By Sage Smiley
I am a feminist. I was born a feminist; I grew up a feminist; I will die a feminist.
Please keep reading.
I come from a place where it’s natural to be a feminist (read: Portland, Oregon). If I was attending college in Portland, I probably wouldn’t need to ask people whether or not they’re feminists, and I certainly wouldn’t be trying to understand the reasons why they do (or don’t) identify as such. But luckily, I attend college in Provo, Utah, which is a very different social and political environment than that of Portland. Lucky because I’ve had the opportunity to interact with people who think very differently than I do about feminism, and those interactions have helped clarify my own ideas.
There are very few people living in Utah that I think are truly, completely not feminists, but there are many (yourself possibly included) who do not wish to call themselves feminists. If we’re being honest, many of my peers’ issues with feminism are issues of semantics and definitions and assumption. I hope to address some of those concerns, and explain to you why it’s important to make things official. Here are some of the hesitations I’ve encountered about calling one’s self a feminist.
“That depends on your definition of feminism.”
Feminist (n.) an individual who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
This does not mean that women are made to be higher than men, and it certainly does not insist that women and men are the same. Anyone with eyes, ears, feelings, and a sense of smell can tell that men and women are different, and different for very important reasons.
“I’m an equalist,” or “I see it as an egalitarian issue.”
This is an incredibly vague and overbroad response. One of the great values of calling feminism feminism is that it focuses on the issue: women have historically been incredibly underrepresented and taken advantage of. Equalism or egalitarianism addresses the issue by focusing resources on . . . everyone? Everything? Everybody? The fundamental issue is not everyone. Egalitarianism in this situation is like throwing water on every house in the neighborhood even though only half of the houses are on fire . . . just to be fair.
“I’m not a feminist but I believe in equal rights.”
This is feminism. Equality is feminism.
“I’m more of a humanist.”
Humanism is a philosophical belief which assigns prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems. There is no God in humanism, and there is little concept of equal rights.
“I’m too conservative to be a feminist.”
If you believe that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, you are not too conservative to be a feminist. Men and women are different. We aren’t arguing that they are the same! To do so, as I mentioned above, would be a supreme form of blind idiocy.
“I’m not a feminist because I’m not a Democrat.”
Democrats do not have an exclusive claim on feminism. Although some people try to make feminism a political issue, equal rights should not be political.
“I’m not a feminist because I don’t actively campaign for feminist causes.”
Belief is all that is required to be a feminist. Feminists believe in equality for men and women.
I understand that feminism can seem like a controversial issue or an extreme stance to take, but it’s not. Feminism aspires to bring men and women equal rights and opportunities, everywhere in the world. Although it’s been made into a grand, politicized issue, it’s really a matter of believing in fundamental rights of freedom, and opportunity for women and men from every place imaginable.
If you are afraid of calling yourself a feminist because of any of the issues briefly addressed above, please reconsider. As an individual with your own worldview, you can change the perception of feminism simply by being a feminist. Enter our ranks and change the movement and the way people think feminists are–by being an example! You are already your own kind of feminist, and it’s time to call yourself one.
This article was written to debate whether or not those who believe in gender equality should brand themselves as feminists. Click here to read the opposing view, “The Fickle Fad of Feminism.”
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