Calling yourself a feminist isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
Despite its pretty straight-forward meaning, which according to Dictionary.com is, “advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men”, the term feminism has been misused and misinterpreted for years, developing a reputation that tends to illicit more disdain than anything else.
As someone who has been self-identifying as a feminist since high school, I’ve gotten used to receiving all sorts of negative reactions. I’ve had guys immediately try and argue why I shouldn’t call myself a feminist, and other guys drag famous women’s equality advocates through the mud, as if somehow by discrediting them I’ll change my mind.
There are people who tell me the term feminist is offensive, because it “excludes men,” and other people tell me it’s dumb to believe in feminism, because in 2016 things are equal. And then there’s my favorite: a raised eye, judgmental tone. “Oh. You’re a feminist?”
As if it’s so ridiculous.
And I want to be clear, these reactions don’t just come from men. I’ve had women and girls telling me that I shouldn’t identify as a feminist for as long as I’ve had men doing so.
Earlier this year, the website The Odyssey published an article titled “I Am A Female And I Am So Over Feminists,” in which a young woman details the ways in which she believes feminists are crazy and need to calm down. In the writer’s eyes, feminists ought to stop complaining, because it’s 2016 and things are fine.
That article was posted in May of this year, so I can’t say if the writer’s opinion has changed, but I know that for me it’s really hard to look at the world and believe that everything is as it should be.
In the past month, we’ve heard a presidential nominee brag about groping women and talk about his disapproval of Roe V. Wade, the 1970s Supreme Court decision that allowed women the right to an abortion. We’ve also had several women come forward and say that he sexually assaulted them, to which his response was, “she would not be my first choice.”
Let’s also not forget that #repealthe19th was trending for a while.
Looking at the current political landscape, it’s hard not to be reminded of the fact that white women have only been voting in this country since 1920. (This is nothing to say of the difficulties women of color faced when trying to vote, which lasted into the 1960s.)
Obviously, most Trump supporters likely do not share the sentiment that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, but the fact that this is a candidate that inspires this kind of rhetoric is alarming.
The truth is that when I first became interested in feminism, my own interests were not at the center. While I worried (and still do) about things like the wage gap and rape culture, my interest in women’s rights had a lot to do with girls all over the world who were not as fortunate as I was: girls who were forced into child-marriages or who face violence for simply going to school.
As much as I appreciated others parts of feminism and believed that equal rights were important in all respects, I understood that I was very lucky to have been born into a middle class white family in the United States.
Now in 2016, with the election only a few weeks away, I still do not take for granted how privileged I am, but I also am continuously hurt and outraged by the things I hear from a candidate who has proven both in his policy and words just what he thinks about women. I keep on going back to that Odyssey article, to the woman telling me that I should be happy with the way things are – that I ought to shut up about my feminism.
I only have one reaction: don’t tell me we don’t need feminism when Donald Trump is the Republican nominee.