Feminism: the new F word

Misconception of a movement toward equality

Graphic by Kailey Trevithick.

The idea of feminism has been a dominating theme in media and conversation this year. From Rosetta physicist Matt Taylor’s infamous shirt splattered with bodacious women, to Time magazine’s placement of the word “feminist” on their “which word should be banned in 2015” list, to numerous female celebrities outwardly stating their disapproval of the movement, the word “feminism” has become pervasive.

But not in the way it should be.

When Shailene Woodley was asked if she is a feminist, she replied, “No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”

Taylor Swift gave a similar answer, stating, “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”

Swift has since changed her tune after understanding the definition of feminism.

Several other female celebrities have decided to call themselves “humanists” rather than feminists, including Madonna, Susan Sarandon, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Demi Moore.

Campaigns entitled “Women Against Feminism” cite some of their reasons as “I don’t need feminism because my boyfriend treats me right,” “I don’t have room in my heart for hate,” and “I embrace what makes me different from men. Being different isn’t the same as being lower or less important than men.”

To clear things up, the Oxford English Dictionary defines feminism as, “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Not oppressing men in order to gain power and authority.

Canada’s only female prime minister was Kim Campbell, who sat in office for under six months, from June 25 to November 4, 1993.

Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for fighting for the basic right of women’s education.

We still celebrate individuals becoming the “first woman to [insert accomplishment]”—as seen in the Engineering Complex at the University of Manitoba—which is problematic. We should not need to celebrate the achievements of women separately from the achievements of men; distinguishing genders greatens the inequality between the sexes.

The fact is, women are still not paid as much as men are; women are still not as likely to hold high executive positions within businesses; women are still taught to have a man escort them to their car late at night; women are still not given full control of the decisions they make regarding their bodies; women all over the world still need to fight for education; opinionated women who assert their power are still “bitches”; and women are still subject to “gender pricing.”

This is why we need feminism.

How can a word representing the movement for gender equality be ugly?

Emma Watson perhaps said it best in her recent address to the United Nations, as goodwill ambassador for UN Women, to launch her “HeforShe” campaign.

“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men, and unattractive.”

In her campaign, Watson has included both genders in an attempt to abolish the misconstrued “us vs. them” mentality. Feminism is not about hating men, oppressing men, suppressing masculinity, or playing the victim. It is believing that women are just as capable and deserving of opportunities as men are.

The problem arises when people assume that increasing the status of women will decrease the status of men. Feminism does not mean men should not hold political office, ask women out on dates, hold doors open for women, tell a woman she looks beautiful, or run companies. It means women should be allotted these opportunities too.

The conception of feminism as anything but a fight for equality between the sexes is indicative of the importance of the feminist movement and the need to abolish the extremist stereotyping of what it means to be feminist.

The counter-feminist movements, such as “Women Against Feminism,” are more damaging than they appear at first glance. By stating that women do not need feminism, these movements are negating the struggles of women everywhere in the fight for equal rights.

Counter-feminist movements are built upon selfish hypocrisy – an ideology built from a place of privilege. You may not need to fight for equal rights from the position you are standing in, but some women do.

Anti-feminist campaigns, while road-blocking the renewed feminist movement, also sustain the “ugly feminist” stereotype. Feminists are all too often portrayed as aggressive, angry, oppressive individuals who are more concerned with telling women what they can and cannot do than seeking equal opportunity. This is not the case.

In fact, it is ironic that feminists are criticized for being consistently depicted as angry. We should all be angry; if you are not angry, you are not paying attention.

It is 2014, and I am still taught that I should not walk alone at night, I am not expected to climb as high on the corporate ladder as men, I am still subject to unwelcome catcalls, and I am not taken as seriously as an authority figure.

And I’m in a position of privilege.

No, Time magazine, we do not need to ban the word feminist. We need to use it more often.