By Evelyn Gonzalez ‘18
It always interests me to see the different responses I get when I align myself with the term “feminist.” Responses range from “So, what, do you hate men?” to “Oh, I could never call myself a feminist because I believe men and women should be equal.” I think what shocks me the most is how misguided the views of feminism truly are and how these misconceptions make it easy to dismiss its ideas and goals. It is easy to scorn something when you do not understand it, and I think that is the major issue here.
When I first came to Scripps, I was very surprised to find that not only do many women here not identify as feminists, but that they actually feel strongly about distancing themselves from the word.
This uneasiness towards the term, I think, stems from years of misconceptions surrounding the idea of feminism and exactly what it means to be a feminist, which is where it gets a little tricky. In the 90s, Pat Robertson defined the feminist agenda as “a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” It is understandable that many people would not want to align themselves with an idea that has been so muddled and misinformed as to become misleading. The word, however, has emerged and changed over time and with it, I believe, came a positive shift in society.
Let me make it perfectly clear: you are a feminist if you advocate for women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality and in doing so believe in eradicating the restraints that gender places on everyone — men, women and gender queer. Feminism’s goal is to ensure that a person’s gender does not restrict or discredit any of his or her successes or inhibit his or her capability for prosperity and happiness. While it was once (and sometimes still is) considered a “dirty word,” the term feminist is now being welcomed and embraced.
Where before celebrities carefully tiptoed around the term to avoid its negative connotations, such as when Katy Perry said “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women,” icons like Ellen Page and Beyoncé are now openly identifying themselves as feminists. In doing so, they become activists for the term.
There are many different ways to be a feminist and many different types of feminism. But when you choose not to identify as a feminist, what you are essentially saying is that you are choosing to be willfully ignorant of the issues that currently affect our society. In doing so you tarnish every name that has ever made efforts and sacrifices so that we as people have the rights and freedoms that we do now.
I think it is important that we learn not to dismiss other people’s ideas of feminism (unless it is Robertson’s). Everyone’s struggle is as different as his or her background. We, as a society, have so many different experiences in terms of gender, sexuality, race and socio-economic class that it is often difficult to understand each other’s viewpoints.
In that respect, we have a long way to go. No movement is perfect. But it is important to remember that feminism has the capability of being an all-encompassing, inclusive term, and that is so important. When you really start to believe in the message of equality and everything that it stands for — you will soon find that you, in fact, have been a feminist all along.
By Evelyn Gonzalez ‘18