Why I am a Feminist

A little over a week ago, The College Republicans’ blog The Right Way published an article entitled, “Why I’m Not a Feminist.” This piece, written by a female contributor, states that modern feminism is about “political correctness, body image issues, and man shaming. The author goes on to argue that feminism is not about equality of the genders, but rather female superiority, calling upon women to abandon the practice of man shaming, “examine our own actions to rectify our own wrongs,” and ultimately scrap the title of “feminist” entirely.

To be honest, we had a hard time understanding this article. Although the author disparages modern feminism, she argues in its favor for much of her article. Allow us to explain.

The author qualifies her rejection of feminism with a statement of her own. “If feminism were simply the advocacy for women’s rights based on the notion that [women] are equal to men,” she says, “I’d be a believer.”

This sounds a lot like what feminism is to us. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (and Beyoncé) defines feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” At its core, it is a struggle to realize equality across sexes. We understand that feminism doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and in recent years the term has occasionally taken on negative connotations and been associated with extremist ideologies. But, in her rejection of feminism, the author of “Why I’m not a Feminist” only reinforces negative stereotypes; by rejecting the title of feminist, with all of its perceived flaws and biases, one takes power away from the real feminist movement toward equality of the sexes.

One of the author’s main complaints is that women tear other women down, only to peg men with the blame. While it may be true that women can be our own worst enemies sometimes (it’s never right to judge a woman based solely on her appearance, and we certainly shouldn’t be criticizing others for their cellulite or they way they dress),  feminism recognizes this judgement as wrong, and duly recognizes that this judgement comes from all sides –not just the male side. This brings us to our second point. The author continually equates feminism with man bashing and with desires for female superiority, but this is a fundamental misrepresentation of modern feminism.

The author complains that men like her cousin, who was reluctant to admit his unemployment status to his wife, are forced to hide their weaknesses and emotion behind a curtain. But the idea that feminism doesn’t allow men to be vulnerable or open with their feelings or that it reinforces double standards is a dangerous myth. The movement, in fact, aims to degrade existing gender norms that box men and women into “traditional” roles of dominance and submission. Just look at Man Up, a documentary by the makers of Miss Representation. The film echoes the concerns of the author nearly exactly– men are forced to hide behind a mask of masculinity that is mentally and emotionally exhausting. Feminists recognize this and are working to combat the societal structures that would ever make such a mask necessary. We emphasize equality for all– both in opportunity and emotion.

And so, dear Republicans, we would like to inform you that you are all feminists. If you would like to come forward and say that you are against equality of the sexes, by all means, do so. But until then, hesitate in rejecting the title of feminist. Although it may raise nasty images of bra burning and man bashing for some, we emphasize that these are only symptoms of radicalism that do not represent the movement as a whole. We’re in this together and we’re ready to welcome dialogue from both genders. To say otherwise is to misrepresent us and what we stand for.

Erin Hickock and Laura Lannan