It’s not asked often, but it’s always the same question: “Why do you call yourself a feminist? Why not a humanist? Or an egalitarian?”
To me, this is similar (though not completely the same) as asking something like “Why do you call yourself an American? Why not a citizen of the global community?” or “Why do you call yourself a Christian? Why not simply a person of faith?”
I am, of course, all these things: feminist, humanist, and egalitarian; American and global citizen; Christian and person of faith.
But I feel that, among these groups, my views are best articulated by a single label.
I may be a person of faith, but I believe in Jesus Christ (and more specifically, the brand of Christianity that holds homosexuality is completely fine, women are equal to men, and hell doesn’t exist).
I may be a global citizen, but I am an American because I believe our country, though greatly flawed, is still the closest the world has come to an ideal government.
And I am an egalitarian and humanist, but due to my belief that women’s rights should be at the forefront of our discussion on human and civil rights, I declare myself to be a feminist, first and foremost.
Some do not understand this for various reasons, either reasonable or ignorant: We only rise when we stick together or we should focus on men and women equally (reasonable) and men can’t be feminists or feminists hate men (ignorant).
First, a feminist is any person who believes women should be equal to men in every aspect. Period. It doesn’t matter your race or religion or gender or sexuality or any number of other factors; if you believe women should be equal, you’re a feminist.
That’s a very simple definition that admittedly pushes aside the myriad of debates in the feminist community concerning race, sexuality, etc., but I still believe it is a definition that holds true, and I believe the vast majority of those who call themselves feminists would agree with that definition.
Second, for the millionth time, feminism is not about hating men. If anything, it includes loving men as equals and partners. It includes treating men with the same respect and honor women desire. Anyone who tells you otherwise, no matter their credentials or education or articulation, is absolutely wrong. They are simply hijacking a beautiful concept of equality for their own purposes, whether they be a fringe, lunatic, radical “feminist” (as opposed to the sane and reasonable feminists who call themselves "radical") who does not reflect what feminism is about or a fringe, radical, and lunatic misogynist whose insecurities or ignorance prevent them from seeing women as equals.
Third, and most importantly, feminism is about priorities.
When I describe why I call myself a feminist, I like to use this metaphor: You come across two injured persons, miles from a hospital and no way to get there easily other than walking. One person has a severely broken arm. This person obviously needs medical attention, but though they are in pain, they can walk. It’s going to hurt, but their legs will carry them to safety. The other person has two severely broken legs. Not only are they in pain, but they can’t walk. They are forced to crawl. It goes without saying the person with the broken arm is going to have a hell of a time carrying the person with two broken legs.
You can see where this is going. Though helping the person with a broken arm is important (men), it is the person with broken legs who needs the immediate and undivided help (women).
We have come to a point in our country’s history when we seem to have a strong sense of gender equality, but we do very little to ensure it. Women barely make 20 percent of the Senate, 17 percent of the House of Representatives, 4.2 percent of Fortune 500 CEOS, a small percentage of flag-officers (generals and admirals) in the military, only a third of current presidential cabinet positions, and to date, not one woman has ever been president or vice president of the U.S.
1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime. 1 in 3 women in the military will suffer the same fate over the course of their career. Women still make less than men, on average, for the same jobs, in all industries, across the board.
And in addition to a number of other sobering facts and figures, we still have many leaders in this country who believe women should not have the ultimate choice over her own healthcare, and if they choose to speak up on this, we have pundits and politicians who call them whores or sluts.
And we, as the American people, allow all this to happen.
Essentially, we have become so accustomed to seeing women overcome paralysis and do amazing things while being forced to crawl, we’ve seemingly forgotten their legs are broken and that we have a responsibility to ensure they have the right to walk on the same ground as men.
Remember this: women's equality is, by far, the most affecting social justice issue in the world. Every race, creed, nationality, religion, EVERY demographic, requires women to grow and thrive.
This is why I call myself a feminist, above all; for my younger sister, my female friends, my future wife, my future daughters, all the women in the world (all of whom deserve equality), and all men in the world, too, because they will benefit from a nation and global society free of gender bias.
I am a feminist and proud of it. And regardless of your background, you should be, too.