Last Thursday, on March 8, was International Women’s Day (also known as International Working Women’s Day). Although in recent years it has become more of like a less-romantic Valentine’s Day, where men express their love toward women, its roots are in political and social awareness, having begun as a Socialist political date to protest sexism and sex/gender discrimination. Today it’s also a day for certain men to think they are very clever and ask, “When is International Men’s Day?” (one of my professors cleverly responded, “cada otro día” or “every other day”). But aside from that, the discussions of women’s rights and women’s progress last week, particularly with the theme of women sticking together and supporting each other made me think of one of my least favourite phrases:
“I’m not a feminist, but…”
No, stop. I see and hear this all the time. “I’m not a feminist, but I think Rush Limbaugh’s comments to Sandra Fluke were pretty gross.” “I’m no feminist but I think Jessica Valenti is pretty cool.” “I hate feminism but why are women paid less than men?” I hear my friends say it and post it on Facebook and tweet it and I’m tired of it.
Look, there are reasons that women choose not to identify as feminists. Feminist movements have often focused on white, middle or upper class women, and many poor women, women of colour, transgender women, etc. have felt excluded from or even hurt by the movement. If that’s your reason for not identifying as a feminist, that is totally understandable. But so often, when women (particularly women around my age) say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” the phrase translates to “I’m not one of those icky man-haters, but…” And I think that’s just ridiculous.
(On a related note, you don’t have to pretend to find sexist jokes funny or say you don’t like other girls because they’re “catty” just to fit in with your guy friends. Really.)
Here’s a list of things that feminists can be: young, old, rich, poor, white, black, smart, stupid, kind, mean, female, male, straight, gay, bisexual, virgins, experienced, happy, sad, angry, college graduates, high school dropouts, fat, thin, working women, homemakers, single women, married women, politicians, teachers… the list goes on.
Sure, some feminists probably hate men. Some feminists don’t shave their legs or wear deodorant. Some feminists are all of the stereotypes you might think they are. But if you think women are equal to men and deserve equal rights, you can be a feminist. Don’t be afraid to give yourself that label if it’s one you believe in.
We are proving every day that we can be women and leaders and the gender gap is closing slowly, but there’s still a long way to go. Being proud to say that you deserve equality is another step toward getting it. I’m a feminist, and I want to wish everyone a happy belated International Women’s Day, and a happy Women’s History Month!
– Lauren Mateer
LeadHer™ Intern, Campus Calm™
Learn more about Lauren here.