Alyssa Zavislak–Staff Writer
Arguably, there has never been a single united front of feminism. Rather, there have been different types and periods of feminism, some more well-known than others. In the United States, Americans are probably most familiar with the Suffrage Movement, which brought about the 19th amendment (women’s right to vote). While our familiarity with this concept of feminism only goes back to the 19th and 20th centuries, feminism dates back much further. While people commonly like to label feminists as anti-male or lesbian, feminism broadly refers to equality under the law, regardless of sex.
Historically, the evolution of feminism dates back to the early 1600s, during which French women began fighting for equal rights by “holding salons where educated women could interact equally with men,” according to Discovery Channel’s article, “How did feminism start and evolve.” Additionally, various rights movements developed from the Revolutionary War, as well as the French Revolution in the 1700s. However, in the 1800s, as women fought harder for equality, public awareness for feminism grew.While people commonly think of feminists as these hardcore extremist women, feminists fall all over the spectrum. As previously mentioned, in the broadest context feminism refers to women’s equality politically, economically and socially under the law. Yet I find that few women identify themselves as feminists and only see negative connotations associated with the word. According to Sally Peck, writer for “The Telegraph,” “Six out of seven women have rejected the term feminist and 36 per cent of young women cannot imagine a time when men and women were not equal, according to a netmums survey.” Accordingly, the women who rejected the term feminist saw the word as being too aggressive towards men.
Like most social, economic and political movements we have heard about or perhaps experienced, we see the extremists, and they are forever ingrained into our minds. During the Presidential election, I am sure some of us encountered persons that fall extreme to one end of the political spectrum or the other; yet most people are not extremists, but lean one way or another. This is how people see mainstream feminism and develop negative connotations and, thus, refuse to use the F-word.
Instead of seeing those that label themselves as feminists as advocates for women’s rights and empowerment, we immediately envision the woman that demands for only unisex clothing lines as anti-male. Yes, these women do exist, and we are all entitled to our own opinions about them; however, we should not refuse to use the word feminist because we are afraid of certain connotations. We should embrace the word and recognize that feminists, however extreme they may be, all have the same basic, core agenda in mind: equality.
Therefore, both women and men should embrace the term and acknowledge themselves as feminists. Instead of stereotyping feminism as encompassing the fat and hairy women that scream in men’s faces, we should recognize that it comes in all forms and represents a movement towards political, economic and social equality of the sexes. Dare to use the F-word.
Released in print February 20, 2013