by Ashley Peck
The internet is filled with photos of women holding signs explaining why they don’t need feminism. With proud smiles, they display reasons that reveal how misunderstood feminism is. When I see anti-feminist campaigns like this, I see women who disregard the movement that fought for their rights. I see women disrespecting an entire history of revolutionaries who protested, staged hunger strikes, were imprisoned and beaten for you to have the freedom to hold that poster.
Without the suffragettes sacrifices, women wouldn’t have gained the right to vote less than 100 years ago. The bravery and determination of activists changed laws that originally prohibited women from property rights, child custody rights and a higher education. Before the feminist movement, women were forced to submit to laws they had no voice in making, and husbands had legal power over their wives to the extent they could imprison or batter them without punishment.
The movement being attacked is the same one that has provided rape crisis centers and equality in the workplace. The movement is still vital to the well-being of women and men today. On average, women still earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. After emails from Sony Pictures were hacked, actress Jennifer Lawrence found out she was being payed considerably less than co-stars in the movie “American Hustle.” If equal pay still hasn’t been achieved by 2015, and anti-feminists claim men and women are indeed equal today, then the thought of our society without feminism is a terrifying one.
But these aren’t the only people confused about what the movement truly is. I can’t scroll through social media or have a conversation without someone slapping stereotypes on people who simply advocate for equality. Many people are hesitant to identify as a feminist because the word is associated with narrow and negative ideals. If you ask someone if they’re a feminist, they may say no. If you ask someone if men and women should be social, political and economic equals, they will most likely say yes.
As for men who don’t identify as a feminist, think of the women in your life. Your mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmas, wives and girlfriends deserve your support. Feminism not only advocates for women, it supports men as well.
Feminism isn’t angry, man-hating, sexist and overreacting women who only care about a personal agenda. If we’re any of those, it’s angry. Am I angry that an opinion piece is necessary to defend the true meaning of feminism? Yes. Am I angry that women today are fighting for some of the same rights they did decades ago? Yes. Am I angry that these anti-feminists don’t think of the larger picture and consider women in other countries who desperately need feminism? Yes. But, if I have to wear the labels thrust upon me, I will. I’d rather be called those stereotypes than be content in my own dehumanization.
As Roxanne Gay states in her book “Bad Feminist” — “Feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights.”