by Whitney Carter
I have a confession to make:I am a feminist.
It felt good to get that off of my chest.
The word “feminist” carries such a strong negative connotation. There are a lot of people, who are both male and female, who believe in the idea of women having equal rights, but are wary of being labeled a “feminist” because of the connotation.
In my Women’s and Gender studies class, we discussed this issue. We noticed that a common thread is the idea of being “kind of” a feminist. These are people that believe in the ideas of feminism, but cannot bear the actual label. They say things like “I’m not a feminist, but…” I’m not a feminist, but women and men should have equal pay. I’m not a feminist, but violence against women is not okay. These people believe in the tenets of feminism, but a movement for women cannot be successful if we spend time fighting the label, rather than fighting for the issues.
That used to be ok for me. I wasn’t a feminist because of the associations with it, but as a woman, I still wanted rights for myself, my little sisters and any future daughters I might have. I want any future sons to grow up in a world that promotes equality. I want all the girls of the world to live without fear of violence, with access to education and with the rights that should be allowed to them as people, not only to those afforded with penises.
My problem with the label was, and still is the assumptions that people make when they hear “feminist.” For example, people believe that feminists are not feminine, that they hate men and that they are angry, along with other beliefs. In all honesty, those assumptions apply to some feminists, but definitely not all. For me, I have come to terms with my own feminism. I will fight for my rights, but I will not give up my femininity.
Personally, I am a feminist because we live in a rape culture where victims are shamed; take Steubenville for example. Major news outlets such as CNN complain about the destroyed ‘Promising Future’ of the Steubenville Rapists, while ignoring the ruined life of their victim who will have to carry this experience with her for the rest of her life. I’m a feminist because according to United States Department of Justice, “1 in 4 women will experience a completed and/or attempted rape during their college career,” and that could be me, or it could be my roommate, my sister or any one of the amazing women in my life. That’s not okay with me. I’m a feminist because according to Forbes magazine, “in management professions, men earn $1,328 each week while women earn $951—a 71.6% gap.”
American women have made leaps and bounds in the workplace and in government. We can vote, we can choose our husbands and we are afforded luxuries like access to education. At the same time, I don’t think that is enough. Until women are allowed the same respect and tolerance as men all over the world, I will continue to label myself a feminist with pride.
It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the label. I am a feminist and even though I don’t embody all the connotations that go along with it, I accept them on behalf of the women that fought before me, as well as the girls that will come after me. It’s not just my fight for equality, I fight for them.
Contact Whitney Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org