Here are eight words that make me cringe, particularly when they emerge from the mouth of a college student with two X chromosomes:
“I don’t consider myself to be a feminist.”
We’re all entitled to our opinions, but there’s a difference between being outspoken and just being plain ignorant. It is completely deplorable to hold this position as a woman pursuing an education at a public university. Here are the repercussions of such a phrase.
1) You carelessly remand the centuries’ long work on the part of women’s rights activists — I was always told not to assume because it makes an ass out of you and me, but it seems that female non-feminists don’t believe in their own right to vote, hold public office or even attend this university. These fundamental rights were the result of hard-fought battles by activists, who were jailed and ostracized every step of the way.
To say you are not a feminist is to devalue all of their efforts. Feel free to drop out of college and your chosen field of study. Make sure to stop taking your birth control, as that was a creation made possible by feminist advocacy. When you find the right boy for you, take comfort in the fact that if your point of view was still acceptable, you’d be his property and have no right to take your own wages. These are all connotations of the dreaded phrase.
2) You forget the struggles yet to be won in the United States — If you’re worried about coming off as too socially conscious, don’t worry, feminism is compatible with the selfish and apathetic lifestyle our generation so adores. To be an activist feminist in the United States is to act in your own self-interest. As it stands right now, our male peers will earn 27 cents more on the dollar for the same exact work. Over a lifetime, that is a significant gap in income.
That’s right, the mouth breather in your group project will earn more money than you simply because he’s packing heat, not on the basis of his abilities or work ethic. There is a movement to change this income inequality through the Lily Ledbetter Act, a federal law regulating equal pay for equal work. Unfortunately, Congress continues to prevent the passage of this legislation. Widespread utterance of this dreaded phrase isn’t helping the case that our representatives should even bother waking up from the Dark Ages.
3) You cast aside our sisters in the third world like disposable sanitary napkins — From our lofty positions of privilege, it seems as if the battle for equality is for the most part won. To be blunt, it is easy to hold this point of view when no one is throwing battery acid into your eyes as you walk to class. Women are not treated with respect in the world at large. Education for women is not a priority. Domestic abuse and rape are not punished. Sexual freedom is a pipe dream, as even sexual pleasure is destroyed through female circumcision.
The injustices committed against women outside of the United States are too gruesome to ignore. We must not forget that these are injustices against the human race as a whole, as the world is deprived of productive citizens lost to repression.
Perhaps I’ve been too harsh. Maybe the reason for the utterance of this dreaded phrase is less the fault of the supposedly “non-feminist” college student and more the result of the negative slant and stereotypes associated with the word itself. The image of a bra-burning, man-hating woman comes to mind, but we must step back and realize the basic nature of the word: a belief that men and women are equal and should be treated as such. To quote Hillary Clinton, “Women’s rights are human rights.” Surely it is not too radical to assert that in a democracy such as ours, human rights are valued and so too should the feminist cause.