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The changing shape of feminism

Photo courtesy Dale Cruse via flickr creative commons

by Sophie Rancourt

What feminism means and who a feminist is, seems to be a topic of discussion now more than ever. Controversy in politics and human rights raises the question, what is feminism? Many people think of feminists as angry, man-hating women who burn their bras. Feminism is often seen negatively, as an annoyance. This could not be further from the truth. I see feminism as the belief that women of all types should be celebrated and treated as equals. A feminist can be anyone. A feminist can be any gender, age, race, religion, or political party. The beauty of feminism is that there is no specific type of feminist- they come from all walks of life, and I see feminism every day.  I see feminism in the pants I step into on my way to school. I see feminism as I drive my car. I see feminism in my college acceptance letters. I see it in my mother, a woman who runs her own business. I see it in my father, a man who has always encouraged my sister and I that we can achieve whatever we put our minds to with hard work. I see it in young women across the world making a positive impact every day.

The definition of feminism is the same definition that has been used for years- the empowerment and equality for women. The suffragettes had a new vision for the women of America, and would not go down without a fight. Barbara Walters broke through as one of the first women in the predominantly male news industry. Madonna dared to push artistic boundaries with her openness to sexuality. Malala Yousafzai is fighting for women’s rights to education across the world.

Earlier this year, a women’s march was held across the United States. At least 3.3 million people participated in the march, making it one of the largest demonstrations in United States history. In the days following, over 600 other marches took place worldwide. The marches called attention to being proactive about women’s rights. Some of the topics highlighted during the marches were LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, freedom from sexual violence, and accountability for the inequalities in the criminal justice system. The women’s marches show that feminism is only continuing to evolve over time. With the evolution of feminism comes a new agenda of goals to achieve, reaching one step further towards true equality.

I consider myself a feminist because I believe in equality for women. I believe that if a man and a woman are working the same job and they both perform equally, they should be paid equally. I believe that women can be both feminine and masculine. I believe that women are smart, powerful, strong and athletic. I believe that a woman should be able to be just as open about their sex lives as men are. I believe that a woman can wear as much makeup as she wants, or never wear any at all. I believe that women should have reproductive rights. I believe that sexual consent should be taken seriously. I believe that women’s rights are human rights. I’m a feminist because I’m tired of hearing ‘You hit like a girl!’ What is so wrong with hitting like a girl? I’m tired of beginner pushups being referred to as “girl pushups.” Are girls not allowed to be strong too? Doing anything “like a girl” should be seen as a good thing, rather than have a negative association.

I’m a feminist because body standards are ridiculous. According to the fashion industry, women should be tan and have long, lean legs. They should have long eyelashes, voluminous hair, and not a pimple in sight. But that’s not reality. Women come in all shapes, sizes and races. Women have acne and stretch marks. Women are beautiful, and part of what makes them beautiful is the imperfections, their differences.

Feminism is about the empowerment of women everywhere. Feminism is women loving themselves at every age and every size. Feminism is seeing women achieve their dreams. Feminism is both women and men being able to work the same jobs without judgment. A woman can be in position of political power, a woman can be an athlete, a woman can be a scholar, and a woman can raise a family. A woman can be whatever she chooses to be. Women have come so far in reaching equality, thanks to the feminists who have made it possible. I am so thankful to live in a world where so many strong women surround me. I see the results of hundreds of years of feminism everywhere I go.

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