“Let’s talk Feminism”

fem•i•nism (noun): The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

Lorrin Johnson, Amanda Roberts, Brittany Toombs, and Kenadi Brown

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Girls don’t want to be called feminists because they don’t want to scare men away. Boys don’t want to be feminists because they don’t want to be considered “feminine.” Young people don’t want to be called feminists because they believe it to be a forgotten cause, thinking that equality has already been achieved.

So why should anyone support feminism? What does it mean to be a feminist?

“Men get teased and bullied if they act feminine, and women get looked down on if they act masculine,” sophomore Rebecca Shafir said. “It goes both ways. Both men and women have a long way to go on this road to absolute equality. I think we should be humanists, working towards equality of everyone.”

This concept of humanism is crucial to understanding feminism; a feminist is one who believes that all people deserve equal rights.

This being said, there is no cookie cutter feminist. There are feminists who associate themselves with misandry, the hatred of men. But for every misandrist there is a larger number of feminists seeking equality amongst bothgenders.

“Being a feminist to me means believing in equality between all genders and sexual orientations and races. Feminism is equality for everyone,” junior Melanie Ashby said.

The definition of feminism is open to interpretation, causing misconceptions to often be made. Men are often hesitant to call themselves feminists, unsure of the definition and its connotation.

“I’m not a feminist because I associate feminists with mainly women. Men can be feminists, but I think it’s a very different definition depending on what gender you are,” sophomore Max Sands said.

If feminism is truly about equality, then why are there not more male supporters?

“Men should be feminists!” freshman Arianna Vinup said. “I know a lot of people who think that feminism means that females degrade males to empower themselves, but that’s a wrong definition.”

Perhaps the varying opinions and misconceptions of feminism spur from feminism’s long and complicated history, a history in which the definition is constantly evolving.

FEMINISM TODAY

Feminism today, sometimes referred to as the “fourth wave” of feminism, is characterized by blogs, Twitter campaigns, and other online media. Although some may argue that the fight for equality has been “won,” feminism is more prominent that ever, particularly within the young, tech-savvy generation of women today.

This new momentum towards gender equality is driven by core outlets for girls to connect, express, and spark change.

“The F-Word”, a blog based in the United Kingdom, is one of these core outlets.

“The F-Word does not define what contemporary UK feminism is but instead allows a place for different people to share their different opinions and views,” the F-Word’s former editor Catherine Redfern said in an interview on the meaning of “contemporary UK feminism.”

This attitude towards freedom of opinion towards feminism is a defining factor in modern feminism; with no universally accepted definition of feminism, contemporary feminists are working together to create a community that accepts all forms of feminism and all people who are looking to be involved.

Another popular blog frequented by modern feminists is “Everyday Feminism.” Everyday Feminism “seeks to support caring individuals and communities who see every person, including ourselves, as full human beings who deserve to be free to pursue our own happiness and meaning in life,” according to its mission statement.

Feminists are becoming more and more about supporting all humans, not just women. The “He for She” campaign is working towards gender equality, not the supremacy of women or any one gender.

He for She requires supporters to take a pledge, reading: “Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.”

Emma Watson is an avid supporter of the campaign, and advocates for it through her position as a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals,” Watson said.

HOW FEMINISM GOT A “BAD REP”

Man haters. Tyrants attempting to eliminate men from positions of power. Antagonistic narcissists seeking revenge. Radicals that crave the uproar of protest and anarchy.

Since its inception in the mid-19th century, feminism has been viewed in both positive and negative lights, the negative often gaining more attention than the positive.

Feminism can generally be divided into three major “waves.” The first wave of feminism was marked by the fight for women’s suffrage, the second focused on equality, and the third was driven by the human right to make one’s own choices.

Choices have long been a focus of feminism throughout each wave. Most feminists believe that there is no criterion that needs to be met in order for one to call himself or herself a feminist.

Because of the numerous choices feminists have made, they have become characterized by the choices of only some of their counterparts, rather than the wide spectrum of feminists that have left their impact on the movement.

One feminist may claim to hate all men, believing their existence hinders the progress of women. Another might wish to violently riot every week outside of the White House, demanding for women to be equal. But for every radical that might behave too forcefully or speak too viciously, there are hundreds of feminists who are working towards equality in peaceful, yet effective, ways.

“A lot of people misinterpret the word ‘feminist’,” sophomore Hunter Simpson said. “Many people who go under the name ‘feminist’ tend to get understandably frustrated because spectators blow it out of proportion and only think feminists can be angry and violent, which is not at all true.”

“Taking it too far” is often used to describe the actions of feminists, and has scared off many potential supporters.

“[Feminism] has a negative connotation because some people do take it too far, and so the negativity is emphasized way more than positivity,” junior Clara Bardot said. “Feminists taking it too far are publicized far more than daily acts of equality.”

Emma Watson, a famous actress and United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador, has been fighting to erase the bad connotation that feminism has managed to adopt.

“The more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” Watson said. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”

Feminism is critiqued most harshly by some men, who feel as though their position in society could be threatened by a rising class of women. Men who understand that feminism is about equality are much more likely to consider themselves feminists and support the movement.

“Some people have the idea that feminists are radicals who put men in the position of a second-class citizen,” sophomore Wyatt Waters said. “Some people think that this is the ultimate goal that feminists are conspiring to achieve. People need to understand that the ultimate goal of feminists is equality.”

FEMINISM AT LIBERTY

So where does Liberty fall in the expansive Feminism movement?

To understand feminism in the Liberty community, it’s necessary to first understand the importance of supporting this fight for equality within the school. Although most students would consider themselves equal to their peers, instances of sexism and discrimination can still be seen.

“There is definitely sexism at Liberty. I still see cat-calling, and ‘go to the kitchen’ kind of jokes, and I still hear rape jokes,” senior Parker Simpson said.

However, there are many people at Liberty willing to fight for equality and defend the rights of others.

“I would say that I have probably witnessed [sexism at Liberty],” math teacher Michael Snow said. “One of the big people in my life was Martin Luther King, so I have zero tolerance for anybody that has to do with prejudicial behavior. A lot of my students have a clear understanding that it’s not going to be okay in my class.”

A number of passionate Liberty staff and students, boys and girls alike, consider themselves feminists.

“I would consider myself a feminist because I believe that all people should be equal and that women are not getting the rights they deserve,” senior Cody Shampine said.

Feminism at Liberty is just like feminism all around the world: there is no single correct way to support or interpret the cause. Feminism means embracing and accepting diverse choices.

Different people associate themselves with different aspects of feminism. The movement is adaptable to the views of any individual.

“The notion of feminism has changed historically, so I think right now we’re in this wave of feminism that sees feminism as the ability to self-determine, and that’s probably what I most agree with,” English teacher Tonja Reischl said. “It’s not so much that you have to reject traditional roles of women, but whether or not you’re choosing to.”

Despite the different interpretations of feminism, the wide range of actions taken to expand the movement, and the multiplicity of people who support the movement, one word will always stay true to the feminist’s fight: equality.