Feminism is not a dirty word

Feminism is a misunderstood term. So many people are against the movement, and only a minority of those against it knows what being a feminist means. Many more agree with the values of feminism, but believe sternly they are not one.

This column aims to clear some of that ambiguity up. First, it is important to note that feminism doesn’t mean the same thing to every feminist. So, just because one doesn’t agree with every belief of another who identifies as feminist, doesn’t mean either person is wrong.

Feminism broadly equates to the belief that all sexes are equal and deserve equal rights. Now, for some that means women should assimilate to male culture to achieve equality. For some, that means the rights should be equal but adjusted to the individual needs of the genders.

I personally ascribe to the second version, I believe women should receive equal rights, but by being uniquely female, not by assimilating to the male-dominated culture.

Men and women have different needs, but those differences don’t make one superior and one inferior.”

— Jocelyn Gibson

In my mind, men and women deserve equal status in society, but men and women are not identical in all aspects of life. A man would not likely need leave from work to give birth, however, men should be given time off for paternity leave when a partner gives birth. The end result of time off is the same, but the reasons are different.

Men and women have different needs, but those differences don’t make one superior and one inferior. There are feminists, however, you believe that in order for women to achieve equality, they need to embody more masculine standards.

I know other feminists who don’t want children, who are career-focused, who wouldn’t ask for time off for a “female” reason, and that’s totally fine. That’s the choice for the individual to make.

I am a little more traditional. I do want children, and I let that affect my career choices because it’s a priority in my life.

The one agreement feminists need to come to, however, is that both of those choices are valid. My choice to fill the traditional female role shouldn’t be seen as less than the choice of a woman who wants to focus on her career.

I will fight for her rights to break the glass ceiling and take leadership roles formerly only men held, and I hope that she would fight for my right to stay home and raise children who are socially-aware. I would also support the rights of a woman who chose to do a little of both. I would hope that all feminists see the need for reproductive rights of all kinds because they support all the possible life choices a woman could make—access to birth control, abortions, choices for maternity care and affordable health and child care.

I have also heard the argument: “being a strong woman doesn’t make me a feminist” and I would argue that it only doesn’t make you a feminist because you don’t want to be labeled a feminist.

Just like feminism, everyone has his or her own definition of what being a strong woman means. For me, being a strong woman means that I am a feminist and it also means that I am aware of what makes me female and I take both of those concepts into consideration when I fight for women’s rights.

I have also spoken to men who tell me they agree with feminism, but don’t feel like they will be welcomed into the movement by women, and my response to them every time is that if you encounter women who count you out of feminism just because you are a man, those women are not feminists.

Feminism is a movement for everyone. It is meant to help men and women create a better society in which to live—one where gender roles aren’t as rigid and we can all achieve in equal measure.

My version of feminism involves fighting for the right’s of men as well. There are gendered-issues that only negatively affect men. For example, many feminists are also part of the anti-circumcision movement. Feminists want to create a world in which men don’t have to feel boxed in to society’s idea of masculinity.

Before making the assertion that you are not a feminist, just think about your beliefs when it comes to gender and equality. If you feel ill at ease with the status quo, you may just be a feminist.

Jocelyn Gibson can be contacted at [email protected]