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Yes, I’m a Feminist, and No, You Don’t Understand What That Means: An Open Letter

To every boy who has ever told me feminism is useless, sexist, irrational, and has thought less of me based on this point of view:200

Being a feminist is not something you have a right to argue with. Yes, all are entitled to their opinions, but in this circumstance, an uneducated opinion is equivalent to chewed up gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Read carefully, and you’ll understand, but stick to your half-assed opinion regarding women’s rights and you might as well stop reading now.

Until I came to BC, I never identified myself as a feminist, and even today, I don’t truly adhere to all that they stand for. Yes, I strongly believe that all girls deserve the confidence, rights, and opportunities to do whatever they want with their lives, and that is the basis of my point of view. But here in the US, while sexism exists, women have a limited number of issues to defend. Sure, we get paid less for the same work as men, are sexually stigmatized in the media, so on and so forth. But we are safe, have our freedom, and are still capable of becoming what we wish, though it may take a little extra perseverance and drive.

I’m not writing this against someone who has told me, “you cant do this or that,” because that has yet to happen to me. Its not about fighting words or actions taken. It’s about the subliminal messages, ideas communicated, and glances shared that have told me that I couldn’t do it. It’s about the times I haven’t felt like I was enough for someone, and I knew they took my gender as a deficit. It’s about being objectified nearly all the time, subconsciously or otherwise, in simple conversations where I have been labeled as “_____’s girl,” addressed by the name of a boy I had been with rather than my name. It’s about all the times I have been made to feel as though I couldn’t do something, when I know that I can do anything I want, whenever I want.

“Ask me why I’m a feminist,” reads a pin that I display proudly on the backpack that I wear every day. But for a few months, I had taken that pin off of my backpack for lack of an answer to the question. I wasn’t sure why I was a feminist or what that meant to me. I didn’t have an answer for those – mostly guys – who asked me what feminism meant to me, and even if I did have an answer, I didn’t have the confidence to say it to them with conviction.

feministcomicThe answer is complicated, but in the past month has become much clearer and I have become more confident in it; confident enough to speak my mind and stand up for what I believe in. The mere fact that I hadn’t the courage to answer it in the presence of guys speaks to why feminism is necessary.

Maybe I have the confidence to make this argument now because I have been lucky enough to have the support of men who see through society’s clouded expectations. I have always been shown that I am capable, right along with my brothers, that I am talented, along with the entire student body, and that I am important, along with my entire team. I have friends, boys, that make me feel included, though they often subscribe to the antifeminist agenda whether they realize it or not. I have had teachers, professors and mentors that show me that I can do whatever I want to, and have made me believe so. While it’s sad that I needed this kind of validation, I’m lucky to have had it.

I am a feminist because I want to feel equivalent to guys, confident when outnumbered and to avoid the way society has taught me to feel in such a situation: lesser. I am a feminist because I have grown up being taught that I can do whatever I want, as could my brothers, and I want every girl to understand that this rings true for everyone everywhere. I am a feminist because I like to make my own decisions and am fascinated by living a life that is entirely of my own making, not that of someone else’s. I am a feminist because the very fact that we have to show girls they are enough, they are worthy and they should be comfortable in their own skin, proves that they have been taught otherwise all their lives.

I am not a feminist because I hate boys – no, not everything is about you. I am not a feminist because I am arguing that women are completely deprived because we are not, but it could be better. I am not a wild hippy who believes in flashing crowds because of my radical opinions – this argument seems to take it way too far, though it’s comical. I am not a feminist because other people are, or because I feel like I have to be, or because I am an activist.

fem 3Feminism is a fight that I identify with, on a personal level. But certain arguments that challenge its validity are ignorant and aggressive, and prove that people simply do not understand what is being fought for. “I don’t need feminism because I believe in equality, not entitlements and supremacy,” is one particular standpoint held by men and women alike who do not understand feminism at all. Nowhere is it stated that feminism is the movement for women to have “entitlements and supremacy.” This argument is born out of complete ignorance for the situation, as the goal of feminism is to gain equality, because women are seen as lesser than men in today’s society.

We are only fighting to become equal, not to surpass men with special treatment and privileges. If women hadn’t been stifled since creation, receiving minimal rights for the first time in the early 1900’s, feminism would not be necessary, and these are the reasons why it is important. By saying that you “don’t need feminism” because you believe in equality, you are simply admitting that you don’t know the definition of the word itself.

I am a feminist because I believe in myself, as a girl, and I believe that everyone, regardless of gender, can be whatever they want to be and achieve everything they wish to.

So, next time you ask me “Why are you a feminist?,” I’ll have an answer. One that will make you question why you never believed me before.

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