I am a Feminist, a person who supports feminism. Feminism being defined as the advocacy of women’s right on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. I’ve noticed a trend lately; that trend being when people hear the word “Feminist” they generally make a face similar to that of someone sucking on a Warhead. Why? Because they immediately think of an ugly woman with hairy armpits, screaming in someone’s face that she’s “bigger, better, and stronger” than men, refusing pain medication in childbirth, belittling men every chance she gets, refuses to listen to anyone else’s point of view, is probably a lesbian, and the list goes on. Much like every other word in the English dictionary, this word evokes an image in our minds when thought about. What is your image? What do you see when you hear the word “feminist”?
I think of my mother. My strong, beautiful, scary intellegent mother. My mother who taught me “You don’t have to be a bitch to be strong” and “You should treat all people equally and with kindness”. That first one was a big one for me. I was raised in the same world as the rest of you. A world where if a woman wasn’t docile and quiet, she was probably a “bitch”. A world where a woman who actually spoke up for and defended herself was definitely a “bitch”. And much like many other young girls, I adapted. I took this title of “bitch” and wore it like a crown, living up to it’s implications, even if that wasn’t how I was in the beginning. I was loud and mean and everything my mother taught me not to be. But then I watched my mother. I watched her defend herself and the people she loved while never being a “bitch”, unless someone did not deserve her kindness. I watched her epitomize strength and feminism while never being mean, rude, callous, a lesbian, or shoving her opinion’s down another person’s throat. It was then I noticed that while I was never exactly the “feminist” that I described above, I was also not what she taught me to be. I was a bitch.
The last thing I’ve ever wanted is to solidify someone’s misconceptions of a “feminist”. I want to be the example my mother set for me. I do not want to be the angry, agressive woman that some of my past experiences have tried to make me. I write this today with these thoughts on my mind. Today, I am someone my mother could be (and is) proud of. That is only because of her good example and love, combined with my own unwillingness to become what so many others who’ve experienced what I have became.
I want to be one more woman who breaks down the misconceptions of what a feminist is. On that note, here are some things that go against the stereotypes that are now being placed upon us.
- While I am bisexual, I am not a lesbian. However, being a lesbian does not make one a “man-hater”. Some people are just only attracted to women simply because they’re only attracted to women. They don’t need “to just get laid properly”, or “find the right man”. They don’t like men. It’s that simple.
- I am not a man-hater. I wrote a post specifically about this. You can read that post here: I Am Not a Man-Hater. Next to that, I am in a relationship, with a man, whom I completely adore and treat with respect. I also have many male friends whom I love and treat with respect. They are my equals, my confidantes, my buddies.
- I shave my armpits. I have nothing against the women who don’t but I just can not handle hair being anywhere on my body except my head. And that’s not because some man forced me to shave, it’s because I hate hair and it makes me uncomfortable.
- I do not shove my opinions down other people’s throats. I will be the first one to defend myself if someone treats me in an unfair or sexist way but I don’t go around holding people hostage and making them listen to my views. If they want to be a sexist pig, I will defy everything they think a “good, little woman” should be; but I won’t waste my time trying to change them. As my mommy always said “You can’t fix stupid”.
- I will be taking the proper medications when I give birth. Unless I somehow end up not needing them, I will take the medication they use for pain during childbirth. There are so many stories of childbirth taking much longer because the woman was under too much stress from being in too much pain. Maybe this will be me, maybe it won’t. Either way, I can’t predict a situation I’m not in and have never been in yet. What a woman chooses during childbirth is decision personal to her and her alone. I judge no one. I will make my decision when I get there, while taking into consideration the opinions of my doctors, and no one else.
- I expect all forms of equality. I don’t believe that a man and woman working in similar jobs with different physical requirements should receive the same wages. If the man or woman is doing less physical work or is in harm’s way less than their coworker then they should make less than the person who’s working harder or is in more dangerous conditions. I believe in equal pay for equal work. I don’t want a break for women, I want equality. If we do the exact same job, we get the exact same pay. Period.
These are just some examples. Along with them, I’m also not ugly, I don’t treat men like shit, I don’t act like I’m “better than” the male species. Although some women do fit these stereotypes, they still deserve to be treated with respect and seen as “Feminists”. However, they do not represent the whole. We’re all..wait for it…HUMAN BEINGS. And we should be treated as such. I believe right now we need to focus on raising awareness for the multitude of ways in which equality is not present in our world today. I believe women deserve the same rights and considerations as men. However, I do not believe we need (or want) to be treated as “more than”, “better than”, or “stronger than” men. If we aim for that then we are only pushing the same agenda that we’re fighting against right now, just in reverse. Pushing this agenda makes us appear as misandrists and takes legitimacy away from our movement.
Women need to support other women! Women constantly fighting each other and putting down other members of their own gender will not help sexists think they should treat us better. How can a woman who’s “not like other those girls” and who “hates bitches” expect to be seen as a feminist? How can we expect other people to treat us with love, acceptance, and respect when we don’t treat each other with love, acceptance, and respect?! We have to come together, support one another, and shatter the many glass ceilings that exist for us in this world today. We also need to expose the misconceptions, break the system, and fight with and for each other, not against each other.
If you’re a feminist, act like it. Act like you want to be treated as an equal, not a superior being. Act like you want humans to all be treated the same. This movement is for women, not humans; and that is why we call it “Feminism” and not “Humanism”. But the end goal is for all humans to be treated equally regardless of gender. EQUALLY. There is something to be said for the empowerment of women. It is vital to breaking down years of sexism and the effects it’s had on women. But when this empowerment crosses over into misandry, there is a problem. Men deserve to be treated with the same acceptance and respect we are aiming to gain. Putting them down in order to raise ourselves up is, in essence, committing the same wrong acts that their predecessors (and some of them) did. People doing this is the reason this movement exists today. So please, don’t take legitimacy away from our movement by doing the same things they did that in turn, landed us here today. Treat all humans with respect. This is not to say that you should stay quiet when a man disrespects you or acts in a sexist way towards you. In that case, defend yourself. But don’t turn him into the face of his entire gender, because he is not. Acts like this gives sexist men the ammunition they need to make us seem like hypocrites and take the legitimacy away from our movement. I keep using those same terms (legitimacy, respect, etc.) because that is exactly what it will do. How can we preach equality when we don’t treat men as equals? It makes us appear stupid. It feeds into the false image that many get in their heads when they think of a “feminist”. Let’s be true feminists. Let’s bring our entire world into this century and fight fairly to become equals.
by Ashley Hebner
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