Feminists Walk Among Us

Why won’t feminists call themselves feminists? I am a feminist. This is because I think women are the superior gender. Men are nothing but boorish flanks of meat, flogging about our planet trashing everything. War, pollution, hunger, disease, and nail polish can all be blamed on men. Now someone get me a can of Schlitz so this author can relax into her anger.

Yes, I’m exaggerating – but I’m still a feminist. I also enjoy nail polish and men, both in non-toxic forms. And yet for my entire adult life, I have had to defend calling myself a feminist. I want to know – why is feminism considered such a dirty word?

Feminism is the idea that men and women should be treated equally by society and in the eyes of the law. And if people see you differently because you’re a woman, rise above it and make them see who you are as a person. Never take for granted that as Western women, we enjoy more rights than many of our sisters across the planet. Poke fun at yourself whenever possible. And repeat. Now, is that really so bad?

I officially became a feminist my sophomore year in college. I was attending a small, liberal-arts school that was a fish bowl of traditional values. (How traditional? My sophomore year we were rumored to be named the most homophobic school in the nation by the Princeton Review. I never saw this in print but suffice to say, it didn’t seem like a wild, off-point accusation.) I decided to join the women’s group. Unfortunately, the entire women’s group had graduated out the year before and no one had bothered to replace it. Luckily, the administration was on board to help us get it up and running. So a friend and I decided to go for it.

This proved interesting. A common conversation I had in college, usually with a lacrosse player over a keg of beer, was to talk about what it meant to be a feminist. “No, no, we’re not anti-men. We just don’t want to be judged first on our gender,” I’d insist, drinking bad beer I didn’t yet know was bad. In response, I’d often get “That’s cool. You just don’t look like a lesbian.” Then everyone did shots. End scene.

Sure, some feminists are lesbians. Probably just as many are not. And yet, feminists have a reputation for being so anti-men (and since when are lesbians anti-men?) that it bleeds into their sex lives. And there’s more. Amy Siskind is the co-founder of The New Agenda, a non-partisan group devoted to women’s rights. As she wrote, “The [feminist] movement had devolved and morphed into a clique instead. And this clique only allowed members with certain rites of entry: liberal Democratic women who were pro-choice.” A result of this perception? As Siskind reports, only “20 percent of women are willing to use the term feminist about themselves and 17 percent would welcome their daughters using that label.”

But feminism isn’t a term just bandied about by the far left. Sarah Palin recently invoked iconic suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who opposed birth control. According to Ms. Palin, “More young women agree with these feminist foremothers [on abortion] than ever before…And believe in that culture of life, empowering women by offering them a real choice.” Susan B. Anthony opposed abortion primarily because, at the time, it was an extremely dangerous medical procedure. This time was 1869, before antibiotics.

But does Ms. Palin consider herself a feminist, despite riding the shoulders of Betty Friedan to a vice presidential nomination and subsequent multiple podiums? It’s hard to tell. Consider her recent Tweet: “Who hijacked term: ‘feminist’? A cackle of rads who want 2 crucify other women w/whom they disagree on a singular issue: it’s ironic (& passé).” No word on what Palin considers a cackle. Did she mean a gaggle of geese? The cackling of hyena-like women?

Certainly, the fact that feminism is a term ripe with political connotation makes it more problematic for some. So it’s time to clear the haze. If you are a working woman who is grateful for a society which allows her to embrace her career, aren’t you a feminist? If you’re a woman staying home to raise your boys and girls to respect one another on the basis of character and not gender, aren’t you a feminist? If you are a man who believes people should be judged first for their character, not their reproductive parts, then are you not a feminist?

You are a feminist. Even if you shave your legs. Even if you wear lipstick. Even if you are a man.

So let’s all embrace the term. Let’s be proud of the work of our feminist foremothers and keep the movement going. While women have made great strides towards equality, there is still work to be done. In the United States, women make 78 cents for every dollar a man earns in the United States. The wage gap is alive and well. Of all women, one out of four will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. So, men and women of the world, let’s take back feminism and make it our own again.

I’ll bring the keg of beer.

Image: Janine

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.