Feminism may not be as bad as your mother thinks it is
by Monica Cruz
I remember the time I casually mentioned to my mom that I was a feminist. Considering that over the years my mom has definitely shed a lot of her more conservative beliefs, residual from her born-again Christian upbringing, I didn’t expect her disapproving reaction. “Monica, you really shouldn’t call yourself that. You’re a feminine, heterosexual young woman, people are going to think you’re some butch chick who tries to act like a guy.” I promptly recited the definition of feminism, which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the theory of political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” I asked her if she agreed with this idea and she said she did. “Congrats Mom!” I exclaimed, “You’re a bra-burning, butch feminist.”
Why are women so hesitant to label themselves as feminists when they believe in the basic idea that women and men should be equal? And how did the label feminist become explicit? Unfortunately the problem is as simple as the media’s portrayal of the second wave feminist movement back in the 60s and 70s. In actuality, no bras were burned in any feminist protest. And though the idea of equality for lesbians was first brought to the mainstream with this movement, feminists aren’t all lesbians. It’s unfortunate to think this ignorant view still exists today.
Last November when Katy Perry was awarded “Woman of the Year” at the Billboard Music Awards she felt it necessary to state in her acceptance speech that “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.” She certainly isn’t the first female celebrity with legions of young, impressionable fans to deny being a feminist like the label is akin to being a racist or homophobe. On multiple occasions Taylor Swift has adamantly denied being a feminist. In an interview for the Daily Beast Swift stated that she doesn’t believe in “guys versus girls.” Even more disappointingly, Beyoncé has denied being a feminist, telling UK Harper’s Bazaar that she doesn’t “feel its necessary to define it… I need to find a catchy new word for feminism, right? Like Bootylicious.” I definitely do not believe any of these women are perfect examples of feminists, but the influence they have is unmistakable.
If a successful, independent and talented celebrity refuses to label herself as a feminist what does this say to the millions of young fans who idolize these women? And if I hadn’t done my research and been mature enough to make my own decision, how would my mom’s (who is one of the most intelligent, independent and hard working women I know) negative reaction impact my view of feminism? The answer is obvious: we listen to those we look up to, and being shown that feminism is something to run away from is harmful when perpetuated to young girls and boys alike.
Considering how much the idea of coming out propelled the LGBTQ movement for equality, I wish there could be some sort of feminist equivalent to coming out. What if women, especially women in the public eye, “came out” and proclaimed they are feminists? Once the negative connation is taken away, young girls and boys can begin to explore the ideas and theories of feminism. For example, though TSwift and her slut shaming lyrics don’t represent feminist ideals, her positive take on the word can lead her millions of young fans to discover Gloria Steinem, bell hooks and Simon de Beauvoir. There is no shame in believing men and women are equal so there is no shame in being a feminist. Ladies and gents alike, lets stop making feminism a dirty word.