Feminism is not a dirty word

Our society's view on feminism needs to improve

What is your first reaction when you hear the word ‘feminism?’

Maybe you cringe or roll your eyes. Maybe you’re apprehensive to read this column.

Or maybe you’re like me, and know that ‘feminism’ is not cringe-worthy; it’s actually a movement that deserves to be embraced. Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.

Funny, I didn’t see the phrases “man-hater,” “demeaning” or even “crazy” anywhere in that definition provided by Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

In the past few years, it has become more apparent to me that this movement, which people should be embracing, is now stigmatized. With social media accounts like “Meninist,” solely tweeting jokes at the expense of women, female celebrities like Katy Perry and Carrie Underwood proudly declaring they are not feminists and Rush Limbaugh on his popular radio show discussing the evils of “feminazis,” it is not odd for our society to view a woman as a crazy bra-burner the moment she proclaims herself as a feminist.

This needs to end.

We were taught in elementary school “all men are created equal.” Little did we know then how much emphasis was placed on the word ‘men.’

The median earnings for women are usually 80 percent of what men are paid, and even less than that for women of color, according to the American Association of University Women. In Londa Schiebinger’s book Has Feminism Changed Science? she notes 82 percent of men who have higher-up academic positions have a family and only 17 percent of women in higher academic positions have a family.

The feminists who some so eagerly look down upon in this day and age would be commended by those who came years before – the ones who fought for our right to vote, who worked to start Planned Parenthood and ended gender segregation in public schools. Feminists now are fighting to shatter the glass ceiling and end women being paid 80 cents to a man’s dollar for the same work.

I’ve often found just by mentioning to someone I am a feminist, their demeanor toward me changes. I immediately become more susceptible to sexist jokes or lame attempts at debating why our society doesn’t need feminism anymore.

“Optimist: The glass is half full, pessimist: the glass is half empty, feminist: the glass is being raped.”

This is just one of the several “jokes” posted on the popular twitter account “Meninist.” As mentioned before, the Twitter account, which has over 800,000 followers, dedicates its page to belittling women, specifically feminists.

Although the Meninist Twitter account says it is a parody account and their tweets should not be taken seriously, it’s obvious that although it may have started as a joke, it soon brought a large following of people who, according to the comments, I can assume don’t find it funny.

Instead, it appears to me that those who follow social media accounts created exclusively to demean a movement for equality, more often than not, agree with the sexist comments being posted.

Something that promotes equality has quickly been turned into a joke in our society. As women struggle to avoid being the punchline, men, and unfortunately many women as well, continue to put down the feminist movement and those who believe in feminism.

Young girls are growing up in a generation where access to information is substantially easier than it was just a year prior. If they constantly see on the Internet that feminism, which is something to benefit their future, is negative, they may start to believe that and work against all of the rights feminists in the past worked to get.

As singer Kate Nash proudly puts it, “feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan … it means you believe in equality.”

email: marlenat@buffalo.edu