By Rebecca Charlotte
Before I went to college, all I knew about feminism was that, to some people, it was just as bad as the other F word. The word feminist was constantly being used as an insult: “She’s such a feminazi!” “Did you hear that feminist rant she went on? Ugh, so annoying.” “God, you are such a feminist.” Imagine my surprise when I was looking through the course booklet, trying to create a schedule that would involve not waking up at 8:15 AM, and spotted the course Woman and Gender Studies. I was intrigued. So I decided to squeeze it into my schedule.
The first day of class there were twenty six students, only four or five of which were guys. The last day? There were ten students. All girls.
To someone sitting in the registrar, this decrease of students would be just another statistic to be inputted into a computer or written down on a form. But to someone who took the class, it was a fascinating phenomenon. Every Tuesday and Thursday I would go to this class, and every Tuesday and Thursday my mind would become a little more blown. For example, when one male student said “Why do we even need a women and gender studies class? Why don’t we have a men’s studies class?” The girl sitting next to him, the one with the bright blue hair who practically dripped confidence, whipped around and said, “Because that’s every class.” On Thursday, the male student was mysteriously absent.
One of the main things that I came to understand by taking this class is that feminism has got a bad rep that it does not deserve. Feminism is not about woman hating men. Feminism is not about not using deodorant and never shaving your legs. Feminism is not about wanting to tear off testicles and going on a rampage with bras flying everywhere. Feminism is about the need for equality, not just for woman but for everyone: the underrepresented, the minority, the poor, the disabled. Feminism is about bridging the unfair gaps with the intent of bringing about equality.
But if feminism is so humanitarian in its tenets, then why do I overhear all these conversations in bathrooms, getting food from the dining commons, or from open windows: “Ugh, the only way to get an A in my class is to have a vag and tits.” “Dude, don’t take that class, you’ll lose your balls.” “Did you hear that chick go on a rant about how we haven’t read any books by female authors? Talks about feminazi.” “Don’t go into Mod Hall, it’s where EGST is.” “What’s EGST?” “That’s the major with all the feminazis.”
These words are ignorant. The very fact that these conversations are happening show that there is still so much work that needs to be done. But I have to be honest with you. I was just as culpable. Freshman and sophomore year, I’d be in class and I’d want to say something in regards to the class discussion, I’d want to stand up for a character or make a point, but I’d stop for a minute and think to myself, “Wait, that sounds kind of feminist.” And in the end, I never said a thing.
But, over time, I came to realize that this fear of being judged was the enemy of feminism. My silence was just as bad as those conversations overheard from open windows. If I never spoke out, if no one ever spoke out, then those who try to perpetuate feminism as something to be stigmatized will win. But if we speak out in an informed and calm manner, then maybe we will be able to change just one person’s perspective on feminism, no matter their gender.