What’s wrong with the F-word?

Graphic by Chelsea Faulk
Graphic by Chelsea Faulk

What do Beyoncé, Emma Watson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lena Dunham, Ellen Page and Gloria Steinem all have in common? They all consider themselves feminists.

A feminist is someone who supports the ideals of feminism, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. The theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

According to a YouGov poll done in February 2016, only 26 percent of Americans say they are feminists, while 53 percent say they are not. To determine these figures, both men and women were surveyed, and their responses were averaged and created into percentages.

When the non-feminists were asked why they were not, they were given four statements and prompted to choose the one that comes closest to their opinion.

Forty percent chose the statement that said feminists were too extreme. Eighteen percent said feminists are anti-men. The most shocking statistic to me, 11 percent said they were not feminists because “they believe men and women are not equal.”

Fifteen percent of women and seven percent of men were behind this average. That means more women agree with that statement than men do.

I understand the male mentality of thinking men are superior to women simply because that’s just how society has been. But how can a woman, who in this century is still struggling to defy the odds and prove she can do everything just as well as a man, say that she is not an equivalent of him?

Maybe it’s the way my mother raised me, or maybe it’s just because I get so irritated thinking about this all, but I’ll be damned if I ever utter the phrase that I am less or more than equal to that of a man. We may look different and have different reproductive organs, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of doing the same thing.

I’m only 21, haven’t even entered the workforce and am already tired of trying to fight the stereotype that I belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, with a baby on my hip, cooking dinner for my husband. However, I’m not going to give up, not until society sees me as an equal. Even then, I’ll still proudly wear my T-shirt that says, “This is what a feminist looks like.”

There are also the women who think that feminism isn’t necessary anymore. That it was only relevant when our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were fighting for the rights we have today. Back then, it was a big deal for women to freely express anything because their opinions were never valued. So if they were strong enough to do that back then, shouldn’t we keep fighting for our granddaughters and great-granddaughters?

Personally, I don’t want the little girls yet to come in my family to have to deal with the thoughts and fears I have when I think about what could happen in the up coming years of my life. I don’t want them to worry about being treated as less of a person because they’re female. I don’t want them to get angry when they’ve done the same job, for the same amount of time, but for less money than a male co-worker. I want them to be able to discuss openly their ideas and beliefs without fear of what will be said about them because of that.

Feminism isn’t a new trend or something that’s just magically appeared. No one woke up one morning and said, “I’m going to make this a thing.”

Feminism has been part of American history for over 100 years. It has helped American women earn the right to vote, to pursue a career in the workforce and even to run for president.

For some reason I have yet to comprehend, there’s almost always an immediate awkward vibe in the air once a women audibly declares herself a feminist around others. The negative connotations and stereotypes that come along with the word are also something that I just don’t understand.

Why is feminism such an uncomfortable, unpopular, “bad” word? Why are women scared to call themselves feminists? Why is it that they agree with all the beliefs of feminism, but are so unwilling to label themselves feminists?

I think a lot of the reason lies in the fear of social consequences and implications that being called a feminist brings.

Being a feminist doesn’t have anything to do with believing that a woman is superior to a man— it’s about equal opportunity. And it isn’t just about equal pay, either. It’s about men and women being granted the same rights and opportunities. Somehow we still have people shying away from using the term “feminist” because it’s way easier to say you’re not a feminist and still support gender equality, rather than use a word that stirs up so much controversy.

Fellas, before you go rolling your eyes or start saying, “This doesn’t pertain to me,” remember that you don’t have to be a female to be a feminist. Just look at Seth Meyers, Prince Harry, Donald McPherson, Benedict Cumberbatch and so many more. Since women will always be compared to men, you should care about your role in the feminist movement, not to mention that maybe one day you may have a wife or daughter who struggles with the backlash of being a feminist.

Emma Watson said in a speech made at a HeForShe campaign event, “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”

Feminism is about embracing women for who they are and what they can do, not the battle of the sexes. Distancing yourself from the term because you either don’t like it or don’t want that label, only gives in to those who seek to keep women down and to anti-feminism.

Watson also said, “And if you still hate the word—it is not the word that is important, but the idea and the ambition behind it.”

To the ladies who aren’t ashamed to call themselves a feminist, keep chugging along. You are the voices we need to make a difference. And for all you closet feminists out there, don’t feel like you have to hide. Embrace your feminism.