Feminism often misunderstood

The academic year is halfway over and likewise is Mercyhurst’s yearlong symposium on gender. So what have we learned so far?

During this year I’ve had the opportunity to attend several lectures and participate in activities through clubs and classes. I’ve expanded my knowledge of women’s studies, but it’s just that – the vast majority of students see the topics of these speakers and the activities as pertaining only to women, and even then only the bra-burning, feminist kind.

But issues of gender have an impact on everyone, and thus far, all of us who consider ourselves feminist or who are interested in the study of gender have not done as well as we might have in communicating who we are and what we believe.

In some circles, feminism is a dirty word. I grew up in an environment like that, where I was told that radical feminists were all man-hating lesbians that wanted everyone to get an abortion. But I grew up and was able to look at real feminism for myself, and now I easily self-identify as one.

But that miscommunication about what feminism means has led to serious breaks with friends and family in my life, and I’m tired of it. Feminism is not about not wearing a bra, not shaving your legs or not having kids. Feminists can be stay-at-home moms, professional women, preschool teachers or college professors. They don’t even have to be women.

As long as you believe in every person’s sovereignty over their own body and ability to make informed decisions regarding their own lives, then you agree with the basic tenants of feminist philosophy. We are women who want empowerment – the power to have kids and a steady job, the power to be paid equally for our work and the power to involve ourselves in any line of work.

We don’t look down on people who want the white-picket-fence American Dream home with 2.5 kids and a wife waiting at home for her husband who brings home the bacon. Nor do we look down on the single mother whose child’s father is a picture and a donor number, the man who wears pink, the teenage boy who watches “My Little Pony” or the little girl who plays with both Barbies and Transformers.

Each of these scenarios begins with a choice. Feminism only seeks to make sure that choice is yours.