I remember my Grandpa turning to me with disbelief in his in his voice and asking:
“Jess, are you a feminist?”
It was as if the word feminist was some horrible, four-letter language. To this day, I still get flak from brothers, friends and boyfriends for identifying myself as a feminist — a word they associate with man-hating “bra burners.”
This misconception is prevalent in today’s society. A recent comment made by a fellow Joplin Globe blogger is evidence of the strong, negative connotation most Americans associate with the word. Anson burlingame, commenting on Johnny Kaje’s post celebrating the sentencing of an abortion doctor’s murderer, had this to say:
“Or, we could have a women’s rights day when some wife kills her husband for whatever reason.”
I still cannot figure out how murdering one’s husband has anything to do with feminism.
However, men aren’t the only sex guilty of such skewed misconceptions. On the contrary, women seem to be equally convinced of the word’s ugliness.
The other night, as I was playing the game Apples to Apples with one of my good girlfriends, I was painfully reminded of this fact. Offering a definition for the word “heartless,” my friend decided to lay down her card with the word feminist inscribed on it. I was shocked.
Contrary to popular belief, feminists are not heartless, bra-burning witches bent on the destruction of the male sex. To understand what a feminist actually is, one only needs to look it up in Merriam-Webster:
Feminism: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
There you have it. Feminism is actually humanism, concerned with the equality of both sexes. Feminists desire equal rights for women not because they are women, but because they are human. And the word feminist is not sex-specific. Men can also be feminists.
So why the persistent negativity associated with the word?
To a small extent, I blame the extreme feminist movement and those “feminist” who are, indeed, sexist toward men. However, it is impossible to be a true feminist while at the same time being a sexist. The two are contradictory.
But to a larger extent I blame the sexist, male-dominated culture that insist on seeing feminism and feminists as a threat. Americans need to reclaim the word feminist and restore its original intent. Until that time, women, men, atheists, Christians, granddaughters and grandfathers should proudly bear the title of feminist.