Feminism applies universally, not just radically

Kali Croke, Co-news editor

By now I’m notorious among my friends (and perhaps most of my grade) as the resident feminist. While this is a label that would make most cower in shame and embarrassment, I’ve worked hard to get here.

For a good deal of my teenage years, I hastily denied this scarlet letter. Feminist: such an ambiguous word that marked me as a man-hating, socialist cult member eager to point out any instance of patriarchy or sexism I could find.

But what I’ve learned through high school is that everyone is a feminist. As long as you believe that all humans, regardless of gender, should be given the same rights and opportunities, let me deliver the news: you are a feminist.

Merriam-Webster (M-W) defines “feminism” as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” In an Oracle-conducted survey of 158 students, 38 percent of students responded “no” when asked if they are feminists, without being given the definition. That percentage jumped to 89 percent identifying with being a feminist when given the M-W definition.

I think what makes the term feminism so scary for teenagers is that it implies a subscription to radicalism and activism as well, instead of an inherent belief. But in the same way that not every Christian is a missionary, not every feminist is an extremist. The stigma around feminism needs to stop.

By rejecting feminism, we take a step backward in terms of social progress; I know it is scary to agree to this label, but if everyone accepted that the movement for gender equality is the movement of feminism, would it be as hard to admit that maybe you are a feminist? If we keep collectively denying that the feminist movement is something everyone should be a part of, then women and men will continue to function socially, economically and politically at different levels.

I know you’re probably wondering why this should mean anything to the average person. Even more likely, you’re probably thinking that this is just another feminist rant to roll your eyes at and move on from.

Well I hate to break it to you, but this is not a “feminist rant.” It’s my personal manifesto. Already you have pigeonholed and categorized the preconceived notion of the word into a space in your mind where you will give it no further thought. But it is because of you, and the rest of the world that will also roll their eyes at feminists, that I have worked hard to be one.

I am a feminist because I am tired of my friends – be they male, female, gay, straight – being held to certain impossible standards because of who they are. I am tired of the fact that when I enter the workforce I will get paid 30 cents less for every dollar my male counterpart makes. I am tired of the eye rolls, the scoffs, the ignorance and the fear.

But ultimately, I am tired of the reality that just because I believe all of these things and have chosen to collectivize them into an accurate label of “feminist”, that that somehow makes me sexist, overly opinionated and radical. I believe that men and women should be treated equally throughout all facets of society. Don’t you?