Far too often among my peers have I witnessed a dangerous language emerge in regard to the topic of feminism. Those who have openly denounced its value equate the word’s connotations to the confines of the unfavorable and unattractive. Their notions align dangerously with the misconception that we have achieved equality — that those who consider themselves to be feminists exist only on the outskirts of society, planning their uprising like a sadistic cult. I have listened to fellow women defend adamantly their position against membership to the category, falling victim to their belief in a cruel stereotype defined only by its own ignorance. But we cannot ignore the blatant modes of oppression that lie before us: politicians who work openly to limit the decisions of women, men who justify violence and hostility against their opposing sex, and women who participate in the degradation of the gender to which they belong. To truly address these issues, which threaten to perpetuate the language of ignorance, we must first clarify the definition of the term itself and understand the ways in which the implementation of this new definition will carry us into an age of legitimate equality.
Feminism does not indict men, nor does it suppose the advancement of women above them; it does not dictate the manners women assume, nor does it restrict those ends which they hope to attain. In its purist and most honest form, feminism works solely to promote equality among both men and women. By definition, then, the group does not limit its membership to the bra-burning, radical extremists through which it received its harmful and contemporary reputation, nor does it limit its membership to the female population alone. Feminism benefits women in so far as it benefits men: In recalculating our approach toward the treatment of women, we also come to evaluate those factors of inequality that produce vicious assumptions regarding the behavior of men as well. As society elevates the characteristics of submission, physical beauty and general femininity in women, it simultaneously encourages aggression, strength and masculinity in men, thus, creating an inherent criticism toward those who fail to submit to these falsely constructed perceptions. By illustrating a more accurate depiction of feminism, we stand to gain access to a society of equality, its distinction the result of an attitude of acceptance rather than exclusion.
I therefore implore my peers — men and women alike — to adopt the language of acceptance, of equality: of feminism. Do not rely upon the popular opinion of contempt toward this sorely misunderstood subject; do not allow the constricting presence of oppression to overcome the opportunity for advancement and do not exist idly in a generation that refuses to reach forward and extend the boundaries of gender. Insist upon shedding each and every stereotype that hopes to stifle these goals, and encourage the new definition of feminism. From this position we can move away from those preconceived notions that serve as the shackles that prohibit individual decision. From this position we may hopefully enter into an agreement with ourselves, one that refuses to categorize people as feminist or nonfeminist, but rather, as merely human.