I am 18 years old. I am a female. I am a student, a writer, a fighter, an observer. I struggle with vanity. I struggle with self-acceptance. I struggle to be more forgiving, more generous and more knowledgeable tomorrow than I am today. I am a feminist. 

Never has a statement elicited as negative a response as the last one. 

I believe in equal rights for all people, and I believe that women are more disadvantaged than their male counterparts politically, economically and socially. I do not see fairness or equality in a society that has not had a female president or when only 24 of the Fortune 500 CEOS are female, yet women make up more than half of the population. I see a society that forces both women and men into outdated, unfair, traditional gender roles, or coerces people to adopt traditional characteristics or stereotypes of their gender regardless of their individual desires. I see how these traditional roles hurt both genders deeply. I see how these roles hurt women — who are historically seen as less powerful than men or treated as men’s property — the most. 

I am a feminist because I do not want to rely on anyone but myself for my own success or failure. I need feminism because I should not make less money than my male counterparts, or be told I am “bossy” for having an idea or a “bitch” for having an opinion. I am a feminist because every human deserves the same opportunities to succeed, prosper and live a life of their own choosing. 

I am a feminist because it gave me the power to recover from an eating disorder — to finally see myself as more than my female body. Feminism showed me how wrong it was to believe I was only as good as my looks or the men that would date me. Feminism taught me I was more valuable than I had been treating myself.

I am a feminist because inequality breeds violence, and I walk in fear when I walk alone. I need feminism because rape culture is my culture, and will be the inherited culture of my children one day.

I am a feminist because I believe that I have worth, that I have a voice that deserves to be heard. I have worthwhile contributions to make to society and should not be limited by my sex to certain occupations or positions in society.

I am a feminist, yet I cannot explain feminism perfectly because I am not perfect. Every action of every feminist is not a grand statement on feminism. I am a feminist-human. I have done things that do not support my egalitarian and feminist values. I am sure I will err again in the future. I apologize now for my shortcomings and hope I learn from every mistake.

I am a feminist because I want my future daughter to grow up believing in herself and her ability to choose the role she wants in society, be it a stay-at-home mother or a molecular engineer. Or both. I am a feminist because I do not want my son to feel that he is weak when he expresses kindness or sensitivity. I am a feminist because I want tomorrow to be better than today.

I am a feminist at a time when feminism is a bad word. I am a feminist anyway.

Bethany Lehman is a rising LSA sophomore.

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