“So, you’re a feminist.” –Friend
“No! Definitely not.” -Me
“Why don’t you want to be called a feminist?” -Friend
“I can’t be a feminist, I like men!” -Me
I had rejected the word like a bad swear word. I didn’t know what I was, but I wasn’t that.
I had guy friends and a boyfriend. Sometimes I even got along better with guys. My friend determined I had to be a feminist after listening to a few work anecdotes. She quickly recognized my dislike of the word and explained feminism by definition means equal rights for both men and women. She asked directly do you know anyone who is running around burning bras; that’s not a real thing. Being the literal person I am I looked it up. If you google it right now you’ll find:
Feminism: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
She was right. It has a bad stigma, but in reality women are not going around burning bras and cursing men. Feminism is not interchangeable with man-hating. The stereotype was so deeply ingrained in my mind that I wanted nothing to do with the word. It’s always the extremes we seem to hold onto, regardless if there’s an ounce of truth to go with it. It’s fascinating yet terrifying the version of history we turn into facts in our minds. This led me to wonder where did that idea come from?
According to this Time’s article it began in 1968 after a group of feminists met to protest the Miss America pageant. Upset by the event which continues to parade women around and judge them based solely on predefined beauty standards; they burned Playboy magazines, false eyelashes, mops, and other items in a trashcan called the Freedom Trash Can. Not bras. There was no bra-burning. One of the protest posters read “Let’s Judge Ourselves As People.” That’s a pretty clear message that has absolutely nothing to do with bras.
Admittedly, I haven’t read the Feminine Mystique in its entirety. But if you’ve read any part of it you get a strong feeling of the women in the sixties fighting with feeling incomplete. Media told them their worth lied in beauty and their ability to bag a husband. Many flocked to doctors feeling tired and unhappy. They were prescribed tranquilizers or told to treat themselves for a day. The magazines gave them a recipe to be happy with articles on how to buy the latest kitchen appliances, how to be the best mother to their children, and how to keep a man happy. They wanted to do more, to be more. Now I have to say, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a stay at home mom and raising kids. That’s an incredibly difficult job. There is, however, something wrong with forcing an entire gender to do so. Or defining a gender’s worth by this occupation.
The point of the matter is: the women’s liberation movement wasn’t protesting superficial things like wearing false eyelashes, bras, or shaving. It was a movement boiling over after years of oppression. A feminist isn’t someone who refuses to make dinner for a man, specifically of the sandwich variety. A feminist wants women to be able to have all the opportunities provided to men. They want women’s merit to be judged based on their brains and personalities not how well they wear a swimsuit. A feminist male or female strives for equality. Which begs the question-are you a feminist?
[If you haven’t seen John Oliver’s segment of How Is This Still A Thing-he does a great episode on the Miss America Pageant. Click here to see the full clip:]