Monday, May 26, 2014

The "F" Word

By: Sabrina Rubli, Humber graduate -  International Development Postgraduate Program
This post originally appeared on Femme International

One of my closest friends has just started dating an amazing guy, and was telling me all about their conversations after one of their first dates. Now, this friend of mine is definitely a feminist, and has dedicated her life to helping women, and yet she hesitated, and said "But I don't want him to think I am a crazy feminist."

Both of us stopped and looked at each other, and we instantly realized something: when did feminism become a dirty word? Why on earth is advancing women's rights something to be embarrassed about? Why does "feminism" hold such negative connotations, of crazy women who ought to be put in their place? It's as though feminists are viewed as these radical beings trying to overthrow society as we know it. And while there has certainly been a revolutionary component to the feminist movement, particularly in some parts of the world, feminists really just want to see justice, finally.
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When women identify themselves as feminists, people will often assume they hate men, burn their bras, among other dramatic personality traits.The mere fact that the term "Feminazi" exists is one of the most offensive things in the world - to compare a woman fighting for equality to a genocidal fascist movement? I mean, come on.

Feminism needs to stop being viewed as too radical, too uncomfortable, or too out-dated, because that is not what it is. Feminism has stopped being radical, and has settled into the exhausting task of making people (men) realize the inequalities that persist in our society. Women continually make less than their male counterparts. Women are not adequately represented in politics. Calling someone a "girl" is still a sign of weakness for men. Gender inequality is so entrenched in our daily lives we don't even notice it anymore. Have you ever seen a laundry detergent commercial that does not feature a woman?

British soprano Charlotte Church recently spoke out on the subject of feminism:

“Women who say they are not a feminist annoy me,” says Church. “I don’t really understand why every woman wouldn’t consider themselves as a feminist. Because it’s not a radical thing, you know, this isn’t ‘revolution.’ It’s just to say, yes I’m a woman, I’m entirely aware that I can do everything that a man can do. And I’m proud of that, and I’m proud to be able to tell you about other women who are amazing and do phenomenal things...We were sold a lie a decade ago when everybody said there is no need for feminism: “all is fine, stop ranting and raving you crazy women.” But of course that’s not the case. And I actually think we’re going back, we’re reverting to ridiculous old-fashioned sort of stereotypes of where women should be and what their role should be: “you should just type and don’t make any decisions, just type what the men say.” 

As women, we need to declare ourselves feminists. We need to stand up to oppression that has been built into our societal structures, to the point that we don't even recognize it anymore. We need to stop thinking of feminists as annoying, useless, and whiny. A feminist is just someone who acknowledges that gender inequality exists.

Recent movements such as Everyday Sexism and Who Needs Feminism are helping to bring attention to the need for an updated definition of feminism.

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