By Rachel Cisto
I am a feminist.
I’ve never said that out loud. It’s not because feminism is a new, radical idea. I’ve never labeled myself as a feminist because these days, just the word “feminist” elicits whispers and strange looks from women, or jokes and cries of ‘man-hater!’ from men.
Which I find quite strange, since the dictionary definition of feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal opportunities.” People are shaming me for wanting to be treated like an equal? Men think I hate them because I want to be treated the same? Most of the issues I find are from people who don’t seem to understand that.
And it’s those reasons that make me a feminist. I need feminism. Women like me need feminism.
I need feminism because my male coworkers will get viewer emails talking about the stories they cover…and mine will say “your hair looked horrible” or “honey, you need a stylist”.
I need feminism because the public will base their evaluations of me not on my journalistic ethics or the way I cover my stories, but on the fact that I’m not a size 0 – and society is 100% okay with that.
I need feminism because I’ve overheard boys at my sister’s — co-ed — sports games muttering something about how it was so wrong that she won…instead of the boys.
I need it because I’ll do the same job as my colleague at the desk next to me…for a dollar less. And I’ll get a dollar less not because I’m bad at my job, but because my colleague is a man.
I need it because the last time my family bought a car, the salesman shooed 18-year-old me away when I tried to argue about an unfair price by saying “It’s your daddy’s car, sweetheart. Why don’t you let the adults talk? I think there’s some girly magazines in the front lobby.” That same salesman, later in the ordeal, told my mom that “the men didn’t need her opinion”.
I need it because I’ve met politicians and sources who look down on me because I’m a young woman, as if my gender will affect the way I write my story. One of them even wrote me back after they saw the finished piece to say “you did that pretty well, for a girl.”
I need it because the dress code for women is often more strict than the one for men.
I need it because when I moved from rural New Hampshire to Hartford, the first thing anyone asked me was if I was going to start carrying pepper spray. Or if I was going to take self-defense classes. And someone taught me how to hold my keys like a weapon. Someone else shamed me for not being afraid of the city at night.
But, trust me, feminism isn’t all about women either.
MEN need it because almost every insult you can think of has something to do with their masculinity. “You throw like a girl.” “Look at that girly-man wearing pink.”
Even when men are body-shamed, it’s done by comparing them to women. They’re made fun of for having “man-boobs”, as if having them connected to women in any way makes them less of a man. They say it as if being a girl is degrading.
It’s not about being “better” than men. It’s not about taking the world from them, or making women superior, and it’s certainly not about hating them.
It’s about treating everyone with respect. It’s all about being equals.
(Originally published in The Hartford Courant).
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Rachel Cisto, of Weare, N.H., is a senior at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Conn., majoring in journalism and minoring in politics and government. She is a reporter for the University’s Student Television Network, the Campus Correspondent and editor-in-chief of Her Campus Hartford, and a mentor for FIRST Robotics Team 1922, from John Stark Regional and Hopkinton High School.