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What is feminism?



Feminism: an eight-letter word that in its simplest form is the belief that both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. That is it, as simple as equality between the sexes. Why is it then that society finds the concept of it so unpopular? Being an advocate for feminism, it is absolutely soul crushing to hear people, especially women, claim that they are against feminism. What is the alternative then, I ask? Abiding by the patriarchal norms that society has held women to for centuries? The discussion of gender equality is a conversation that makes people so very uncomfortable and whatever the reason may be, it is something that needs to change. Women make up approximately 50 per cent of the global population, and each and every woman deserves equality in all aspects.

The patriarchy is the subordination of women to men, and the concept of feminism was formed due to the patriarchal norms that surround us every day. There is no denying that the rights and opportunities that women have in this day and age far exceed those that existed even a few decades ago. However, that does not mean that we have achieved gender equality. Pay gaps for equal work still exist, even in Canada. Women are still victims of sexual violence in alarming numbers. The list goes on, and it is a reality we live in. It is because of these inequalities that feminism exists and aims to achieve equality for the sexes in economical, political, and social aspects of life.

A primary concern for those who are against feminism is simply a lack of understanding. Many believe that the purpose of feminism is for women to have more rights than men. However, this is as far from the truth as possible. This belief is due in part to extremists who push the limits and inadvertently portray feminism in a negative light. This, however, is not an excuse to live in a world of ignorance. Throughout their education in university, students are encouraged to become their own critical thinkers, so it is now time to deeply reflect on what feminism (AKA gender equality) really is.

I have seen individuals argue that they are not in support of feminism because they want gender equality, not realizing that the two are the exact same. This is where the awareness aspect comes in. Rather than letting people who do not understand what feminism is live in a world of obliviousness, there must be more awareness to promote the reality of what feminism is.

International Women’s Day (March 8) tends to spark a debate as to why an International Men’s Day does not exist. My answer is simple: the rest of the 364 days are a man’s day. The reality is, society has been accustomed to patriarchal norms for centuries, and though things may be changing, there is much more work to be done. The reason that International Women’s Day exists is that women have had to face inequalities and injustices for far too long, and the time has come that they demand what is rightfully theirs: equality and equal opportunity. Being a feminist is not an unthinkable thing to do: it is striving for equality for all.

For those who believe feminists are radicals, yes, some of them are, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. But remember, a radical and an extremist are two different things. A radical is a person who advocates for political or social reform when needed, and there is no denying that such work is needed when it comes to gender equality. Cheris Kramarae once said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings,” and that is all that is radical about feminists: wanting men and women to be given equal respect, as they are both human beings.

Men should not have to be reminded that they have a wife, mother, sister, aunt, or grandmother to respect women; women should be respected because they are human beings and deserve respect.

Whether it’s presentations in elementary, middle, and high schools, or mandatory course requirements in universities, there is a need for greater awareness of gender equality. If society believes that feminism is a word with a negative connotation attached, we must change the narrative to what the reality of it is. Feminism is not a bad word; it is a concept hoping to achieve gender equality. Next time someone tells you that they are not a feminist, ask them why not. More often than not, the answer will be because they want gender equality. At that point, educate them that two are the exact same.

Image: Flickr

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