About a year ago, my sister confided in me that she used to be ashamed I was a feminist. When she was an eighth grader, she disliked that I would try to teach her about women’s rights and felt embarrassed that a group of kids derogatorily labeled me “the feminist.” Now, eight years and two Women’s Marches later, my younger sister is a proud advocate for women’s rights and an active member in several of her university’s feminist student organizations.
Like many other women out there, I was at first skeptical about feminism. It was not until I reached high school that I started to become interested in women’s rights. I became exposed to feminism through social media, which gave me the invaluable opportunity to learn from women all around the world. I slowly but surely began to observe, ask questions and speak up when I felt like someone was treating me or others differently because of our gender.
Sure, I had noticed women are treated differently before I discovered feminism—like how my parents treated my brother differently than they treated me—but I could never quite put my finger on why it bothered me so much. All I knew was that it was unfair and that I should be able to stay out just as late as him or be left home alone at the same age. When I began to research and understand the issue of inequality, I learned that my parents imposed these restrictions on me because as a woman, the world just wasn’t quite as safe for me.
As I got older, I became stronger in my convictions. I began to notice things that, as a 16-year-old girl, didn’t quite affect me directly. The wage gap, sexual assault of female troops and the representation of women in high positions were all issues that became important to me. It was not long after this that I learned the importance of intersectional feminism.
Never one to keep my opinion to myself, I would often speak up about the importance of feminism and treating women with respect. I would talk so frequently and openly that when my 12-year-old sister met a group of kids my age, she felt shame when they told her I was known for being a feminist.
My sister and classmates were not alone in how they felt about feminism. To many, it is a dirty word. Celebrities and female activists have been hesitant to call themselves feminist as many believe it is associated with “men-hating.” What does it say about our society when a movement focused on equality gets reduced to derogatory terms like “feminazi?”
As she got older, my sister learned feminism is not something reserved for women who hate men but is rather about the equality of the sexes. It is about supporting women of all backgrounds and orientations. For both my sister and I, feminism is about creating a better world where women will feel empowered and unstoppable.
Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.