So, I asked around to find out how other people define feminists. Apparently, people think that feminists are almost always lesbians with an aversion to depilatory procedures who hate men and think the world would be a better place without them. This is not only untrue, it is just stupid.
I know that's harsh, but facing up to our stupidity is perhaps the ugliest of all human burdens. Believing that a feminist is always the above described person (who by the way is a perfectly acceptable sample of a human being) is as stupid as believing that one particular race of people are inferior due to the color of their skin or believing that Lindsay Lohan is never going to rehab again.
So, let's discuss the American feminist movement as painlessly and quickly as possible.
Feminist movements of the 19th and 20th century centered upon suffrage, or the right to vote.
The feminist movements of the 60s centered upon social issues, such as women's right to equal access to education, equality in the workplace and reproductive choices (this includes but is not limited to the issue of abortion). A few feminists in this era burned some bras, but the majority of them, contrary to popular belief, did not.
These days, feminism builds upon these past concepts, but also recognizes that Western white women should not be dictating feminist agendas to the world's diverse populations (or even the diverse populations within their own countries.)
The Oxford American Dictionary defines feminism as "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men." If you live in the United States of America, you really should not have a problem with that. In fact, you should be for that.
If you live outside of the United States, well, according to most new generation feminists, also called "post feminists," we might not agree with how women are treated in your country, but we believe that they should be the ones who set the agenda for those changes, not us. (This is a particularly complicated issue, so I'm not going to delve too deeply here.)
I find it ironic that many Americans will roll their eyes at the mention of feminism, but quickly jump on the "Saudi's need to let their women drive" bandwagon. Interestingly, we decry feminism at home, but champion its cause as we attempt to denigrate cultures and value systems outside our own with the intent of subjugating them. I wonder if the rest of the world realizes that it is not American feminists who stand at the forefront of these criticisms, but the people I believe to be the enemies of American feminism itself.
Let me wrap this up by telling you what I believe American feminism is not.
American feminism is not an excuse to point out the flaws of men. As a matter of fact, many men are feminists, too. Not because they are afraid their "butch" wives are going to beat them up, but because they believe women are their social, political and economic equals.
Feminism is not a platform that decries motherhood, staying at home or family values.
Feminism is not the reason kids in our society seem to be from another planet (I personally believe this one can be attributed to Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton who are, in fact, from another planet).
When someone brings up the movement for racial equality in the United States, do you go out of your way to distance yourself from it? Do you roll your eyes or get a stupid grin on your face like someone has just said something very funny? No, you don't. Unless of course your white hood and robe are drying on a gentle setting and you're running a few minutes late for your weekly cross burning. So, why do Americans do this when the feminist movement is brought up?
I'll end with the following correspondence, which I have no intention of sending:
Dear Ms. 20-something,
American feminism has a long history, over 130 years in its making.
You don't have to be feminist if you don't want to, I don't mind if it's not your thing.
However, since you are a woman living in America, I respectfully ask that you appreciate what these women did for you and treat them with more respect by refraining from acting like they are crazy PETA members who throw red paint on celebrities wearing fur.
They gave you choices and opportunities that women in other parts of the world are literally dying to have.
They fought for your right to vote, your right to be educated in any field of your choosing, your right to work in any field of your choice, your right to make decisions regarding your reproductive system, your right to have legal recourse if someone says or does sexually inappropriate things to you in your workplace and many other rights that you now take for granted.
No, feminism may not be your thing, but, Ms. 20-something, feminism is your blessing.
P.S. Please stop calling other women your age "girls." Girls play with Barbies and Little Ponies. You are a woman, as are other women your age.
P.P.S. And stop saying "like" every two minutes.
P.P.P.S. And don't bounce when you talk. It's distracting.