I am a feminist. I believe in the equality of the sexes. I am aware that there is a double standard when it comes to gender stereotypes. I am aware that both women and men face sexism on a daily basis. These seem like simple statements to me, as they do to many other people around the world, even here at SAS. But the reality is that feminism is still regarded as something negative because it seems like a promotion for just female empowerment rather than equality for all.
Since the beginning of time, females have been the oppressed gender and this is why the term for gender equality is “feminist.” This does not mean that men should be hated. This does not mean men are the enemy. The fact that the fight for equality is regarded by many in a way that sheds negative light on males is proof that we need feminism in the first place.
In order to promote gender equality, we need both women and men to advocate for the movement. There are so many students here at SAS, both male and female, that do not call themselves feminists because they are afraid or condescending of what that word entails. “I don’t fight for female empowerment, I don’t hate men, so I don’t consider myself a feminist,” said a female SAS student who asked to remain anonymous.
What some don’t understand is that being a feminist simply means believing in equality. By doing so, you are already making changes to society in a positive way. As someone who calls myself a feminist, I don’t run campaigns or deliver speeches that promote feminism, and I don’t necessarily need to. Feminism is a belief before it is a movement.
In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book, “We Should All Be Feminists,” she writes, “Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about a female human.”
It is for this reason that people are so hesitant to support feminism. Yes, females are in need of empowerment. But this doesn’t mean that men are regarded as the enemy – or rather, they shouldn’t be. It is with cases like sexual and domestic abuse that the problem of gender roles is emphasized because statistics show that women are usually the victims, and this further encourages feminists to fight for equality.
SAS sophomore Drew Suranjan is an advocate for female empowerment. “Outside of school, I work with a company called House of Rose Professional, and I work with a co-founder who leads leadership summits for women,” said Drew. The company was founded by Anthony A. Rose to encourage empowerment and success.
Drew said, “We get a bunch of male and female speakers from around the world that are the leaders in their companies, such as Walmart, that promote female leadership. Through these summits we have a lot of females who want to join the workforce and learn how they can become better leaders in their fields and become CEOs and managers of their companies, rather than staying in lower positions.”
Lack of female empowerment may sometimes feel distant from our relatively safe high school environment. “In SAS, since we’re a very diverse school, I feel like portraying women as inferior isn’t as prominent as it is in other places in the world, but there is still room for improvement” Drew said.
Females at SAS aren’t regarded as inferior, but that doesn’t solve the problem of students perceiving feminism as negative. A male sophomore who asked to remain anonymous said, “The fact that it’s called feminism makes it seem like it’s a movement against men.”
He For She is an organization run by the United Nations and supported by Emma Watson that promotes the efforts of both men and women to work toward gender equality. This is what we need for people to understand the eye-opening reality of what feminism really is. In her speech for gender equality in 2014, Emma Watson said, “It is not the word that is important but the idea and the ambition behind it.”
The first step is to help people understand that feminism benefits both genders. The second is to encourage more male involvement. This would change the spectrum of gender roles when it comes to equality. The lack of interest in equality can be directly related to the lack of support from both genders, and the lack of support is caused by the stereotype that men are the enemy.
In her speech, Watson said, “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.” Instead of the believing in the perception that the genders are against each other, they should support each other.
Feminism means equality of the sexes. The harsh reality is that people still don’t call themselves feminists, and this may be because of the word itself, the reputation that comes with it, or the label that has manifested into our society. It is time to change this perception in order to achieve equality.