author: jaecy bells | graphics editor
Encouraging positive change in those around you
I am a 21-year-old artist, university student, and feminist. I am fortunate to be surrounded by like-minded people in my faculty and workplace. My coworkers and peers share an understanding of the feminist ideology. However, in a place of higher learning, it’s easy to forget that other people in my life – friends, and family – do not agree with feminism, or even actively reject it. In my experience, the shitty thing about educating yourself in women’s rights and oppression means that you start to see it everywhere, including the mouths of your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and co-workers.
I am aware of that pushback now, and the frequency of it is alarming because it’s so ingrained into people’s speech and the perception that they don’t even think about the sexist implications that they are making. “That song is super gay,” a classmate says, and when I point out that his word choice is not politically correct anymore, they laugh and tell me to calm down, they don’t mean it like that.
I went on a date with a guy I hadn’t met before, and he made a sexist joke. I flatly pointed out that I do not find that funny—I’m a woman and a feminist, why would I laugh at that? He paused for a moment. “Okay, that’s fine if you’re a feminist, but…you’re not one of those intense, angry, man-hating ones, are you?”
All I did was refuse to laugh at a joke at my gender’s expense, but he immediately asked if I hated men. The connotation of feminists as a shrill, angry crowd of lesbians is false. More than incorrect, this idea of angry women is damaging to the entire movement, because it does what hundreds of years of patriarchal society always does: discredits something feminine.
I asked a fellow student, Mika Abbott, if she had experiences with people in her life that didn’t believe in feminism. She shared a story with me that was a conversation with her high school teacher. Her teacher asked Mika what she planned to take in university, and Mika said, “I’ll be majoring in visual arts, but I also want to take classes like psychology, anthropology, and women and gender studies.”
“Why would you want to take such a class?” the teacher asked.
Mika explained how she had been calling herself a feminist for a while now, and wanted to learn more about the history of it.
“Why would you feel the need to be a feminist?” the teacher asked.
“Why would I not be a feminist?” Mika replied.
Her teacher said that she doesn’t need feminism in her life because she makes the same salary as one of the male teachers at the school.
“In her opinion,” Mika said, “because she’s achieved equality, she doesn’t see [feminism] as something that’s relevant and necessary. But I guess feminism, to me, isn’t just about equality in the workplace and receiving the same wage as my male coworkers. That is just one part of feminism. To me, when I call myself a feminist, I remember the women all over the world that do not have rights to education, and those who have been killed or threatened because they desire to seek one. I think of those who do not have the rights to their body, who do not have the right to choose who they marry. I think of the girls still sold as child brides. I think of the victims of sexual assault that can’t speak up for themselves, and I think about the ones who have spoken up and have not received adequate justice. There are so many other issues. And it bothers me that she believes feminism is a bad word because of its bad connotation.”
If you’re a feminist, you should not be ashamed to admit so. Feminism is not a bad word. To the people that say they don’t need feminism in their lives, I disagree, because the feminist movement is more significant than just you—it’s for the women across the globe that face sexism in their jobs, in their marriages, in their lives. If you, as a woman, have a privilege that shields you from forms of inequality, it’s your responsibility to stand up for those that do not have that privilege.