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The F-Word

“Feminism” has become a dirty word in certain circles. I have to admit its transition to taboo status flew under my radar. Maybe that’s because the people I surround myself with don’t regard feminism like some disease that should be stamped out. I don’t live in a vacuum—but I tend to spend a lot of time striving to find common ground instead of focusing on the divisive. When you write about sexual abuse and women’s issues, however, you’re bound to confront the uglier human impulses and investigate the driving forces behind them.

Sometimes these forces reveal themselves in the most unexpected places.

On January 14, when Alan Rickman passed away, the internet was flooded with remembrances and quotes from fans and colleagues. Actress Emma Watson posted her memories of working with Rickman. The outpouring of support was steadily positive until she posted this:

Watson dropped the “F-bomb”, and even though it was dropped secondhand via a quote, the haters descended. When someone prominent in the culture dies, fans and colleagues always engage in a memorialization of what was most important about the figurehead. Watson was quoting Rickman--she wasn't shoving words in a dead man’s mouth to further a personal agenda. She’s a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN, but some people acted like that precluded her from quoting something relevant to a cause she cared about on the day she lost a friend who'd shared the same concern. Is that concern so distasteful and controversial it warrants a torrent of mean-spirited dialogue?

Feminism has come under fire from people who tend to feel that fighting for one group of people’s rights necessitates the lessening of everyone else’s. Let me be clear. I’m not arguing for taking away anyone’s rights. I’m just arguing for equal opportunities. I’m a proponent of “dictionary feminism”.

Feminism- noun

  1. the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

I fail to see what’s so radical or distasteful here. I’ve recently been called a “feminist” and a “social justice warrior” as if those labels should be insults. It makes me feel as if I slipped into the Twilight Zone by mistake. For some, feminism equates to man-bashing radicalism that won’t be satisfied until all the women in the world receive preferential treatment. Maybe there are radical feminists who feel that way, but the key word there is radical. The world has become increasingly polarized as the voices shouting on the extreme ends of any argument shout the loudest, aggressively grab the megaphone, and drown out reason.

So let me attempt to be a voice of feminist reason. I think it’s possible to believe all women should enjoy the same rights and privileges as men while still respecting men and taking nothing away from them.

Let me also say something that might be unpopular with more radical feminists to try and illustrate my moderate point of view. I think most men, by biological design, are physically stronger than I am. I have no desire to have limits lowered for women who want to serve as soldiers or firefighters. If you can’t fulfill the physical demands of a job, then look for another job.

However, there is no biological driver behind whether or not a man is intellectually superior to a woman or vice versa. In jobs where physical strength has no bearing on the job description, there should be no gender gap in representation or pay. The fact that only 4% of CEOs in this country are women is a disgrace; so is the fact that those few CEOs still only make 82 cents for every dollar their male counterparts rake in. And these are just the “First World Problems”.

Nations that allow female genital mutilation, child brides, and deny women the right to vote are despicable human rights violators. I don’t think it’s radical to demand an end to these atrocities. I don’t think it’s radical to demand equal rights.

Maybe “feminism” has been appropriated by some extremists who bash men and seek preferential treatment in an attempt to balance out millennia of inequities. We could make that argument about a lot of ideologies and movements quite frankly. But I won’t let the bad apples steal a good idea. I will continue to call myself a “feminist”. And I will do so proudly.

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