Feminism: the skewed stigma

Anna Scott Lovejoy

Attending a discussion-based lab at 8 a.m. each Friday easily constitutes as one of the most difficult responsibilities in my school week. I know. I am pitiful, but I am also honest. With that being said, this Anthropology lab easily is one of the most interesting and thought provoking parts of my week as well. A month ago our 50-minute session revolved around the topic of differing perceptions of gender roles around the world. Following a short film about a third Samoan gender called the “Fa ‘affines,” the time for analyzing and deep conversation began. Reflecting on our own culture’s perception on gender roles lead our class debate in different and interesting directions. The class has around 20 people, but the diversity within our small group’s differing opinions never ceases to surprise me.

One branch of our intricate and controversial discussion left me thinking and analyzing for weeks. Heck, I am still caught up on the conversation as I share this story right now. My instructor closed one topic and opened another by proposing the following question, “Do you think there is still a skewed stigma attached to the term feminism?” As a young lady who values hard work, education, opportunity and chivalrous boys all at the same time, I immediately felt a nerve strike, prompting me to start off the debate. 

I shared with the class my dreams to graduate college and land a job that I love to work hard for. I explained that after I accomplish personal goals, travel to new places and gain a sense of personal credibility, I genuinely pray that I get to accomplish my most life fulfilling dream of all. I want to end up being a stay-at-home mother, and I believe that raising a family as my full time job is primarily what I was put on this earth to do. Granted, I also dream of having the chance to work on projects or jobs from home while I raise a family. 

I shared that feminists make me feel slightly shamed for telling people my biggest dream of being at home with my children. Feminism made me feel non-progressive and needy for wanting a man to hold the door for me, pull out my chair or give up their seat for a female who does not have one. As a fairly well-traveled, cultured and independent female college student, I told the class my opinion that the stigma of feminism making women feel comfortable doing whatever they dreamed of was absolutely skewed. All I knew was that I felt no empowerment from the feminist movement, merely a lingering sense of shame and hostility. 

I recall a satisfied feeling after my massive rant about why I disagreed with the idea about how “progressive” and “empowering” feminism is. I sat back in my chair comfortably as I said, “There is a stigma attached to the term feminism. I know others feel differently and have the right to, but I cannot personally say the stigma is skewed. I am fine sharing that I am not a feminist.” Mic drop. I thought smugly to myself. 

Immediately, two of my female classmates jumped into the conversation with an accurate response to the initial question and a respectful acknowledgement and refutation of my previous, and wildly inaccurate, spiel. They responded by explaining there is a skew in the stigma attached to feminism, and I had literally just acted as a living example of how it is skewed. 

First and foremost they shared the actual ideas of feminism, and what it really means to be a feminist. Feminism represents the movement to make the opportunity, payment and treatment of a woman the same for those of a man. It is not about shaming a woman for following her dream of being a stay-at-home mother, or ridding the world of chivalrous men. It is merely about women having the exact same social, political and economic rights, protected by law, as men. Feminism represents the idea that if a woman would like to be a stay-at-home mother she can, but if she would like to run for office that is just as much an option for her. 

To my surprise at the time of the discussion, feminism is not saying that women have to go out and work long hours in the office and that if they stay home they are not being progressive. Feminism is about opportunity and rights being equal across both genders, and the skewed stigma that exists is a result of the lack of understanding about what feminism really means. I only realized then that I was the breathing, walking and talking proof of the existing skew. 

Long past the 50-minute mark, nearly half of the class, including my instructor and I, remained glued to our seats. Deep thought and reflection served as the gripping adhesive. Swallowing my pride out of respect for the response from my peers, I casually decided to correct myself. I imagined myself picking up the “mic” I had figuratively and prematurely dropped as I stated, “Oh, then yes. I am a feminist, and as I just proved to us all, there is still a skewed stigma attached to the term feminism.” 

Moral of this story: before you “drop the mic” or make up your mind about a controversial issue, make sure to fully understand the topic of discussion at hand.

Anna Scott Lovejoy is a sophomore majoring in general business and biology. Her column runs biweekly.