What it means to be “feminist”

Ellie Findell, Production Manager

Feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. The term and movement is often misrepresented as man hating or a white women’s cause but at its core, feminism calls for all women to be able to reach the same potential as a man and with as much ease as many men have. Egalitarianism is the doctrine that all people should be treated equally and deserve equal rights and opportunities. The fundamental difference between the two is that Feminism believes gender discrimination needs to be eliminated so that Egalitarianism can reach its maximum potential. Under Egalitarianism, each time men are given new opportunities, women are given the same. However, it is naive to think that gender discrimination can be fixed by moving forward and immediately treating everyone the same. At some level, all identities face discrimination but there is a difference, although no less important, between a man being expected to fulfill the expectations put on men to be strong and a woman earning between .59 and .83 cents for a white man’s dollar.

Egalitarianism isn’t the ideology that will be most constructive in achieving gender equality because it advocates for everyone to be equal, but has a history of making no tangible actions that work towards that goal. Our society is already generally egalitarian minded and the treatment and depiction of women and all genders has not improved enough. There is nothing wrong with everyone being equal; it’s a broader form of feminism, but the egalitarian mindset isn’t enough to make the changes that America needs to make regarding gender.
Sexual harassment has been endured by all genders and that needs to be remembered so that the notion of gender discrimination being admissible is forever a crime. Feminism is rooted in equality of the sexes and thus activism involved with the movement only serves to benefit all people. Each time someone that labels themself as a feminist knowingly criticizes others actions, or directs the same negative language used on them at another person or gender, they are perpetuating a society where gender discrimination is conditional and thus allowed. Furthermore, they are contributing to the misrepresentation of feminism as a movement that solely promotes a female identifying agenda.
The demonstrating that many hardworking and self identifying feminists are doing to create a more accepting and diverse world is the lens through which this society needs to see feminism. None of the truly groundbreaking and life changing work that policy makers, grass roots organizations, and other influential activists are doing involves a vision of women being more important than men or bring preferred. It’s about needing to be seen as equal. Feminism is more than a mindset, it’s a movement that understands that while technically everyone is equal, they are not being treated equally. Egalitarianism is a blanket statement that has a history of being inactive and neglects to acknowledge that disparities in gender treatment need to be addressed before change can occur. Feminism encompasses the statement that everyone should be equal but then goes a step further and demands that an increase in volunteering and advocacy is necessary for that change to take place.