Even the word has become a political football. But it just means equality, and I’m good with that. Are you?
Yes, I’m a feminist. For Valentine’s Day, instead of flowers or chocolates, my husband bought me a Nasty Woman shirt. And I fell even more in love with him.
But maybe we are overthinking this feminism thing. I’m not burning my bra (although some days, it’s tempting), and I’m not staging a sit-in at the local Hooters. But I do believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. I don’t think that’s a particularly controversial stance, and I also believe I’m in pretty good company. When you boil it down, that’s all feminism is—the desire for women to have fewer double standards, more balanced representation, and equal standing in society. All the other connotations and tropes are just the political and social ornaments we hang on the word as a result of our own personal experiences and judgements.
People want to cast women’s rights as being about abortion or about a certain class or race. And women tend to project onto feminism what they want it to be, which add lines of division that pit one group against another. But why can’t feminism be the thing that unifies us instead of dividing us?
When we think of feminists, it’s easy for our minds to immediately conjure up Gloria Steinem and Sojourner Truth, and they are surely gladiators for women’s rights. But those women embody feminism at a time when women had far fewer rights. When you think of a feminist today, how about imagining public figures who just speak openly about supporting equality for women, like Beyoncé? Alicia Keyes. John Legend. Dustin Hoffman. My own dad.
In an interview with Reuters, actress Emma Watson said, “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.”
And last year, actress Jennifer Lawrence told Harper’s Bazaar, “I don’t know why that word is so scary to people; it shouldn’t be, because it just means equality. If we are moving forward in a society, you are feeling stronger as a woman and you want to be taken more seriously. You don’t have to take away the wonderful traits that come with being a woman: We are sensitive. We are pleasers. We’re empathetic. All those things that can keep you from asking for what you want or making mistakes.”
This International Women’s Day is hyper-charged because we’re living in such a fractured society with so many hot-button issues being underscored on the biggest stage. But I think most of us would agree that gender equality is still out there on the horizon. Whether it’s equal pay or equal representation in politics, business, and STEM fields, we have a ways to go to something that looks like balance. We may not all agree on how to get there, but most of us would concur that it will be easier to reach together instead of divided.
But if the word feminism bothers you, forget the word. Labels are useless anyway. Embody the sentiment. Mentor a young woman at work. Join a women’s book group. Run for office. If you can’t run, support a friend who can. Make sure your daughter knows being smart is way more powerful a tool than being beautiful. Lose the heels. Or just walk through the world with as much confidence as you can project, even if you aren’t always feeling it.
I am proud to be a feminist. Or whatever you want to call it.