Feminism: The Importance In Removing The Stigma From The New F-Word

by Samantha Z.

I am a strong-willed, independent and stubborn woman. I have confidence to stand up for what I believe in, voice my opinions if I see something wrong and actively speak my thoughts on women’s rights.

So, why is it that for most of my life, I did not identify as a feminist? For the same reasons mega-stars like Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga also do not consider themselves feminists, though they are self-sufficient women who believe in human rights: We don’t understand the true definition of feminism.

We have this warped, pseudo-definition and stigma that comes along with the “F" word. Women shy away from identifying themselves as feminists because they do not want to be seen as the stereotypical man-hating, “femi-nazis.”

There are two main reasons people do not use the “F" word” in conversation: it’s alienating and unattractive.

It falls in the same category as politics and religion: a don’t talk-zone.

Humans are social creatures. We are wired to fall into a herd-like mentality and most of us are terrified of being ostracized from society or seen as different (it’s probably why public speaking is ranked as one of the top human fears).

Sadly, feminists are more often than not part of this excommunicated group, due to a misguided interpretation of the word “feminist,” and because of a few extremists who gave the movement a bad name.

I have even fallen prey to this mentality toward feminism. In high school, if you asked me to depict a feminist, I would have probably drawn a belligerent, unreasonable woman, burning her bra and cursing out the male gender, telling other women who aren’t feminists to piss off and to go back to their kitchens. You can imagine my surprise when I realized how wrong I was in my thought process.

After coming to terms with my own false ideas of feminism, I started questioning those around me about their beliefs, too. Surprisingly, most people, especially women, did not agree with feminism and identified more so as “humanists.”

Now, do not mistake me, I am all for human rights, but gender issues has its own place amongst the world’s problems; it cannot be ignored or denied due to society’s uncomfortable feelings toward the word “feminism.”

There is no one single nation where all are equal and until that day, we must keep working toward it.

Women are still not paid the average of their male counterparts in first-world countries and most women in third-world countries are treated no better than cattle.

Rape is the fourth most committed crime in India. In 2010, the United States of America was ranked in the top 10 for rape crimes.

These gender and psycho-sexual issues have not found resolution, and this is due to the shackles of gender roles still placed on our society.

Emma Watson, in her enlightening speech to the UN last year, addressed the problem of gender biases and how they not only affect women, a subject often ignored:

"We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. "If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled."

It must become clear that the movement of feminism is to celebrate both genders and to liberate every man and woman from the gender roles placed upon them.

In the future, I can foresee feminism potentially being a movement that will open new opportunities for the LGBT community by further shedding the deep-seeded beliefs toward what makes a man a man and a woman a woman.

Feminism is about more than just gender equality; it’s liberation from sexism across the board. The only way to a brighter, more compassionate future for men, women and all the shades of gender in between, is to begin redefining the meaning feminism in your own mind.

Today, rather than debating people on whether or not they are feminists, I will ask them a simple question instead:

"Are you a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes? "Yes?"

Well, I hate to break it to you, but you are, indeed, a feminist.

Feminism, as defined by one Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TED talk, is “A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes,” nothing more, nothing less.

A feminist is not a lonely, unmarried woman without children, who wants to eradicate men from the Earth. A feminist is not lacking in feminism in anyway; she is not trying to become a man.

A woman who is a feminist is merely aspiring to become what she was always meant to be: an equal.

My genuine hope for the future by spreading awareness on the subject is for both men and women to no longer be afraid to identify themselves as what they truly are: feminists.