Feminist is Not a Dirty Word

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“I’m not a feminist, but…” is a phrase that makes those of us that identify as feminists cringe, while also realizing we have a long way to go with the movement. The majority of individuals uttering this phrase are women. They often preface it with a very feminist argument, such as, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equal rights.” Feminists helped paved the way for many of the freedoms women enjoy today. This leads me to wonder, why are so many women so reticent to call themselves feminists? Easy answer: Rush Limbaugh and his “feminazi” campaign. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem denounced this disparaging term, while exposing Limbaugh’s historical ignorance stating, “Hitler came to power against the strong feminist movement in Germany, padlocked the family planning clinics, and declared abortion a crime against the state – all views that more closely resemble Rush Limbaugh’s.”

Actress Shailene Woodley is the latest in a long line of female celebrities coming out against the word feminist. Woodley said she is not a feminist because she loves men and does not want to take the power away from men. Her misunderstanding of the core principles of feminism is not surprising; the word “feminist” often conjures images of man-hating, bra-burning, hairy legged lesbians. Truth is, we feminists come in all shapes and sizes: white, black, Hispanic, gay, straight, bisexual, single, and married. At our core, we believe in equality of the sexes; feminism does not seek to reverse the patriarchal culture by subordinating men to female power.

Feminists won the right for women to vote in 1920, legal access to contraception (1965) and abortion (1973), criminalize marital rape (1993), brought issues such as rape and domestic violence into the public sphere, and continue to fight for equal pay. So the next time you say you’re not a feminist, understand that you are not supporting the aforementioned rights you now enjoy.

With this blog, I hope to dispel common misnomers surrounding the feminist movement and address current events involving women’s rights. Feminism is not just for women. As John Legend puts it, “All men should be feminists. If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place.”

We should all be feminists, because who wouldn’t want to be associated with a movement that includes badasses like Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, and my personal favorite, Jessica Valenti?

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