I am a feminist. Yep — that terrifying word that tells everyone I’m a crazy bra-burner and man-hater. When the topic of feminism comes up, I admit to my flawed label and multiple times have been hit with the question of “Why?” Some men and women seem confused as to why feminism is even necessary. Women can vote, right? We’re basically equal; “Sexism is a myth, you silly feminazi!” Those words are enough to make me go red in the face. Sorry to disappoint you all, but gender inequality is still very much a reality worldwide.

A woman doesn’t have the privilege of wearing what she wants for fear that a man wouldn’t be able to control himself from raping her. She can also guarantee a fellow female will be all too quick to call her a “slut” for any number of behaviors or outfits. If she is sexually assaulted, she can count on somebody blaming her for doing something sexually provocative. She will probably be made to feel bad multiple times about her sexual choices by both men and women, whether she practices abstinence or promiscuity. She will be objectified and pressured and made to feel that she must simultaneously fit into the dichotomy of “bad girl” and “good girl.”

A woman doesn’t have the privilege of growing up being taught to be comfortable in her body. No matter her body shape, she is taught to feel hideous. She will starve herself and spend time with her fingers down her throat, as tears run down her face, trying to be beautiful. She will throw away copious amounts of money on clothes and makeup to try and be something that will never be tangible. She will be told from a young age that beauty is pain and the compliments she should strive to receive are not, “You’re so clever” or “You’re so kind,” but “You’re such a pretty girl!” She will also consider a knife if it will make her more acceptable. The fact that cosmetic vaginal surgery exists is a reason why I need feminism; I haven’t heard of any cosmetic surgery to make dicks bigger and balls better-looking.

When women attain a powerful position in their field, they can expect to be called bitches if they act any way other than passive. Male co-workers will still talk to them as if they are naive and fragile. Women can expect to be patronized when going to car dealerships or purchasing computers. A single father is an amazing, dedicated man who has sacrificed so much to be with his children; a single mother is assumed to be trashy, a slut and a bad mother. Women will spend their lives subconsciously apologizing for their gender. They will be ashamed of speaking their mind and uncomfortable saying what they think with certainty because women are taught to be overly conscious of what they say as opposed to men, who are taught to own their opinions with loud confidence. An employer might tell them they can’t be hired because they may inconvenience the company due to childbirth. They may be called lesbians because God forbid they don’t want to wear heels and a pencil skirt to work, choose a pantsuit instead or decide that long hair is annoying and pull it back.

I need feminism because if I have a daughter, I want her to grow up in a world where she can be whoever she wants without having to consider all the implications attached to having a vagina. I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable about female experiences like menstruation and pregnancy. I want her to feel beautiful in her own skin and realize that a female can be worthy even if she doesn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model. I want her to own and define her sexuality on her own terms, whether she wants one sexual partner or 15. Most of all, I want her to realize that whether she wants to be a stay-at-home mom or a CEO, she is capable of it, even if the world wants her to believe otherwise.

Editor’s note: Opinion Columnist Julianne Cuba wrote a response to this column.

Copy staff member Melanie Sharif weighs in here. And Naomi Barnett’s response here