By Sarah Choate
As I sat in the student center at HICCUP café, I overheard a conversation among a group of friends. One student said, “I’m not a feminist at all. I consider myself an equalist though.”
Her friends all nodded in urgent agreement. I sat looking at them with my mouth open — eyes wide. If you believe in equality between men and women, are you not a feminist?
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, feminism is defined as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” This means that anyone who thinks that men and women should have equal say and representation in their personal and public lives should be proud to call himself or herself a feminist.
Feminism, the new “f-word,” if you will, brings with it a stigma and stereotype that incites incredibly strong emotions in the hearer. It calls to mind rallies from the ‘60s and ‘70s — people think of feminists as man-haters who refuse to shave their legs. In reality, this is not often the case.
Many people, including some influential female pop stars, believe this stereotype of the raging feminist. According to an article on the Atlantic’s website, recording artist Katy Perry said, “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women,” when she accepted Billboard’s Woman of the Year award in 2012. Despite the fact that Perry is an influential woman making her way in the traditionally male-dominated music industry, she felt the need to clarify that she is not a feminist.
The debate over the definition of feminism has come into the spotlight again recently, this time between American pop star Selena Gomez, 21, and up-and-coming New Zealand indie starlet Lorde, 17. According to an article on MTV’s website, Lorde said of Gomez’s top hit, “I’m a feminist, and the theme of her [Gomez’s] song is, ‘When you’re ready come and get it from me.’” Lorde expressed concern about the way women are portrayed as objects of sexual satisfaction, waiting for nothing more than to fulfill a man’s sexual desires. She called the song, and as a result, called Gomez an “anti-feminist.”
Gomez retaliated, saying that Lorde was actually an anti-feminist because she “is not supporting other women.” Both women agree that the plight and situation of women today needs to be improved — so why the hostility? If both of these artists are “pro-women,” then why are they arguing over whether they appear “feminist” or not?
The reason for this particular feud and for the ongoing media debate about how women should be represented and how they should behave is due to a basic misunderstanding of the definition of the feminist movement. For far too long we have relied on faulty stereotypes to determine how we view feminism.
While it is true that some feminists are radical, it is a complete stretch to define the entire feminist movement as radical. That mentality is the same one that blames the entire Muslim religion and all Muslims for the misdeeds of a few radical Islamic terrorists. We can no longer base our political opinions on stereotypes.
You may not agree that men and women should be paid equally for equal work and have equal rights, and though I would disagree with you, that is your prerogative, and you are free to believe that. However, if, like the students I overheard at HICCUP, you decide that you are an equalist, I implore you to call yourself by your proper name: if you believe in equality between men and women, do not be afraid to call yourself the f-word — a feminist.