Ah, the contentious F-word.
It’s a touchy subject, complicated and controversial, especially among argumentative and naïve college students. The issue with the word is often because of its definition. I find the definition to be fairly simple, as does the CEO of the Ms. Foundation.
“(Feminism) is the belief that men and women should have equal social, political and economic rights and opportunities,” she told Forbes.
Before you close out of this article, which at first glance appears to be yet another college woman ridiculing her peers who don’t share her liberal views on feminism, I urge you to keep reading.
Let me begin with saying I understand the campus climate here at Lehigh, and you may have a fairly negative outlook regarding the term feminism. And honestly, I understand your erroneous perspective given extreme, yet downright incorrect stereotypes of the quintessential feminist.
You probably associate the word with your irritating classmate who dresses like a wanna-be homeless hippie, who interjects to claim that everything is correlated to how women are superior to men, and makes you appear to be the class prick for not believing every CEO and world leader should be female.
And, let me set the record straight — I hate that girl as much as the next person, perhaps even more.
What is crazier to me is most of us truly believe this is the core of what feminism represents, and we refuse to acknowledge or pursue the true meaning.
I first recognized this issue when the term feminism came up when I was chatting with a female friend. Like most Lehigh students, she was fairly insistent that she was not a feminist.
Her favorite color was pink, she liked having multiple sexual partners and she would be OK with one day being a stay-at-home mom. From her viewpoint, these factors made it simply unfeasible to be a feminist.
She conveyed to me that she doesn’t hate men, doesn’t believe women are superior to men and considers herself a girly-girl — all characteristics that would make it implausible to be considered a feminist.
This conversation genuinely upset me. My friend, who is refined, intelligent, accomplished and gregarious, truly believed qualities such as believing women are better than men were inherent characteristics of feminism. The scary part is she isn’t alone.
I began inquiring with my Lehigh acquaintances and their sentiments on women’s rights in a spontaneous setting. I would casually bring up the topic and see how people responded. The results were perplexing.
At first, I was ecstatic. One hundred percent of students I asked, both guys and girls, agreed that everyone, regardless of their gender, religion or race, should have equal rights and opportunities. This included a variety of freedoms ranging from the most obvious of things, such as equal voting rights, to more complex issues. Fortunately, everyone agreed, even on the more complicated issues. Each and every person recognized a woman with identical credentials as a man should be given the opportunity to apply and obtain the same job with the equal pay.
The next part of my observation, however, was rather baffling and disheartening. The same students who openly agreed with the exact definition of feminism refused to self-label as feminists. Only a handful of females would identify with being a feminist and not one male would. The term was too controversial and had a negative connotation that most people just weren’t ready to assume. While this is not a scientific method of collecting data, I do think it accurately reflects the sentiments of college-aged individuals.
What I just can’t comprehend is how feminism evolved to take on this horrible reputation. How are the minority of “feminists” who believe in the drastic interpretation of the word even considered feminists, when their beliefs fray so far from the original intent of the term? Nowhere in the core ideals of feminism does it state that women are superior to anyone. It modestly seeks equality for all.
The true gist of this term is so intrinsically good and reasonable yet is misconstrued by the majority of college students.
Someone let this term go rogue and radical, and the outcome is now hurting women everywhere instead of helping them.
I urge each one of you, both men and women, to reevaluate and debunk the feminist myths you have so cavalierly dismissed because they are just that — myths.
All people have females in their lives in one capacity or another. If you aren’t one, you’re either the son of one, dating one or siblings with one.
And I hope you would advocate for them to have the same opportunity to excel socially, economically and politically without facing setbacks. That is feminism.
So, to girls everywhere: Choose to wear pink or black, choose to be a girly-girl or a tomboy, choose to be the president of the United States or a stay at home mom. None of these qualities validate being a feminist or not.
Ultimately, living and believing in a nation where we have the ability to make these choices proves that more of us are feminists than we may be ready to admit.
Monica Glassman, ’17, is the social editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]