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Is this what what a feminist looks like?

Graphic by Noah '16
Graphic by Noah ’16

Although the topic of feminism arises more often in pop-culture, as celebrities, such as Beyoncé and Emma Watson, have begun to commonly use and identify with the term, “feminist” continues to be misconstrued and wrongfully associated with “man-hating,” despite the word’s actual definition centered on the idea of promoting gender equality. According to a poll taken by the Huffington Post, 20% of Americans identify as feminists, 8% identify as anti-feminists, and 63% of Americans identify as neither; in spite of these findings, 82% of participants stated that they believe in the social, economic, and political equality of men and women, which, incidentally, is the exact idea feminism champions.
If someone believes in gender equality, then he or she is by definition a feminist, according to Webster Dictionary. However, because the media, anti-feminists, and overall social discourse have constructed the false notion that feminism is a negative, radical movement that aims to disparage men in order to create a matriarchal society, in which women have complete power, the simple if-then statement I noted above is irrelevant. Despite believing in the same ideals that are at the very core of feminist theory, people do not identify as feminists out of fear for the word itself and the negative connotations attached to it. This begs the question as to whether it is sufficient to just believe in the ideology of a movement or if one must identify with the movement itself in order to be an activist and an arbiter of change.
I can unwaveringly say that I am a feminist. I am a feminist because I believe in recognizing the humanity of all people. I am a feminist because I believe every girl should have the right to pursue what she wants despite socially constructed “norms.” I am a feminist because I know the importance of equality and ensuring that all people, no matter what race, gender, or sexuality they identify with, deserve equal opportunities. I am a feminist because I believe in the social, economic, and political equality of all men and women. I am not afraid of the term because I know that in order to sincerely believe in and stand up for a cause, you need to identify with the cause itself, which will ultimately break down the stigma associated with the feminist movement. People should fear the fact that one in four women in America experience sexual assault in their lifetime, that women make up less than 20% of the United State’s congress, and that women continue to make 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man simply because of their gender, rather than being afraid of identifying with an eight-letter word.
In order to sincerely stand up for and believe in gender equality, people need to stop making the feminist movement a divisive issue, but rather something we work toward and ally with in order to reverse the stigma associated with feminism and use the feminist platform to stand up for our beliefs. By not identifying as a feminist, but believing in the movement’s ideology of gender equality, the eighty-two percent of Americans are actually perpetuating inequity as they hurt the exact movement that their beliefs align with.