Why Is Everyone So Afraid Of The F-Word?

My name is Juan Salazar. I have an affinity for avocado, even though I’m slightly allergic. Sometimes when I’m sad, I watch my favorite sad episodes of shows on Netflix so I can have a good cry. I am not lactose intolerant but I always prefer almond milk rather than cow’s milk. I watch award shows RELIGIOUSLY. They are my happy place; I have been known to ask for Oscar Sunday off at work. I am a feminist. Those are just some random, common facts about me but it is always that last one that gets the most attention. It has been met with agreement, thumbs up, eye rolls, and even disapproval. “You can’t be a feminist, you are a man!”- some girl once told me in a Chicano studies class. Back then my response was probably some variation of “anyone can be a feminist.” Today, I am here to say that everyone SHOULD be a feminist!

I know in this day-and-age feminism is not a very popular term. In fact, the word feminist has acquired a negative connotation over the years. There’s the idea of feminists being a group consisting only of women. There’s also that notion that all feminists hate men. I’ve even heard a very heteronormative approach that accused all feminists of being lesbians. The truth is, we live in a society where even female celebrities are afraid of being linked to feminism. It saddens me that a term that merely stands for “a belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” is still taboo to our generation. Feminism is an issue that should matter to all of us regarding of sex, religion, social status, sexual orientation, and any other factor. It is not a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue. There’s about twenty reasons why I consider myself a feminist (I listed them). However, I narrowed it down to my four most important ones in an effort de-stigmatize the term and hopefully make a thoughtful plea towards gender equality.

Gender Roles Hurt Everyone

Toxic masculinity is basically that retrograde notion which prevents men from expressing their feelings, pressures them to always appear powerful and dominant, and expects them to be better than women. It encourages that homophobic, sexist outlook that hurts our society in general. The masculinity expectations that society exerts on men can affect their mental health by making them unable of being vulnerable, afraid of expressing their emotions, and promotes the idea of suffering in silence. Phrases like “man up!”, “be a man!”, or “you (insert verb here) like a girl!” keep sexism and toxic masculinity alive. Gender roles are those pre-set ideals that are linked to a specific gender and promote the expectations one should succumb to. For example, teaching our children that the mom stays at home and cleans while the dad works to take care of the family. Saying the color blue is for boys and the color pink is for girls. From personality development to careers and education, this ideology has been known to set boundaries, to create discrimination and stereotypes, and just overall cause a negative effect on both sexes. Feminism, as I mentioned before, stands for equality. By standing up for equality we liberate ourselves from this backwards mentality. I am a feminist because I don’t believe in gender roles and I denounce toxic masculinity.

It’s 2017 And The Wage Gap Still Exists

It seems like the only people talking about wage gaps are actresses at award show speeches. But the issue is very real. Women still make about .78 cents to every dollar men make. The gap is even worse for women of color. So, I am a man, why should I care about this? Well, because of basic human decency. I’ve worked with amazing women throughout my employed life; women who are smart, driven, and hardworking. I have a lot of women in my life who I would just hate to see be a part of a system who values their efforts less than a man’s. Fairness is not a complicated concept. Promoting gender equity is just the right thing to do.

Her Uterus, Her Choice

If you don’t agree with abortion, with the morning-after pill, or with using contraceptives, then stay away from those options. It is your right to choose what to do with your body. It is not your right to choose what others do with theirs. We live in a society where everyone feels the need to tell women what is right or wrong to do with their bodies. We shame those who make very difficult, often emotionally-scarring decisions about their reproductive rights by using religious rhetoric and societal expectations. We defund practices that provide safe, affordable services for women. In school, we show alarming imagery about what abortion looks like. We don’t provide the appropriate sex education to teens because of its graphic nature, but we have no problem showing what a decapitated fetus looks like. I am a feminist because women in Arkansas have to ask for permission from the men that impregnate them before they can have an abortion. Even in the case of rape, women have to seek the opinion of their attacker or abusive partner. I am a feminist because we live in a society that glamourizes the use of a pill that provides a long lasting erection but we demonize a pill that can prevent an unwanted pregnancy. I am a feminist because a cabinet that is predominantly made up of rich, white, old men are the ones making the decisions for women’s reproductive rights in America and that is just not right.

Objectification Is So 1917

The objectification and sexualization of women are topics that still live on today. Objectification refers to stripping away a woman’s humanity and reducing her to a mere object. Sexualization of women means turning a woman into a sexual thing. When we treat a woman as a commodity we strip away her dignity and pay no regard to her spirit, integrity, or personality. In business, we call women “sweetie,” “honey,” or “baby,” we compliment her (or criticize her) on her appearance, and we overall judge her on a different basis than an equally-qualified man. In school, we accuse a teenage girl of arousing her fellow students with her bare shoulders or exposed back. We force her to change, to hide her body, to be ashamed of it, rather than teaching boys to be respectful and appropriate. Even on the streets, men often mistake eye contact with the desire of physical contact. Women often have to look down, mask their smile, be afraid to walk in dark streets because we live in a society that blames the women for the inappropriate actions of the men. “Maybe she shouldn’t have worn that skirt! She shouldn’t have been alone at that time! She was asking for it!” Those are phrases that I still hear from both men AND women. We don’t have equality until women feel safe, free, and those phrases become a thing of the past.

As a man, I acknowledge my privilege. I acknowledge the increasing need of feminism and equality given our political climate. My intention throughout this article wasn’t to “mansplain” the term or the issues, but rather to highlight the reasons why I deem it so necessary. People are still very afraid of the F-word and that fear comes from misinformation. If you believe in equality, if you believe in fairness, if you believe in basic human rights, it’s time to stop fearing societal perception and start calling yourself a feminist.

gretchen

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