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“Feminism” Is Not a Dirty Word

By , 15, Contributor Originally Published: April 16, 2018 Revised: October 31, 2018

Dear Boy I Just Met,

Last night you called me bossy; last night you called me angry. Last night you called me a “bra-burning feminist,” and you said it like it was a dirty word. Well, don’t worry, that’s not the first time I’ve heard the word said like that. You think that feminism is ugly. You think that feminism is scary. But do you know what’s really ugly and scary? Having to walk out of the house, checking your shirt five times before you leave to make sure not too much cleavage is showing, just because you don’t want to be catcalled. Being told that being groped was your fault because your dance moves were “suggestive.” There is nothing in your life that has been taken away from you BECAUSE of your gender. You think that feminism is wrong, but that’s just because you’re afraid. You’re afraid that feminism is about taking your rights away, but that is not the case. I just want you to understand that my obtaining equal rights does not equal the justification of your oppression… yet you still refuse to listen, and that is why I am “angry.”

The conversation must be about teaching boys, and girls(!), to be respectful and decent human beings.

The other day, my dad and my stepmom, whom I love very much, asked me if I wanted a can of pepper spray. We were talking about going to parties, and I constantly have to explain to them that I am a responsible young woman who doesn’t want to get into any trouble (that trouble is sexual assault, by the way). Their response is always, “I trust you, I just don’t trust the people around you.” So they asked if I wanted pepper spray, and for a minute I actually considered it. I thought to myself, Cate, maybe this will make you feel safer walking home at night. Maybe you’ll feel better at parties when a guy starts grabbing your ass or your breasts and you tell him to stop but he won’t listen, or you’re too scared to say stop because maybe they’ll just be more aggressive. But then I realized, no! That is not right. No! There’s nothing wrong with trying to make yourself feel safer, nothing at all, but let’s be honest: The conversation should not be about telling girls they have to protect themselves or be alert at every waking moment. The conversation should not be about not letting girls go out and deciding what they wear for them. The conversation must be about teaching boys, and girls(!), to be respectful and decent human beings. I think we need to take a serious look at our society and genuinely try and understand why we are telling women to not get raped, instead of making an effort to create a culture where sexual assault is absolutely unacceptable. Why is it valid to suggest that a woman’s clothing, behavior or even physical appearance (something she has no control over!) justifies a man’s aggressive, hurtful actions and his inability to treat a woman the way he would want to be treated? Is it really so hard to understand that we are not some toy that you can throw around and touch whenever is fun for you? We are people, and we will not be silenced.

So finally, just to clear some things up with you because apparently you don’t understand, I don’t hate men. I don’t HATE anyone. As a matter of fact, I don’t waste my energy with that. I am tired of people labeling me as an aggressive, man-hating feminist. Yes, I AM A FEMINIST! I believe in equal rights for ALL human beings, and if you feel threatened by that, I can’t really help you there. However, I will not apologize for fighting for equal rights for women and other oppressed peoples. And if you don’t respect women, just remember that we brought you into this world. I hope that makes you consider having enough decency to show some kindness; that’s all it takes to change the world, kindness. So when you see a girl, lift her up. Don’t put her down because she deserves the world. I am a feminist. I love myself. I love my sisters, not just my cisters (cisgender women), and I love human beings. I am not here to shove my beliefs down your throat. I’m just here, asking you to listen and show some respect. You don’t necessarily understand where I’m coming from, but that doesn’t mean you have to cower in fear, just show some empathy. Remember, men of quality do not fear equality.

Thank you,

The Fearless Feminist

*Cate is a contributor who lives in New Jersey.

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