Viewpoint: Feminism isn’t ‘us vs. them’

Shannon Barbour

“Umm … I don’t think so,” I said hesitantly and ignorantly when my English professor asked me if I was a feminist during my freshman year of college.

While feminism simply means equality of the sexes, and that means equality for all races of women, why do so many flee from being labeled feminist?

Maybe they’re how I used to be and think feminists are intimidating, aggressive, bra-burning man-haters.

Twenty percent of Americans call themselves feminists, according to a 2013 poll by The Huffington Post and You Gov, and 82 percent said “men and women should be social, political and economic equals.”

Perhaps we should start calling feminism something different, so people will no longer fear being labeled a radical.

Changing the way people think about feminism and how they perceive feminists must change. Feminists don’t have to act one way or behave another. There is no specific image for feminists, and once this misconception goes away, the easier it will be for women to embrace feminism.

The different forms that feminism can take are beneficial because it makes room for more people to have a place within the movement. Whether they are in favor of a gradual or a more insistent approach, they can be a part of the conversation and bring new ideas to the forefront.

Women do need feminism or they will be treated unequally. This is especially true in the case of minority women who are most affected by the wage gap and other social, political and economic issues.
According to the 2010 US Census, minority women made only 64 cents to the dollar paid to white men. In the same report, white women made 77 cents to the dollar paid to white men.

This isn’t to pit white feminists against minority feminists, but to show the need for feminism among all races, but especially minorities.

Because when women like Patricia Arquette make statements that suggest feminism and minority rights are not related, it sets back the movement altogether because it implies that these issues are separated when they aren’t in the case of many women.

It’s important that all women support each other in this movement. After all, if women can’t come together for themselves advancing, why would men, who often benefit from this inequality?

When women such as Taylor Swift say they aren’t feminists because they don’t think of gender issues as “guys versus girls,” it confuses me because feminism isn’t an “us versus them” issue. It’s an issue that affects everyone and therefore should concern everyone.

Thankfully, movements such as He for She suggest that men don’t fear feminism. Women shouldn’t, either.

Feminism should be embraced, and women should be free to participate in society, the workplace and their homes, and enjoy basic rights such as equal pay.

Shannon Barbour is a senior political science major from Harbor City, Calif. She is a reporter and regular columnist for the Lariat.