Recently, the United Nations Women’s Goodwill Ambassador gave a stirring address about the negativity that surrounds the concept of feminism.
If the ambassador hadn’t been “Harry Potter” alumna Emma Watson, the video of her speech probably would not have become as popular as it did. And if the words had not been spoken by an attractive young woman who happens to be a famous actress, most likely no one would be threatening to release nude photos of her in retaliation for her powerful words.
I have never previously considered myself a feminist, however disappointed I am with the remnants of a patriarchy that still exists. Despite the fact that I have experienced sexism in a professional environment, I never wanted to associate myself with the movement; it seemed too powerful, too demanding. In Watson’s words, “fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating.”
She has a point, doesn’t she? Just a quick image search of the word “feminism” brings up a slew of feminist representations, both positive and negative. A few actually include the term “man-hating.” Other common denominators? “Hairy-legged,” “special treatment,” and “revenge.”
There is a gap between the perception and overall purpose of the feminist movement, one that I think is best equated to the contrast between the search for black power and that of civil rights. We, as women, do not make claims of superiority as the “better” gender. That is not what feminism is. Every definition that I’ve found includes some variation of the word “equality,” a concept around which the entire feminist agenda is based. Then how does the simple desire for equal pay send a message of aggression?
A hundred and fifty years or so ago, we were achieving monumental firsts. It is commonly held that in 1870, Louisa Ann Swain became the first woman to vote in a general election in the United States. Just under 50 years later, Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in 1916. In more recent years, we’ve begun to claim smaller, but no less important, firsts, such as Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to receive the Academy Award for Best Directing in 2010.
But there are some sought-after critical firsts which have been left unclaimed. Even though the first woman to run for President of the United States was Victoria Woodhull in 1872 (over 100 years, or roughly 26 presidents ago), we have yet to see a female commander in chief.
Clearly there is still a long way to go, and not just in terms of female firsts.
Why is it that college fraternities host parties with required female-to-male ratios? Why is it that the Miss America pageant, led by an organization that calls itself the nation’s largest scholarship program for women, still requires competitors to strut across the stage in a swimsuit on national television? And why is it that people are threatening to sexually exploit an intelligent, powerful young woman for a speech condemning that very behavior?
I am here to proudly declare that I am a feminist, because I don’t believe that those should even be questions. I hope you’ll join me, because male or female, this movement needs you.
Kristin Schrier is a news writer at The Triangle. She can be contacted at [email protected]