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Why can’t we all be feminists?

6 mins read

I am a feminist, a strong one. Why is this a problem?

Why do women cringe away from feminism? There is absolutely no argument that stands scrutiny when considering feminism at the most theoretical level. Feminism does not justify promiscuity, nor does it degrade those identifying as male. It’s a movement towards equality because, historically, women have been undeniably repressed. Large strides have been taken — the 19th amendment and general acceptance of women in professional fields for instance — yet, there is still more progress to be made. There is a glass ceiling begging to be broken. I could spew reasons that the modern women are still disadvantaged ad nauseam, how our world is clearly patriarchal and biased toward traditionally identifying males. The argument is not whether sexism exists— it does — but rather on how to further feminist goals, the execution and manifestation of a theory.

What you hear all too often is far removed from what feminism originated as and should be. Radical views and polarized opinions drown out other voices and have emerged as the public perception of what feminism entails. But just because the media propagates an all too singular and limiting definition of being a feminist, does not mean it has to be that way. As Swarthmore students, we are acutely aware of the gender binary. I want to preface the rest of this article by saying that although this arbitrary dichotomy between feminine and masculine is not accurate or applicable in all situations, but it persists in the grand view of society, remaining culturally and historically entrenched.

Modern feminism is not rejecting all that is “girly”. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel beautiful, wearing makeup for one’s own pleasure or not to please anyone else and society does not need to preach to young girls that anyone with a Y chromosome is automatically potential threat.  But gender roles have existed and influenced for such a long time that believing absolute equality is achievable is almost delusion. There is no undoing of the damage history has inflicted.

It’s important that history be acknowledged, appreciated and learned from, but also put in its place. No, I don’t think that feminism needs to reject tradition, but it can certainly supplement. Supporting the sentiment of a man being willing to fight for or rescue his lady may seemingly perpetuate the damsel in distress cliché, but in reality, the inclination to protect and defend is indicative of care and deserves to be celebrated. There is a large schism between appreciating chivalry and being dependent upon it. It’s this differentiation that is so crucial. So what if a man wants to indulge and manifest his affection through monetary gifts or paying for dinner? Feminism shouldn’t dismiss such actions but encourage their reciprocation. A woman who allows a man to take her to dinner is not putting herself in a submissive positive, she is perfectly capable of treating him the next time around.

Women do not have to reject men to be strong and independent. Feminism is not anti-man-ism and it’sn’t redefining what it means to be a woman. It’s broadening the idea of what a woman is and what she can do, making the truth that women are people who demand and deserve equality more apparent and accepted. There is a universality that feminism acknowledges. It’s eliminating that men are always the exception: people are people. A man can be bossy or dramatic just as a woman can be a leader or chill. Women shouldn’t have to censor what they wear, and men shouldn’t be reduced to animals needing to learn self-control. Both sexes are at fault for society’s pattern of diminishing the power of the female. It’s not merely that a woman shouldn’t define herself by a man, but that no person should be dependent upon another for happiness and success. In a relationship, everyone involved should be a provider, should be weak enough to show vulnerability and the need for another while being strong enough to give generously and love deeply because they can. Women and men are capable creatures with agency. Feminism is merely providing women with access to resources and removing the taboo implicit with taking advantage of such opportunities. Feminism is humanism because all people deserve respect.

2 Comments

  1. I’m a just gonna say this and I don’t know what weight it could carry (probably none at all) and I understand that feminism is not anti-man-ism but from personal experience that’s what it mainly seems to be though. There is no organized and illustrated picture on what is feminism so people take it to different levels but I do support this idea of equality. And as a side note my English teacher who I assume to be is feminist had demanded that I take out about 100+ words from my vocabulary that point out (could not think of a better word at the time) women, she used waitress as an example and said to use server instead (that seems a bit ridiculous to me).

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