Silencing the Fear: Coming Out As A Feminist
In a day and age in which many people believe feminism is no longer needed or just outright misunderstand what feminism actually is, coming out and saying the words "I am a feminist" can be quite daunting. Doing so as a teenager is particularly intimidating. Considering that so many people our age believe stereotypes such as all feminists are lesbians who don't shave their legs and burn their bras, it’s hardly surprising that many of us are reluctant to openly declare our belief in gender equality.
The truth is feminism is only a dirty word because many people don't know what it actually is. It's not hard to find out the truth, though. Even Wikipedia knows that "Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. In addition, feminism seeks to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment." This movement is all about equality, yet many people are under the impression that it's about a power struggle: that women want to be more powerful than men.
Once you truly understand what feminism is, it’s easier to justify calling yourself a feminist and to defend your decision to other people. Few people will disagree with the concept of equality, particularly when you can explain that feminism expands beyond gender, to fighting racism and homophobia amongst other things. The only people who will call you out on these beliefs are narrow-minded people, especially those in positions of privilege who enjoy their dominant positions and feel equality would constitute a personal loss of power. They represent the very reason why feminism is still needed.
Even if one understands what feminism is, though, there seems to be a misconception that if you call yourself a feminist, you have to go shouting it from the rooftops, which can seem especially intimidating for some. In reality, this is not a part of calling yourself a feminist -- in fact, pushing your feminist identity on everyone you meet probably contributes to the negative stigmas surrounding feminism. Instead, start your own feminist zine, write articles for feminist websites like this one, call out sexism when you see it. If it does come up in conversation, state you are a feminist and defy the negative stereotypes. Show people that a feminist can look any way she wants to, and that a feminist doesn’t even have to be a she, that feminism is inclusive of all genders.
Above all, it’s important to come out and say "Yes, I am a feminist!" because as long as the patriarchy enforces the idea that feminists are filled with hatred, we will never advance in our fight for equality. Recognize that any stigmas associated with labelling yourself as feminist come from a patriarchal society that doesn’t want to change the injustices feminism seeks to end.
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