Wednesday, January 30, 2008


This is something I wrote a while ago. I liked it, so I thought I'd put it up.

The Feminist Stigma

One way to discredit your opposition is to attach a social stigma to the very word that describes them. In recent years this has been done with groups like “liberal” and “immigrant” in an attempt to further the right wing and racist isolationist agendas. There is one word, however, that has had a stigma attached for so long that hardly anyone notices anymore. That word is “feminist.”

Many women today have personal beliefs that are similar to at least some feminist ideals. Most women believe they deserve equal pay to men, along with equal opportunities in work and life. These are core feminist ideals. So are reproductive freedom and choice, along with the right to decide whether or not you want to get married and have kids. In general, many women support these ideals; yet for some reason they are scared to call themselves feminists. This leads to use of the ever popular “I’m not a feminist, but…” preceding a statement of support for one of these feminist ideals.

So why are women so afraid to identify with feminism? It’s all about stigma. Our culture has placed such negative connotations on the word “feminist” that even women with ideals identical to the movement are afraid to identify with it.

We’ve all heard the stereotype of the feminist: frumpy, overweight lesbians who don’t shower and have hairy legs. This, of course, couldn’t be farther from the truth. Most feminists today are everyday women who look no different than anyone else. Being a feminist does not mean disregarding fashion, hygiene, or heterosexuality. Feminism is about beliefs and actions, not appearance. It is about choice. Not just choice in the abortion/reproduction argument, but choice in everything. If a woman wants to wear make-up and high heels, she should. If she would rather not, she doesn’t have to.

There is the argument that to conform to standards of beauty is anti-feminist. While this is an intriguing argument, it is not necessarily true. It is possible to be a feminist and follow beauty guidelines. Though it is beneficial to take time and think about where these standards of beauty came from and why they are in place. It is also important to understand why you as an individual are wearing or doing a certain thing. Whatever your choices, they should be done for you and no one else, which is the truly feminist way to live.

As far as equating feminism with homosexuality, that is completely off base. Being a feminist is not synonymous with being a lesbian. This is simply another attempt to create a social stigma by attaching feminism to a way of life that already has a stigma attached to it. While there are lesbian feminists, there are also straight feminists, and becoming a feminist in no way means you will also become a lesbian. Of course, that isn’t saying there is anything wrong with being a lesbian. Homosexuality has an unnecessarily negative social stigma that also needs to be removed.

Feminism has been turned into a dirty word by the very people who wish to see it go away. By making it seem like a bad thing to be a feminist, it makes people less likely to become one. If that’s the case, there will be fewer women pushing for social change and progression, and then the oppression of our sex can continue. We will be without equal pay, birth control, the freedom to choose, or any positions of power. Attaching this stigma is a sneak attack on an entire movement. The only way to fight this attack is to ignore the stereotype. So put on your lipstick and fight for change.

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