The "F" WordYou know how some people can curse and make it sound like poetry?
When I curse I have to painfully squeeze the word out of my mouth and questionably place it into a sentence. It sounds dirty not because of the context of the word, but the immediately following awkward silence and regrettable look that flashes across my face. I feel uncomfortable when I try to curse probably because I don't feel like I have enough street cred to deserve the certain foul adjectives and because some bad words I honestly just don't understand.
One of these words is feminist.
Before you start questioning whether I live under I rock, I do realize that 'feminist' isn't technically a curse word but one could argue that it often carries with it some harshly negative connotation. I'll be the first to admit that until recently I had no real idea of what the word meant and what importance it has to women. When I would hear the word feminism my mind would automatically go to burning bras, Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton. Now, these aren't good or bad things. They are just controversial.
After reading "Half the Sky," a book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which unveils the injustice of women around the world, and spending three months in East Africa witnessing these injustices myself, I have become a passionate advocate for women's rights. That passion has led me to watch numerous documentaries, read articles and blogs about the issue and write articles of my own. On my profiles, resume and even in conversation with people I would identify myself as an 'advocate for women's rights.' Yes, that sounds nice. And then one day I realized...
I'm a feminist.
The definition of feminism is the advocacy of women's rights, so why couldn't I call myself what I really was? Because it didn't sound nice. I worried that if I started calling myself a feminist, I would have to throw out all of my makeup and live the rest of my life in tennis shoes and sport suits. I'd never get to enjoy stereotypical girly things like going shopping or dressing up because those things make my gender look weak. And I could throw getting married out the window too since I obviously don't need a man to complete me. These are the stereotypes that we and our media put on this highly important identity and they are extremely false.
Read this carefully. Feminism isn't about being less feminine. It is about using our strengths as women (and men!) to fight for our rights and those of all women around the world. This is not an opportunity. It is a responsibility. It's not just about changing rights for women, it is about changing the way women are viewed.
|Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post|
According to The World Health Organization one in three women will experience violence from a male partner. A recent United Nations study in a number of Asian countries found that one in four men have raped. Fifty-three percent of the world’s out-of-school children are girls and two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are women.
If more women can get past the stigma of being "a feminist" and begin to fight for the women who have much more harmful definitions such as child-bride, sex slave, and rape victim, we can begin to make real change on a global scale.
Standing up for these women and ourselves doesn't require you to start hating men and stop being a girl. It just requires you to act. So go ahead. Slide on your heals, put on your lipstick and wear this new part of your identity proudly. 'Feminist' is not a bad word. It is the future.
Thanks for reading,
Amanda Halle, Feminist