I feel extremely grateful to be growing up in a time when women are thriving. Women are graduating college at greater rates and are excelling to new heights in business, politics, philanthropy and medicine. When I saw the Time magazine poll asking readers to vote on the word they would ban in 2015, I was pretty angry to see that it included “feminist.”
Before this term is condemned, I would like people to understand the true meaning of the word. Feminists believe in the political, social and economic equality of men and women. Feminists believe that women should not earn 78.3% of men’s earnings. In 2013, the average difference in men’s and women’s earnings was $10,876 annually. Someone who believes this isn’t fair is a feminist. Someone who believes that men and women deserve the same rights is a feminist.
And feminism isn’t just for women. Men are feminists when they believe in these issues too. As UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson said, “How can we effect change in the world when only half of it is invited or feel welcome to participate in the conversation?”
So why is the term still stigmatized, taken by some to mean extremist, man-hating people placing their needs above everyone else’s in society? People think feminists portray men as the enemy. Taylor Swift recently stated that “a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means.” Women (and men!) are realizing that believing in equality of rights and opportunities constitutes being a feminist, and they are owning it.
As a recent college graduate, I am aware of the importance of Title IX in creating equal opportunities for men and women. What I don’t think about too often is the fact that Title IX has already been in place for 40 years. Growing up, I couldn’t fathom a time when my gender might have limited my opportunities in college. My parents always told me, “You will be successful. You will excel in anything you set your mind to.” That sentence was never followed by, “But don’t aim too high, because you’re a woman.”
The only time I felt held back was when I told them I wanted to run for president of the United States. I thought that wasn’t out of the question at all because I had good grades and wanted to help people – the qualifications any 8-year-old would deem necessary.
“You can’t run for President, sweetie. You are Canadian.”
Electing a woman to the presidency in this country seems inevitable, and I believe it will happen in the foreseeable future. Though I was once upset it wouldn’t be me, I am glad to live in a time when 8-year-old American girls can dream of when it will be their chance to proudly lead this country.
It is a blessing to grow up in a time when women are excelling and my mind knows nothing else. I am surrounded by intelligent, successful, motivated women every day. I have friends who are working hard to be lawyers, family members equipped with talent to run their own TV programs and women who I know will eventually be the CEO of a company.
Instead of fixating on what it perceives to be annoying buzz words, perhaps Time should learn the true meaning “feminist” – someone who supports a movement that has made society better for everyone.
If someone called me a feminist, I would take it as a compliment.