Why is feminism such a dirty word?
The dictionary cites feminism as: noun, the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
Yet, we see constant retaliation ranging from the Twitter trend #womenagainstfeminism, derogatory and hateful YouTube comments, systematic political repercussions, and even violence.
Many anti-feminists cite misandry or bitterness as reasons to let go of feminism. Not all men commit terrible crimes, they say. In response to the #YesAllWomen twitter hashtag, a hashtag bringing awareness for the threats girls face throughout their lives, #YesAllMen has trended in response with supporters such as the Twitter accounts Too Sexist and Meninist.
While these accounts are correct in saying that not all men commit crimes, they perpetuate a toxic ideal and invalidate the experiences of many women throughout history and today. By making an embarrassing generalization a priority, this argument puts their own feelings over the inconvenience of acknowledging and fighting a dangerous trend. In my own personal experience, I cannot name one man who has been in actual danger because of misandry. I can, however, name many women who have been sexually abused or assaulted; I am only eighteen years old, and yet that number requires two hands to count. Sexual assault is about power, not attraction. It is someone’s way of saying: you are a thing to me. My need to validate my dominance trumps your right as a person. The statistics for sexual assault skew heavily towards women, suggesting that the struggle for equality in the United States, at the very least in a social and psychological capacity, is still ongoing.
Even in a university, these fears are inescapable. As of May 1, 2014, 55 schools are under review for mishandling sexual assault.2 At Columbia University, Sulkowicz has been carrying a mattress with her as a symbol of the burden she carries after being raped in her own bed. She is refusing to stop until Columbia expels her rapist. The horrific attack took place in September. She is still carrying that mattress.
In our own backyard here in Gainesville, the need for vigilance continues to be in the background of a woman’s life. One student shared her experience walking to her dorm. As she passed an open dorm window, boys were sitting on the ledge, jeering and holding up score cards. She heard the message loud and clear: you are nothing but a body, and we do not care
how disturbing you find that. In light of this culture, women are tired. It’s exhausting when you just want to dance and some guy keeps groping at you and only leaves when you tell him you have a boyfriend. It’s exhausting having to walk with keys clenched in your fist, pepper spray ready, or to have to smile when someone says “You’re just like one of the boys!” or “Hey, baby. Smile for me.” It’s exhausting watching a news reporter, after witnessing a woman get catcalled a hundred times, say, “Let me add 101. Damn baby, you’re a piece of woman.” And it’s exhausting knowing that other people are absorbing that this is an okay way to behave, consequence free.
In comes third-wave feminism. Many women are sick of these micro-aggressions, these daily occurrences so frequent they get pushed to the back of your mind until you can’t explain to a man why you feel that way. First wave feminism fought for suffrage and freedom, for the right to live outside the string gender spheres that limited them to the home. Now, third wave feminism fights to fix the failures of the previous generations. They want equality. As Elon James White tweeted, “These women don’t get it. Y’all just want to say hi. What’s wrong with hi?!?! So let’s just leave them out completely. #DudesGreetingDudes.” Basically, he argues, if you’re an alleged nice guy, your interactions with women wouldn’t be about sex or power. Third wave feminism calls on the true nice guys to help. Third wave feminism is not about denying that there are stigmas against men. It is about acknowledging and fighting the threats against women and the stereotypes against men. Not all men commit crimes and all men should be responsible for their actions because they’re not rabid animals. Feminism fights for these things, too. This movement acknowledges that not all men commit these crimes, and challenges everyone, woman or man, to help create a safe society to live in.