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MOHABEER: Feminist label should not scare you away

Misconceptions about feminism lead women and men alike away from identifying with a platform that argues for gender equality above all else.  – Photo by Pixabay.com

Social, economic and political equality between genders — they believe in it all, no question. Yet for some reason, when people are asked if they identify as feminists, their answer is no. If you are terrified to call yourself a feminist, this piece is for you.

In 2020, a study revealed that only 61 percent of American women identify themselves as feminists. The study also shows us that this number varies significantly by education level, age and political party affiliation. For instance, only 42 percent of women of Republican women use the term feminist compared to the 75 percent of Democratic women. If you identify as male in either of these categories, you are even less likely to consider yourself a feminist. 

Why are so many people refusing to wear the title of feminist?

Of course, we should take into account those who simply do not believe in what feminists fight for — the equality between genders. Even when we take them out of the picture, there is still a disproportion in those who act and believe the same as feminists, and actually label themselves as such. 

We can infer that people might think feminism goes against their religion and means being pro-choice, or believing that it means being maternal, a homemaker or a stay at home mom.

These misconceptions spread throughout our society like wildfire, and are the opposite of what feminists stand for: The ability for a person, regardless of gender, to make these decisions and decide for themselves what they want. They do not fight for you to choose one path or the other, rather for your right to make that choice.

Then there are those who believe the fight of feminists is one that calls for women to be above men. This is another common misconception among those who are wary of the term, which leads to the lack of feminists. But the truth? Feminists fight against several aspects that affect men such as toxic masculinity and the idea that men have to be breadwinners. They also advocate for concepts including equal paternity leave and the idea that they too should be able to be whoever they want without fear or oppression.

Feminism is not the fight to dethrone men and take their places in the world, rather to ensure that women have equal opportunities and the ability to also have those places.

All of these negative stereotypes surrounding feminists is likely what puts people off the most from holding the title. Feminists are portrayed as man-hating, angry, unattractive, nonreligious, all pro-choice, marriage hating, bra burning women, and those in the media do not always do much to help it.

Katy Perry, an award winning pop-star, stated "I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women,” when accepting her Woman of the Year award in 2012.

Several other celebrities like Taylor Swift, who have huge followings of young, impressionable teenagers, have also made similar comments by rejecting the title, thus alluding to the idea that believing in the equality of genders is not being a feminist. Swift recognized that she was indeed a feminist years after previously denying it. In an interview with The Guardian, she stated, “What (being a feminist) seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men.” 

The constant distaste for the feminist title is due to the negative false stereotypes, even though there is a strong correlation in values. It is of the utmost importance that people, like Swift, come to understand that they are actually playing a part in the movement and are fighting for the exact same things.

If you are not a feminist, because you believe women and men are already equal, you are simply incorrect and I urge you to do more research. We need to remember that there is not a single country in the world that can claim they have achieved gender equality. 

It is a fight women see every day all over the world in the form of honor killings and being denied an education, and in ways we are privy to here in the U.S. such as unequal pay, sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. 

Wearing the title of "feminist" is not something to be ashamed of or shy away from. It does not mean you hate men or religion. It simply means that you believe that all, regardless of gender, should have the same rights. 

So consider what you fight for and what you believe in. And if it aligns with the title, ask yourself why you are truly afraid to call yourself a feminist. Then stop.

Kimberly Mohabeer is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science and criminal justice and minoring in women's and gender studies and psychology. Her column, "Metanoia," runs on alternate Mondays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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