Why Do Some People Still Consider ‘Feminist’ as a Dirty Word?

Words by Eve Penberthy

The disapproving eye roll is a bit of a classic response to the innocent remark: ‘Hi, I’m a feminist.’ Based on some people’s reactions to this statement, you’d have thought I’d just said that I wasn’t a big fan of Beyoncé.

But here’s the question: am I a feminist? The straight-forward definition of feminism is ‘advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes,’ so, with that in mind, yes, I suppose I am a feminist. It’s not the word itself that I have a problem with – more so the connotations attached to the words ‘feminist,’ and ‘feminism.’

How many times have you told someone or heard somebody else say they’re a feminist, to receive a positive reaction in return? I mean, it’s not completely unheard of for it to receive more than a groan in response, but it would be nice if one day, feminism received the same reaction as the next season of Game of Thrones. As soon as you label yourself a ‘feminist,’ you’re attaching various negative connotations to yourself. I’m not saying that as soon as you call yourself a feminist that everybody is going to think you’re a man-hater, but there are so many ignorant people out there who believe that feminism is a movement built to degrade men, rather than to empower women.

It’s so easy to pretend the problems aren’t there, to pretend that feminism isn’t needed; to believe that everything will probably work out okay in the end. The reality is that nothing’s going to improve unless you make a stand. We need to work together to change people’s viewpoints; to make the ‘feminist’ label a positive one that everybody will gladly wear. It’s simple to just slip into the background and think that your contribution won’t matter, but nothing is going to change if nobody does anything. So, listen to a Pink anthem, strut down the street… make a difference!

I would love to be able to proudly call myself a feminist because I think it is such an important movement and step in society. But would I receive more respect – and would I be taken more seriously – if I didn’t give myself a ‘feminist’ label, but still spoke what I believed? That is, that men and women should be equal and that gender shouldn’t determine who gets paid more in a certain job? Feminism shouldn’t be a taboo subject. You shouldn’t have to soften the blow by talking about how much you ‘really do love men,’ before dropping the f-bomb. It should be something that is always positively welcomed in conversation.

Putting it plainly, I am a feminist. I do not hate men, nor do I practice witchcraft, but I do believe in the economic, social and political equality of the sexes. And, at the end of the day, that’s all the feminist movement is fighting for.

Eve Penberthy, 17, is a member of the JAx Journalism Academy at Exeter College. She has a blog and can be found on Instagram @evepenberthy

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