I have always been a feminist, though I haven’t always known “feminism” was the term for my ideals. As a teenager, I thought that a feminist was one of those college girls who majored in women's studies and never shaved her legs or armpits for the sake of rebellion against societal beauty standards. But, as I’ve grown up and slowly crawled out of my own hidden world and into the murky sunshine of the “real world,” my interpretation of the term “feminism” has expanded to mean more than just "women with hairy armpits."
The dictionary gives a very blah definition of feminism as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Just typing this definition makes me yawn. It seems like something out of a high school history textbook, and therefore, the eyes kind of gloss over the real meaning under those dignified words. The rough and dirty explanation of feminism simply states that we want equal rights for everyone in every area of life, regardless of the gender they were born into or changed to later in life. The term feminism gives the illusion that women are oppressed by men and hence we strive to be more like them. But feminists also ask for men to be equal to women in areas that culture denies this right.
A lot of the time men will hear the term “women’s rights” and exclude themselves from hearing the rest of the conversation, feeling that they are exempt from this topic. However, in 1995 Hilary Clinton gave a speech in which she said, “It is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights.” History has proven over and over again that both men and women can be strong, can be talented and smart. Both genders can be amazing parents and great teachers. Both are capable of brilliant things. There is no limit on what the human mind can do, regardless of gender. When men hear the term “women’s rights,” they should listen. Gender equality is no longer speaking for only women, but for equality of both sexes. Gender equality is only going to happen if both halves of this species make an effort for change.
I have always held individuality at the highest esteem. If you don’t stay true to who you are, who are you? Joseph Gordon Levitt said, “Gender doesn’t have to define who you are. You can be whoever you want to be regardless of your gender.” This is what feminism means to me. It isn’t a term to define women rebelling against traditional roles. It is a term allowing for nontraditional roles and traditional roles to coexist. It is a term that belongs to everyone. Don’t let yourself be convicted to the limits placed by society. I would love to see us living in a world where men can cry, where women are paid the same as men for the same work, where the question on those forms no longer require us to select “male” or “female,” but a world where gender does not limit what you can do.
© 2014 Sckylar Gibby-Brown