By Amanda Smith
Up until this year, I was afraid to tell people outside of my circle of friends that I am a “feminist.” Don’t get me wrong; I am not ashamed of the word, not in the least. I have my handy dandy “Of course I’m a feminist!” stickers plastered all over my room. So I started thinking about why I was personally having such a difficult time expressing such a simple word.
And then it hit me: I’m sick of apologizing for being a feminist. I am tired of having to preface my advocacy of feminism with phrases like, “I promise I’m not crazy, but I’m a feminist,” or, “yes I’m a feminist, no I don’t think all men are evil,” or, “I’ve never burned a bra, honest!” I believe in equality of rights and respect for all genders. Yet it feels awfully degrading to have to back up my fundamental beliefs while trying to convince my peers that I am not a man-hating, fanatical, iron-jawed angel.
When my freshman dorm played “Crossing the Line” last Fall Quarter, no more than five out of almost fifty girls “crossed the line” when asked who was a feminist. I am talking about well educated, intelligent, strong Stanford women. How is it that a word such as feminism, a word with the sole purpose of promoting social, political, and economic equality makes us shudder? Shouldn’t we as women have more averse reactions to words and phrases like “rape culture” or “victim blaming”? These are real fears for women. These are real problems. Yet a large percentage of women (I am still talking about intelligent Stanford women) do not know the meaning of these phrases. How can we address these fears if women are unwilling to call themselves feminists? How can we fight against attitudes that foster rape culture, or educate people about the appalling proposed state legislation that threatens to throw women’s rights back into the Middle Ages if women themselves are uninformed and want to remain so?
Honestly, I do not have the entire answer. But I wanted to provide some simple definitions so everyone, men and women alike, can be informed. Feminism is not dead. The word is not taboo. We all need to stop treating the word as such.
Feminism: A continuous series of movements with the intention to create and defend equal political, economic, and social rights for women. It is an ongoing effort to achieve rights, such as the protection of women against domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment and the fair treatment in the workplace and political sector. Yes, I said equal rights. No, the point is not to take over the world or emasculate the men in society.
Rape Culture: A term to describe a society in which rape and sexual violence are considered the norm because they are so prevalent in attitudes, pop culture and media, or are simply condoned by a large portion of that culture. Rape cultures (and yes, there is a rape culture even on this campus) trivialize sexual violence. So please think before making remarks like “I just raped that exam!” It is a serious matter, and it is not a word that we should be desensitized to.
Victim Blaming: This term refers to when a victim of a trauma, sexual assault, etc. is held accountable for the crime committed against them, despite the fact that the victim is not responsible for the incident. Victim blaming occurs when we start to make remarks such as, “She was asking for it with that outfit on,” or, “She shouldn’t have been walking on that street alone at night.” The perpetrator holds responsibility, and we as a society foster rape culture by placing the blame on to a victim who truly needs support, not accusations.
Of course there is more to feminism than I can say in one short blog post, but I hope this can be a first step in the process of getting informed and realizing there is no reason to shudder at “the F word.”