Get the facts on feminism

Kristin Boyles Op, Ed Columnist

Since it is Women’s History Month, it is only necessary we talk about the absolute taboos of what it means to be a woman in American society. From the feminist movement to #MeToo to International Women’s Day – among other things – women are spotlighting themselves for reasons other than physical beauty now more than ever, as they should be.

Yet, there still seems to be many individuals – no matter their gender – who don’t quite understand what it means to be a feminist in today’s world. I’ve actually seen people cringe and insist that they weren’t feminist if someone told them that they were acting like one – so it’s about time people actually begin to learn what feminism is all about.

Even so, as we hear about and examine womanhood and feminism, we must remember the significance of being an ally, and a friend, to those who may differ from us

Anyone can have their own opinion as to what feminism means to them, but there have to be some fundamentals that we all share. The following are some of those fundamentals that are exactly what more people need to learn about before shuddering at the label.

A feminist is, by no means, a “man-hater.” No one is asking men to give up their jobs for women, nor are they asking for men to be paid less than women.

Rather, a feminist is someone who advocates for all genders to be given the same opportunities. It’s about equality and equity, not about turning the tables. Women would like to receive the same recognition as their male counterparts. Women would like to be given the same opportunities, as well as to be paid the same amount of money for working in the same position as a male.

While the idea of feminism has only continued to gain traction as the years have progressed, there remains an abundance of people who firmly believe that feminists just don’t understand that they do, in fact, share the same privileges as men.

As a counter-argument, I’d raise this point: we have a Women’s History Month. There’s no “Men’s History Month” because there doesn’t need to be. Males have had the dominant presence in society for far-longer than they’d like to admit, and therefore they do not need to have any sort of movement to propel themselves to higher status; they were born into it.

Unlike males, many other individuals were not given this privilege when they were brought into this world. Aside from Women’s History Month, there is Black History Month in February, Pride Month in June, and National Hispanic Heritage Month that runs from September to October, among others.
One common factor between these groups is that they were, and still are to some extent, historically underprivileged in comparison to many American males.

Now, it is time these groups – including feminists – receive the recognition they deserve. Although women have made numerous strides, there is still quite a long way to go before reaching equality to males.

We must become continuously aware of the faults within our society, otherwise they will never be corrected. Feminism is only attempting to speed things along; to flash in neon lights a sign that says “Look, we’re here and we deserve better.”

Aside from the negative connotations that might come with the feminist label, there are many other very natural human conditions that are still considered to be taboos or unspeakable.

Anyone who menstruates will know this. We’ve been taught that having a period is shameful. We must hide our pads or tampons when out in public because God forbid someone knows you’re on your period.

In our younger days, telling someone you’re on your period was equivalent to social suicide. By now, we’ve mastered the art of discreetly opening and disposing of something that happens for a week once a month.

It’s a natural body cycle that should not be shamed, and yet it continues to retain a stigma that suggests that women – or anyone who menstruates – should feel ashamed of themselves for something entirely out of their control. With movements like feminism, we are attempting to counteract this by telling women to embrace their bodies.

Therefore, feminism is important because it allows women to learn to accept themselves for who they are – flaws and all. There’s no argument: Feminism is dismantling the stigma that surrounds so many of our daily actions ranging from using tampons, to having body hair, and possessing cellulite.

Of course, this isn’t to say that feminism is all-perfect all-the-time, as in no way would that be accurate. Just as with any group of individuals, there are those whose actions can taint the reputation of the whole, unfortunately, but the key is to acknowledge these pitfalls as a teachable moment in order to continue to better ourselves.

Without feminism, we might still be stuck in that olden-days style-of-thought where women are supposed to be stick thin, hairless, and acne-free in order to be beautiful. Now, there is a safe community in which women embrace and support one another for their personal decisions regarding their bodies, as well as their dreams and aspirations.

As this month comes and goes, perhaps instead of sticking to the same-old adages and concepts about who women are and who they’re supposed to be, take a moment to reflect on what it means to be a feminist. In a world like ours, a little compassion can go a long way.

Kristin is a sophomore Creative Writing major and an Op/Ed Columnist for The Voice.