The dirtiest ‘F’ word


Maggie Olson

Maggie Olson

There’s an F word that makes people cringe. People want to keep a distance between themselves and this word so much that sometimes when it is spoken aloud people physically back away.

This word has been dragged through the mud, done some mud-slinging of its own and carries so much baggage I was scared to put it in the title of this article: Feminism.

Up until this article went to press, I never publicly volunteered the fact that I was a feminist. If someone asked, I would say, “Yeah” with a slight laugh, as if I was trying to apologize for myself.

It felt like something I had to admit to, not something I could state with confidence because so many people view feminism as outdated and unnecessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We, as women, can have virtually any job we want, but we also receive 77 cents for every dollar made by our male counterparts in the workplace.

We can buy property instead of being bought as property, but the media gives us unrealistic standards of beauty and turns us into sex objects. When we are identified and treated as objects, we are no different than any other piece of property.

We can vote, but we are under represented in government. Women comprise less than 19 percent of our current federal Congress yet they comprise more than 50 percent of the U.S. population.

It doesn’t sound radical to me to identify as a feminist who seeks a solution to these problems, but any mention of this F word brings to mind a bra-burning, man-hating, anti-shaving, frivolous-lawsuit-filing, can’t-take-a-joke type of feminism, and that’s not me at all.

These stereotypes are associated with a specific group that does not represent feminism any more than a single church represents all of Christianity.

And maybe that’s the problem. The word “feminism” means as many different things to as many different people as “Christianity” does.

When people object to feminism, they often object to fringe viewpoints, or even their own stereotyped image of a fringe viewpoint.

What we lose in this debate over the extreme elements of feminist philosophy is our focus and commitment to the core value of equal rights and opportunities for women.

At its core, that is what feminism is about: equal rights and opportunities for women. That means that what feminism does and what it fights for varies across the globe.

In “The Brown Girl’s Guide to Labels” by Mathangi Subramanian he writes, “Western feminists fought for the right to work, while third world feminists acknowledged that women did most of the world’s work, and were therefore fighting for the right to rest.”

Modern feminism recognizes that the complexity of our identities makes it difficult to focus on women’s liberation as solely a gender issue, so it connects its efforts with movements against racism, classism, ableism, transphobia, etc.

When we treat “feminism” like a dirty word, it’s like saying, “Women don’t deserve equal rights.” It undermines the suffering of women across the globe, women who want nothing more than the right to be respected as a human being.

If the word “feminism” sounds dirtier than the fact that 25 percent of American women and 35 percent of women across the globe experience sexual or physical violence, perhaps it is time to reexamine the issue.

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