Feminist - let's reclaim the word

MODERN MAIDEN
Last updated 08:26 25/01/2013

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OPINION: Feminists are men-hating, plaid-wearing females who sport underarm hair that is longer than the locks on their head.

When they step out in their Doc Martins the world looks on in fear. They hang men from trees, burning them with cigarettes and threatening to cut their genitals off with hedge clippers.

These feminists cry out over even the smallest thing, claiming sexism is at every street corner and today's women are still second-class citizens, treated much like the dirt under the working boots of a
man.

Until recently the image of a feminist was, for me, synonymous with women who hated men.

I believed they were bra-burning activists, who had an almost paranoid fear of razors and Veet wax strips.

The mere mention of the word feminist conjured up images of women who were angry, women who secretly wanted to be men and women who had a problem with me wearing a dress.

In truth feminists, or the idea I had of them, made me roll my eyes and wave my nail file in the air as I told everyone these raging activists were giving us ladies a bad name.

In my ignorance I had very happily adopted the notion of feminists as men-haters. This, I later found, was an idea created by the very men who opposed the movement which has given me the rights I now take for granted.

It is the feminists I so wrongly made assumptions about that are the reason we, as women, can take the pill, have abortions, vote, be Prime Ministers, and even (shock horror) say no to a marriage proposal.

It is because of the feminists that we can now voice our opinions in public meetings, in parliament and, even as luck would have it, in online blogs. We are no longer silenced into submission.

They burnt their bras to lead us to equal education. They made it possible for us and to use that knowledge to gain employment. They endured being ostracised so we could not only have the right to
work, but also to expect to be paid the same as our male counterparts.

It was a bold move to join the feminist movement in New Zealand when the first women's liberation group was formed in the 1970s. The women who joined were often labelled lesbians, wannabe
males, and even men-haters.

In the seventies, nearly a hundred years after women were given the right to vote in New Zealand, most men and indeed some women still believed the two genders did not deserve the same rights as
each other.

But the feminists fought against that. The men who wanted the females kept in the kitchen and not clicking their high heels in offices wrongly labelled these forward-thinking women as "men-haters."

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The notion of feminists being men-haters has continued to taint the idea of the word. Even independent woman like myself, who have every right to thank those who fought for equal rights, have viewed feminists as something bad, something to be eliminated.

I believe it's time we reclaim the word feminist.

Although it's hard for me to admit: I was wrong. A feminist is not a bra-burning, plaid-wearing woman who sports underarm hair that is longer than the locks on her head.

A feminist is someone, bra or no bra, who believes in social, political and financial equality between men and women.

Women don't have to demand equality anymore, they simply expect it and in most cases it is now given freely.

The idea that all feminists are hairy, braless, men-haters must be put to rest once and for all, because it is simply not true.

For if a feminist is someone who believes men and women should have equal rights then this world has made every single one of us feminists.

Believing in equality for men and women means I am a feminist, and most likely you are a feminist, your boyfriend is a feminist and it would not be surprising if your dad is also one.

It is time we all reclaim the word and stop believing the urban legend of the man-hating feminist. I am a lover of men, an obsessive dress buyer, a collector of high heels, and a giant feminist.

Being a feminist does not mean I am going to hang males from trees, or spray-paint things like "rapist" on their cars. Being a feminist simply means I expect to have the same rights as men do.

Feminists used to be a rare breed, for speaking out against the men who ruled this country and every household in it was scary.

But times have changed. Now we are all feminists.

Even if we don't know it.

- (Live Matches)

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