Opinion by: Vivienne P.

Visual by: Sandro L.

With the rise of fourth-wave feminism, which began with the #MeToo movement and is characterized by a desire for the empowerment of women and its reliance on the internet, the word ‘feminism’ has acquired a negative connotation. In today’s society, feminism is interpreted as a form of man-hating, with people believing that the movement is a way of taking power away from men and giving it to women. Additionally, many people who do not describe themselves as feminists may claim that they believe in equality, but not in what feminism stands for today. So, I find myself asking the same question over and over; what does it truly mean to be a feminist?

As defined by several sources, feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. It is not about burning bras and hating men, nor does it preach the empowerment of women through the takedown of men. These extreme examples do not represent the core set of values and beliefs that feminism entails. At its core, the movement is about fulfilling the potential of half of the world’s population, and by empowering women to have equal opportunities as men. It is about human rights, and ensuring that all rights are given to each individual regardless of their sex. An example of feminism around the world can be seen with the advocation for more female representation in national governments. According the UN Women, only 24 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of November 2018, which has been a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995. Initiatives for creating and promoting future female leaders are beginning to emerge due to an increase in media coverage and discussion, such as the South Asia Young Women’s Leadership and Mentoring initiative focusing on strengthening the leadership of 30 young women in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. Many people, however, may also argue that female representation is not an issue, as there are already governmental positions filled by women, but there are still structural practices and systemic inequalities that prohibit women from having political ambition. Some examples of said inequality include women being less likely than men to be recruited for office, and are less likely than men to have the freedom to reconcile work and family obligations with a political career.

With this clarification, I return to my overall statement that, yes, everyone should be a feminist. And, if you believe in equality, then you are a feminist by virtue of that. One should not get stuck on the word itself, but rather should think about the ideals and values that it connotes. Feminism is being viewed as extremist and threatening towards men to keep it undervalued and ineffective, which is why the values and the beliefs of feminism should be upheld even if the word itself is not used. Feminism is not a dirty, scary word that should be used to insult or attack someone, but rather should be a means of empowering all women and women through solidarity

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