I have come to realize not everyone embraces and understands feminism like I do. Recently, I received hateful comments about identifying as a feminist, so I feel it is crucial to clarify what the label means to me.
I was raised in a small Vermont town by two strong-willed, passionate, and independent women: my mother and my grandmother.
My mother was left with two children and a baby to raise, a mortgage to pay, and a funeral to arrange when my father committed suicide 17 years ago. I was only four years old.
Of course, this was too much for a working class mother, so she moved my brothers and me into my grandmother’s home in West Pawlet, VT. There, we shared a bedroom.
My mother made sure we received the very best education, were granted with the same opportunities as everyone else, and were able to be ourselves.
The average childcare fees for one infant can range from $3,800 to $13,480 a year, according to the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies. Unable to find an affordable daycare, my mom was never able to finish attending her business classes.
My grandmother helped out as much as she could, but she had been battling my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s disease for years. Today, he can no longer remember how to speak.
These two bold women are my role models. They have shown me that women can do anything and that the greatest of obstacles can only make a person stronger.
To me, feminism means strength. It means fighting back, speaking out, and having the freedom to make my own choices, decisions, and values. I believe all people, whether female, male, or transgender, should be treated fairly and equally, without preference to gender.
However, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in three women will be raped, assaulted, coerced into sex or otherwise beaten in her lifetime all because she is female.
Women are still only paid 77 cents to every dollar a man earns in every profession, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. Men’s work is still valued above women’s, even when their qualifications, education, and experience are the same.
For decades within the United States, female participation in political and business leadership has stagnated around 18 percent. Why? Because women are not encouraged to be leaders or to voice their opinions to the extent that men are.
If the media is only showing women as submissive and sexual beings and that all women should strive for one impossible standard of beauty, then this becomes the prominent opinion of the population. Today, one in four college women have an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorder Association.
“To me, feminism means strength. It means fighting back, speaking out, and having the freedom to make my own choices, decisions, and values.”
I am a feminist for all of these women, for my mother, my grandmother, and the women who are discouraged, downcast, and degraded in our patriarchal society. I recognize the significance of all of these issues. I am advocating for change and demanding equality. Why aren’t you?
The next time you want to call a woman a ‘bitch’ because she has an opinion or judge her because of her views, think about what she is fighting for, who she is fighting for, and why you haven’t joined the cause. And don’t think that men can’t be feminists, because they can.
Feminism is equality.