 percent of what men make. TIME magazine’s inclusion of the word “feminist” is a disgusting disregard to this disparity and these tragic incidents that have occurred because of social inequality.

Due to societal circumstances, the f-word has become a joke. The social media age has become witness to a new wave in feminism and the feminist identity — a chic new wildfire trend that has lead to many referring to the f-word with little levity. Feminism is the hot new label everyone wants to identify with. From Emma Watson openly speaking at the United Nations Conference to symbolisms of girl power in Disney’s recent hit “Frozen,” feminism has become a bandwagon persona. The false knowledge of gender inequality has resulted in feminists who misunderstand feminism as anti-male with no consciousness about its essence.

As illustrated by TIME, this increasing culture of people claiming to be feminists, without acknowledging and understanding its history and ideologies, diminish the weight of feminist politics and the struggles of pioneers of the past.

The assumption is that feminism is insular, dealing with issues only relating to women, such as reproductive rights, rape and the gender wage gap. However, should we look at feminism throughout history, it has been at the forefront of social justice movements, such as the American Revolutionary War, the abolition of slavery, prison reform, social security, public education and anti-war movements.

Feminism hasn’t always been about fighting cat-calls or burning bras to show body autonomy, but about fighting tangible issues affecting all minorities. To be a feminist, one must not fight a gender-specific battle but show solidarity to all struggles encompassing inequality.

However, faux-feminism is the trend and ignorance is in.

It is this ignorance towards feminism that has allowed for an anti-feminist culture to rise, starting from idiotic men’s-rights activists such as Divergent star Shailene Woodley who rejects feminism because she doesn’t agree with the “anti-men” ideology often mistakenly associated with feminism.

Does this ignorance excuse TIME’s inclusion of the word “feminist” in its poll? Absolutely not. TIME magazine’s poll is a satirical joke against a culture that sensationalizes fad words. To include the profoundly powerful word “feminist” among words such as “bae” or  “turnt” trivializes the word as something not worth serious thought. This delegitimizes feminist struggles and implies feminism isn’t something permanent, and like any fad, will die out.

In a culture where a young 16-year-old Maren Sanchez was stabbed because she rejected a prom invitation and a disturbed Elliot Rodgers killed many in his retribution against females in Isla Vista, society is in need of feminists who know a thing or two about the ideology.

However, while its inclusion of the word “feminist” in a poll is unacceptable, TIME reveals the central truth about what feminists can do today. The label next to “feminist” on the poll reads “Quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.” The term “feminist” cannot be a label referred to with little reverence. It has to hold ground in our culture as a term that spearheads social justice movements not only for women, but all marginalized minorities. This is the only way a better future will be ensured for all. The real f-word isn’t really feminism, but it’s actually what we are all fighting for: the future.