The fear in feminism

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“The Feminine Mystique” is a popular feminist novel written in 1963.

Lena Dassonville, In-Depth editor

The word feminism is fraught with many misconceptions, distaste and even anger. But what really is feminism? According to Merriam–Webster, it is literally the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men.

Whenever the subject is broached, what usually comes to mind is not independent women fighting for equality, but a slew of man–hating, angry women who want, simply, the opposite of equality.

According to English teacher Kate Hutchinson, the word, when first created, was not intended to be used to describe a militant type of person nor push the idea that women were in some way superior to men.

Many members of society operate under the idea that feminism is a movement in which women wish to be the proverbial tip of the hierarchical gender pyramid. Too often are movements defined by extremist “members”. Just like the vast majority of the Muslim faith are not terrorists, the vast majority of those who call themselves feminists are not misandrists.

Those who preach inequality and the superiority of women to men are not feminists–they are simply operating under a blanket term in order to belong to an “acceptable” group, seeing as no one wants to label oneself sexist.

“I always ask my students ‘Which ones of you are feminists’ and no one raises their hands,” Hutchinson said “But then I ask them, ‘Do you believe this, this and this’, and they say yes. So I say, ‘Well, then you are feminists.’”

There’s a deep rooted fear about calling oneself a feminist. People automatically make false assumptions about one’s views, just because of a common misconception of the term. But, it goes beyond misunderstanding what something is. It takes just a quick Google search to get the facts, so why is the misunderstanding of feminism so prevalent?

According to Daniella Goldstein, a sophomore and advocate for feminism, people are afraid and unwilling to accept something that is usually considered taboo in society.

Not only are women economically and politically considered “inferior” to men (the US has not had a single female president), but they are socially unequal as well.

When a male child does something that warrants punishment, the usual excuse is “Well, boys will be boys.” We are taught from a young age that masculinity comes with freedom and femininity comes with restrictions.

Women’s issues don’t just extend to economic and political disadvantages, but encompass a whole spectrum of social injustices. Women deal with cat calling and sexual harassment on a daily basis. Feminism is needed not only because women are inherently equal to men, but because there is still ignorance about the term.

Feminism should be considered neither taboo nor offensive. If one isn’t a feminist, that just shows the person in question does not support equal rights and treatment for all. Feminism and equality for all are not mutually exclusive; just like because someone supports civil rights it doesn’t mean they don’t support equal rights for everyone else– it’s just a specialized group that focuses on a single area that needs improvement. Instead it is trying to focus its efforts for the betterment of society.

“The sense of right and wrong is skewed. And because it has always been this way females don’t notice that they condone it too,” said Goldstein. “Cat calling demeans women, staring at them, whistling and objectifying “compliments” make most women uncomfortable. But they’re too afraid to speak up.”