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Being Me @ UNMC: A Feminist
Someone labelled me as a ‘feminist’, insultingly, a few weeks ago. He was an intelligent person whom I respected, someone brought up in the twenty-first century with twenty-first century values, and he said to me, “Don’t be a (expletive) feminist.”
This was at a CS election. I had announced my intention to vote for a female candidate over two males, because her speech impressed me and I believed she would do a good job. And because I said I was going to vote for her, I was told, “Don’t be a (expletive) feminist,” in the tone that equates the word with ‘man-hating bitch’.
There were some other girls in hearing range, and some of them giggled, and a few smirked, whilst I sat there, stunned. I ought to have stood up and said “Of course I’m going to be feminist, do you have a problem?” in my most strident tone and my fiercest expression. But I said nothing in response that day. I am deeply ashamed of this, because I should have.
Someone please tell me, since when is ‘feminist’ a bad word, or even a word to be giggled at? Because without feminism and its precursors, the giggling young women would not have been sitting in a co-ed university lecture theatre half-listening to another young woman give a campaign speech. They would not have had the option to enter into university on an equal footing with their male classmates. They would not be able to enter the same courses as their male counterparts. They would not, on graduation, have the same career prospects as their male fellow graduates. They may not even have had the option of a career outside their home.
The problem, you see, is that to most young people of my generation, the ideology of feminism seems unnecessary. We, the Millennial generation, have been taught from birth that we can do anything we want, and gender doesn’t matter. We have never known anything else, so all this fighting for equality seems somewhat redundant, and somewhat foolish. To many young men and women of my generation, the only ‘feminist’ they’ve ever seen is the cartoonish, one-dimensional stereotype perpetuated by the media and Hollywood: the super-uptight, man-hating, unfeminine, probably-lesbian uber-bitch that has it in for the nice, friendly, easy-going male hero. And who wants to be that?
This is wrong. Firstly, because the woman in that sentence is one giant ball of stereotype. Secondly because feminism is far from irrelevant. Feminism has no time limit. Worldwide as of March 2012, there has been no significant decrease in the gender pay gap in the last ten years. There is still a disproportionately large percentage of women in service industry jobs, though that has been changing, slowly. Girls in rural villages the world over are still being encouraged to quit school early and help at home, regardless of how well they’re performing. And in the First World girls are being fat-shamed, slut-shamed, nerd-shamed, and whatever else have you into conforming to society, no matter what the cost. And this is, as I have said, very, very wrong.
For me, personally, ‘feminist’ is something I strive to be, an ideal, something that I would be proud to call myself. A ‘feminist’ to me – and I believe this is the definition most modern feminist figures would agree with – is someone who fights for the right for women to live their lives according to their own wishes and choices, no matter what those wishes and choices are. A lecturer can be a feminist. A stripper can be a feminist. A homemaker can be a feminist. A construction worker can be a feminist. A roti-canai vendor can be a feminist. Anyone can be a feminist, regardless of gender, as long as they believe in and fight for the core belief of feminist ideology – women have the right to the same opportunities, choices and advantages as men of the same social, financial and educational standing.
That is all there is to it, and if you believe this, then congratulations, you’re a feminist too, whether you’re male, female, or an alien invader among us. Welcome to the club. And thank you for joining the fight.