My friends laughed when I told them I had to go to a conference regarding women taking action in the media. “Have fun with all the crazy feminist man-haters!” they joked. I didn’t want to attend the conference because I knew my friends were right; who wants to spend the entire day with a bunch of angry women? Halfway between my apartment and the conference center on Saturday morning, I realized I was wearing my pink fleece and carrying a Prada bag. “Shoot! Do feminists wear pink?”
Most people I know wouldn‘t classify me as a feminist. I wear pink. A lot of it. I like designer clothes and accessories. And at the time of the conference, I had the all-American boyfriend. What do you think of when you hear feminist? Many people think of angry women with short hair, hippie attire in earth tones, and unsmiling faces. Many people think of butch lesbians.
But is that really what a feminist is, or does the whole movement simply have a bad name?
What went so horribly wrong that when many of us think about feminism, we conjure up all sorts of negative feelings? We’re afraid to admit we’re feminists because we don’t even know what the word means. Feminist websites, blogs, and magazines constantly run letters from readers stating women’s attitudes such as, “If you’re really a feminist, you won’t wear high-heels; you’ll fight back against society’s view of women,” causing many to believe you cannot be a feminist and wear pink. But is this really what feminism means?
When my teacher first told us we were required to attend the Women, Action, and the Media conference (WAM), I groaned to myself. Not only was this an all-day event (how can you force me to do school-related activities on the weekend?!), but it was going to be 100 percent women, and angry women at that. I thought about skipping out on the event, but worried that my teacher would somehow find out. I finally decided to grin and bear it, figuring I would go listen to one lecture, and return home.
My then-boyfriend took the T with me and walked me from the T station to the conference center. We walked into the building together before I got realized he probably shouldn’t be there. “Leave!” I told him. “People are going to think I needed you to bring me here. I’m a woman, I should be able to get here on my own!” I was desperately trying to fit myself into the role of what I thought a feminist was, and I immediately removed my pink fleece and tried to cover the Prada emblem on my purse.
But the other guests and leaders at WAM didn’t fit the mold of what I thought feminists were, either. They weren’t angry; they were empowered. They wanted women to have equality with men in the media. The lectures focused on why women’s names appear in bylines much less than men (a three-to-one ratio), and how we, as women, can start submitting our writing to publications and letting our voices be heard. Nothing they said was about hating men; it was about raising women up to the same level.
I’ve always been resistant to the idea of feminism. Until I searched for a simple definition, and found it; a definition that third wave feminists are trying to get everyone to understand. I discovered that when you get down to its roots, feminism is essentially the belief that women and men are equal. It doesn’t have anything to do with man-hating or lesbianism. In using my definition of equality, not only are most women feminists, but many men are as well. But how many men do you know who would be willing to call themselves feminists? I don’t even know many women who would say they are feminists.
Everyone has their own definition of what feminism means to them. But in order to make a true difference in our society, I believe we need to go back to the roots of the word. Instead of berating other women because they like to wear sexy dresses and get their nails done, or because they decide to be stay-at-home moms, we need to strive for equality among women and men and encourage women to go for all of their dreams, because they can.
You can tell me I’m not a real feminist because I wear pink, put make-up on each morning, and enjoy spending time in the kitchen, but I won’t believe you. I wear pink because I like it, I use make-up because I want to, and I cook because it’s my passion. I don’t do these things for me; I do them for myself. Just like the boyfriend who shaved his face because he wanted to and wore cologne because he liked it.
Oh, and he wore pink too. How’s that for feminism?