BY ALEX RICE
Immediately certain images, personalities and revolutionary movements come to one’s mind when they see that word. One may think of overly aggressive women who think that the world would be better off without men. One may think of lesbians or people advocating for abortion rights. While there are some intense figures that came out of the feminist movement, being a feminist doesn’t have to mean being intense or scary or harsh. According to the legitimate definition, being a feminist means believing women should be equal to men in all parts of life. That doesn’t seem too crazy to me.
I grew up in a home with a working mother and father, where for years my mother made more money than my father. My mom owned a T-shirt that read “women who behave rarely make history” and I now own a different shirt with the same quote. My mother also wears beautiful dresses to important functions and walks in high heels whenever she goes to work or travels. She wears makeup whenever she goes into the office. Why are these ideas conflicting for some people when they think of a feminist? It’s completely possible for a woman to believe in equality between the sexes and wear girly things. They are not mutually exclusive. Many people in the country, though, assume that one has to be a man-hater to be a feminist.
I thought deeply about this topic a few years ago. There was a boy in my freshman history class who always had an opinion about everything the teacher said. He was oftentimes rude toward the teacher and inconsiderate of others’s opinions. To put it bluntly, he annoyed the hell out of me. I would constantly respond to him and counter his points with my own beliefs to try and make him see a different way, but he remained close-minded. It wasn’t until sophomore year that I learned how he felt about me. According to one of my close friends, during a discussion of the feminist movement in a history class the next year, this boy said (quite loudly apparently): “Alex Rice is the BIGGEST feminist!”
I was really confused for a while after I heard that comment. First of all, why did speaking my mind and disagreeing with his ideas make me a feminist? Secondly, how is that an insult in any way? It’s more insulting to say someone is not a feminist because that makes you sexist and bigoted against women, which is not considered acceptable in my hometown (just north of Boston — a very liberal area). Why did this boy feel the need to try to put me down by stating something that was not insulting?
I’ve discovered that many people misunderstand what it means to be a feminist. Most people associate that term with intense “manly” women who try to throw their opinions in others’s faces and make them accept their views. The term is associated with hating men in general and trying to make them the submissive gender. Again, this is false. There are intense women who identify as feminists who do not like men, that is true, but the movement in general is about equality. The enemy of feminism is sexist thought and behavior, not men. It just so happens that since men have been in a position of power for thousands of years, they are less likely to accept the movement than women, so there are more problems gaining male support than anything else.
I will never know exactly when I became a feminist because I have been taught to accept men and women as equals. It was the environment I grew up in, and it was confusing to understand that the rest of the world didn’t believe in that equality.
When I started to learn about the inequality that has been plaguing this country and every country around the world, it was bizarre for me to understand that women have not always been seen as equals. While I understand that the feminist movement is a complex one and that the dream of being complete equals is still in an unforeseen future, I hope I managed to clear the confusion on what it means to be a feminist. One doesn’t have to do anything extreme. If one believes men and women should be equal, simply acting on that belief is enough to make a little bit of positive difference.
Alex Rice is a freshman International Studies major from Manchester, Mass.