In-depth column: Feminism — more than just a word

Women.

We have the right to own property. We have the right to vote. We have an equal right to participate in activities that receive government funding.

We’ve made all this progress and yet, it’s still polarizing to call yourself a feminist.

In modern-day America, feminism has become a dangerous word. If someone claims that they’re a feminist, they’re either heralded as an icon or thrown to the dogs. If someone denounces feminism, suddenly they’re the Antichrist.

The hesitation many feel in advocating for feminist ideals can be attributed to one simple repetition in history: those with strong views often become ignorant to any other belief. This type of tunnel-vision is what has fueled misogyny, but ironically, it’s also how the “feminist movement” is self-destructing. Too many so-called “feminists” have gone power-hungry and abandoned the equality movement for a hyper pro-women stance. The other end of the spectrum leaves us with “feminists” in the blandest sense of the word — those who are quick to shout “Girl Power!” and bash Trump, but never take the time to educate themselves on the history behind what they’re saying.

Throughout the past few years, especially under The Trump Administration, our country has seen it all. Racist, homophobic, transphobic and sexist comments have provoked criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. Sure, having a heavily conservative government is not ideal in such a crucial time for the feminist movement, but simple criticism — hate focused directly on Trump — is, simply, unproductive. Solely demanding broad equality will not take us anywhere.

Graphic by Lauren Emrich

We can’t put so much stock in one word if we have nothing to back it up.

Twenty-first century feminism is, in all honesty, stagnant. Many have become so absorbed in Trump hate that they’ve lost sight of the true reason for fighting. How many people that attended the last two Women’s Marches as an anti-Trump gesture will never be seen speaking about the actual root cause of the march?

Feminists — real feminists — cannot let our reputation, our entire movement, continue to be tattered and skewed. We can start by changing the rhetoric of the feminist movement. It can no longer solely be white feminism, the type of feminism that only pertains to those similar to us. But on the other hand, women cannot be empowered by putting down men.

And, instead of simply demanding that things be done for us, we need to make things happen for ourselves. We must take advantage of any education that we are able to. We must stay up to date with the news and politics. We must exercise our right to vote — we can’t expect representation or progression when we aren’t being a representative of the feminist movement ourselves.

For anyone who thinks they can’t take action: you are never too young, too poor or too insignificant to be an activist. Take part in enacting change at a local level, even at a school or community level, by starting groups or clubs for what you believe in. You can always talk to your school board about improvements that can be made to your school’s culture.

We can’t let one word keep us from the success of an entire movement.

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