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Why are we all so quick to dismiss the "feminist" title?


I was having an interesting debate the day, with an old friend of mine. We were arguing about one thing or another, and somehow the conversation turned to women’s rights in the workplace. I boasted proudly of how I was a strong advocate of equal treatment and pay for all employees. At this point, my friend asked me, “Would you consider yourself a feminist?” Without even thinking I responded, “Well, I’m not REALLY a feminist.”

Huh? This makes absolutely no sense. Nevertheless, to react this way is quite common when asked (or accused) of being *gasp* a feminist.  Why is that? Because we don’t want to come off crazy or controversial? Why is there such a stigma towards being a feminist?

According to Merriam-Webster, being a feminist actually means “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”  It does not mean you’re a bra-burning hippy.  It does not mean that stay-at-home moms are evil. It does not mean all men should be eradicated from this earth and we should adopt some form of artificial insemination to carry on the human line.

It means you believe in equality between the sexes. That’s it.

Being a feminist in 2015 is just as important as it was several generations ago. Here are 3 important problems still faced by women today:

3. Portrayal of Women in the Media

As long as we encourage the Miley Cyrus’s of the world to keep on twerking their way through life, we will have a skewed view of what real women look like. We face sexism in advertisements, movies, television, and worst of all, the news. Sometimes I open a magazine only to feel as though I’ve stepped back into the days of Don Draper. We need to spend less time discussing Michelle Obama’s perfect arms, and more time lobbying for a change.

2. Violence Against Women

Globally, this is a huge issue. In many countries rape is not technically against the law. Domestically, the topic of rape and violence against women is still a touchy subject. Unfortunately, many believe that countless offenders are being falsely accused and that the term “rape” is somewhat subjective. According to recent studies, women in the U.S. have a 1/5 chance of being raped. In addition to this, 54% of rapes are not even reported.

1. Equality in the Workplace

In the U.S., only 14% of Engineers are female. Women hold only 4.4% of the Fortune 500 CEO rolls. While strides towards gender equality in the workplace have been made, there is still a long road ahead of us. We need to encourage the next generation of women to become active in the fields of science and technology, both of which have a low female employment rate.

“You must make women count as much as men; you must have an equal standard of morals; and the only way to enforce that is through giving women political power so that you can get that equal moral standard registered in the laws of the country.” - Emmeline Pankhurst

Don’t let the “Bitch” get you down.

It’s 2015. It’s been over 50 years since JFK signed the Equal Pay act.  The gender gap between recent med school graduates is essentially nonexistent. In the past two years, the Fortune 500 list has seen more female SEO’s than ever before.

There’s no doubt about it. Strides towards equality in the work place are slowly, but surely, being made.

That being said, when it comes down to the day to day attitudes of many people in the office, there’s still ignorance towards how women should be treated.

Let me elaborate with an example. Say your coworker, let’s call her Karen, poaches a client from you. You’ve been working with this client for months, and everything’s been going fine. But somehow ol’ Karen managed to sweep in and steal this client from right under your nose. “What a bitch!” you think to yourself.

Ok. Let’s stop right there, because this is important.  Jumping to the “bitch”; we’re all guilty of it. Your initial reaction was to brand Karen with that scarlet “B”. Not to sound incredibly cliché, but would you have done this if Karen was a man? Or would you perhaps have spent a few seconds looking at the facts surrounding the situation. Perhaps you’ve been neglecting the client lately. You’ve been really busy with other accounts and just haven’t had been able to give this client the appropriate amount of attention. It happens. However, Karen saw this as an opportunity to improve her current standings. Can you really fault her for this? 

When a man is assertive and cutthroat, we call him a “go-getter”. When a woman is confident and goes after what she wants, we call her a “bitch”.

It’s a ridiculous double standard that even we’ve been guilty of perpetuating. So ladies, this is what I propose: don’t let the “Bitch” get you down. If you’re strong and self-assured, there’s a chance you’ll be hearing it the rest of your life. These comments are useless jabs coming from school yard bullies. Just let it go; it means you’re probably doing something right.

“When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.” - Tina Fey, Bossypants