“Well behaved women, rarely make history.”
Man-hating. Hairy legs. Career oriented. Unattractive. And ready to take over the world. Unfortunately these stereotypes have taken over the image of feminism by a majority of the current generation of young men and women today. The negative image this word invokes had lead most females in Generation Y to deny the fact that they are indeed feminists, including myself up until recently. Now let’s look at what the dictionary has to say about the word:
“The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”
And as Urban Dictionary puts it:
“Someone who believes the radical notion that women are people. If you believe that women and men should have equal rights, you are a feminist. There’s nothing “extreme” about it.”
(And if you don’t, you seriously need to reconsider your beliefs.)
“Feminists are not Nazis, or women who can’t get laid. The very existence of these views is proof that feminism still has a lot of work to do. Some feminists shave, and some don’t. Some are “fashionable”, some aren’t. Just like any other group of people.”
(Right, so not all feminists are the same, just as not all blacks, Jews, or Australians are the same. The problem, like with religious groups, is that the extremists tend to be overheard and manage to create a bad image for the rest of the group.)
So what is a feminist? Someone, male or female, who believes in equal rights. It is someone who believes that a women can go to college, have a career, or be a stay at home mom. A feminist is not necessarily someone who is going to dedicate their life to women’s rights, and a feminist certainly does not have to stand on the street corner holding a sign demanding equal pay. A feminist does not have to put her career before family, nor does she have to think women are better than men. A feminist is, quite simply, someone who realizes that women are indeed human beings just like their male counterparts.
I never considered myself a feminist until I cycled through India. I grew up in a family that never once questioned equality, and in a community that believes that women have the right to chose their own path in the same was as men. Of course I could play sports, get whichever degree I desired, and go out on my own. Why wouldn’t I be able to? Equality was a given for me. And in a way, that means (at least in my small corner of the world) the feminist movements of the past have succeeded. There is a new generation of girls out there who won’t ever think twice about gender dictating their lives.
Cycling through India led me down a path which made me question my own beliefs about equality and what it means to be a women. It was not just the rape, violence, and maltreatment of women that struck me, it was the absolute and utter shock every man and women showed upon finding out that I was alone. “Where is your father? Your husband? You are a girl, you can not possibly be alone. Where is your man.” Most of the people I encountered were unable to process the fact that yes, I was indeed alone, and their utter disbelief led me to discover the depth of independence and freedom I take for granted on a daily basis.
Women in many parts of the world truthfully believe they are inferior. They are raised as their father’s property until they are married off, at which time ownership is handed over to their husband. These women grow up believing they will live their life doing whatever the male-centric society around them dictates, and many of these males in turn abuse their unrelenting power. This is the concept feminism is trying to fight against. The idea that women are somehow born inferior just because they are female. Women and men are born equal, so why, after birth, does this perception so often change?
Us women are free to enjoy the same freedoms, opportunities, and life as men. India has empowered me to fight for the feminist movement, the idea that women deserve equal rights, by simply living my life however I see fit without regard to gender (for me this was a given anyways, India has just made me aware of it). I don’t plan on joining an organization or chanting “I hate men” on the street, I believe the most powerful change I can bring is to be an example of a women who knows I deserve the same treatment and respect as a man in every regard.
So yes, I am a feminist. A leg shaving man-loving feminist who wants to show the world just what us girls deserve.