In between passing bread, pouring drinks and making sharp interruptions over politics, I kept hearing these familiar, and frankly inaccurate, nuggets of dialogue surrounding the topic of modern feminism.
“Well, I can have sex with three guys in one night because I’m a feminist.”
“Oh yeah, I am totally a feminist. I just read Lena Dunham’s memoir.”
“It’s so unfair that women get paid less than men. But can you believe he didn’t pay for me on the first date?”
These one-liners are coming from college-educated 20-somethings, and it’s clear we are confusing the third wave feminism with a cattle-herding of sexual liberation, progression and pop culture.
My female friends and Millennial peers use the word as a "get out of jail free card," or they subscribe to the label to prove they’re informed women "keeping up with the times."
Yet, their behaviors, dating expectations and stubborn, appointed gender roles prove they are anything but feminist.
I don’t blame them.
Just as feminists were once projected to be makeup-free man-haters burning their bras, the 21st century feminist is characterized as a 20-something who watches "Girls."
She also worships any Top 40 artist like Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift, has lots of casual sex and is voting for Hillary Clinton (absolutely no exceptions).
That's not to say a feminist cannot hold these attributions; they absolutely can.
However, we cannot forget what a feminist truly is: someone who strives for political and social equality for women, and believes men and women should be treated equally.
To my fellow peers and self-proclaimed feminists, the following does not automatically “prove” you’re a feminist:
1. How much you love Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift or any other poster child for "white feminism."
This comes is comprised of several layers.
We’ll begin with the most controversial: Lena Dunham is not the epitome of feminism. But I do applaud Dunham for her contributions.
She has shed a once-dim light on rape culture, women's rights and nudity, and she has produced spot-on awkward sex scenes that perfectly mirror our true sex lives.
However, Dunham represents a very slim, very privileged demographic.
She and her peers, like Taylor Swift, promote female friendship and gay rights more so than feminism.
And that is great!
I truly believe to help change the tides of feminism, we must empower one another. This strong component has a stupendous ripple effect.
And I do not want to minimize the occasionally positive impact that public figures like Dunham or Swift have on young women and pop culture alike.
But there is the convoluted allure that comes with being a fan of these ladies: that by loving their work or their brands, you are a feminist.
Because you admire Shoshanna’s quirks, or are certain Adam is every boy you’ve ever dated doesn’t mean you’re championing the feminist fight.
It simply means you respect creative talent.
It appears "feminist" is a label being branded onto anyone in the "Girls"-viewing demographic.
The word has lost its syntax, and it has become a marketing focus group that we are involuntarily and mind-numbingly participating in.
A true feminist examines her convictions that support the equality of men and women alike, and her conscious efforts to diminish all gender binaries, no matter how seemingly positive or beneficial they may be.
After all, Swift continues to pit women against each other in revenge fantasy music videos. So if you’re a true feminist, cool. If you’re a fan of Dunham or Swift, just as cool.
But you’re not a feminist because you’re a fan of Dunham or Swift, period.
2. How sexually liberal you are.
Perhaps it will appear I’m parsing, but I don’t mean to. “Having sex like a dude” is a phrase that only perpetuates double standards.
Rather than being slut-shamed, women are rewarded for “thinking like a man.”
But that’s the whole point. "Thinking like a man" or "having sex like a dude" are phrases that should be banished.
Have sex like someone who wants to have sex.
I’m exhausted from accepting countless behavioral excuses from friends. If you end every sex story with, “Well, if a guy can do it, so can I,” you need to stop.
You can do it because you gave consent.
Having a pissing contest with guys who don’t even realize they’re in one doesn’t prove a damn thing, but it perpetuates everything.
Furthermore, if you want to hold a standard for whom you have sex with, that doesn’t make you a “bad feminist.”
Though I'm not a prude and am no stranger to the occasional casual hookup, I am more selective with sex partners.
I get flack from friends from time to time, and my feminism is always brought into question.
Now, if it were due to the fact I wanted to feed into a Madonna-whore complex, sure, that would make me a "bad feminist."
But I am selective because I know I am more emotionally vulnerable, and I want to spare myself unnecessary heartache. That makes me "emotionally responsible."
If you’re having sex to prove you’re better at the game than any man, you’re not much better than the girl not having sex to prove she’s worthy of any man.
3. Because you’re voting for Hillary.
First off, I rock a Hillary Clinton support decal on my Honda Civic.
Love my girl. I agree with her stance on gun control and with most of her fiscal efforts, specifically her goals and plans for future students to pay for college without taking out hazardous loans.
It’s just a bonus she’s woman.
Solely supporting Clinton because she is a woman is like the voters supporting a Republican candidate without knowing his name, just that “he’s a Republican.”
It’s presumptuous and ignorant.
You don’t have to agree with Hillary; you’re not a “bad feminist” if you have differing opinions.
In fact, it’s great to look at a female candidate, respectively disagree with her but still tip your hat to her.
It’s silly to call yourself a Hillary supporter without knowing a single stance of her platform.
And per conversation, it’s clear thousands of young women are falling victim to this.
Overall, girl power is incredible, and I love that it’s infectious.
But a negative side effect is the boasting behavior of calling oneself a "feminist" without proper information before doing so.
Do not fall victim to the marketing schemes and pressure to stay relevant or hip. Research with helpful literature, and reflect on your own convictions.
Do not adopt celebrities' or your peers' points of views.
If you like a show, you call yourself a viewer. If you have sex, do it because you’re in the mood. And when you vote for a candidate, make sure it's because you truly believe in him or her.
If you want women to have the same rights and to be treated equally, you’re already a feminist.