Ali Goldstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Madison Vanderberg
August 10, 2016 10:00 am

Feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. That is the definition of a feminist. Plain and simple.

But unfortunately, there are a lot of wrong definitions of feminism, and for some reason, a lot of people believe the wrong definitions.

There is a belief that if you are a feminist, it means you hate men.

There is also a belief that if you are a feminist, you’re labeling yourself or forcing other women to take a label upon themselves.

There is also a belief that feminism has a negative connotation and aligning with it…will make you look bad?

These beliefs are all very fair, but if I’m being honest here, one might say they are also very naive.

As a loud-mouth feminist who will extol the virtues of the sisterhood at literally every opportunity I can get, I’m here to tell you that I believed the wrong-definitions of feminism for many years and it’s why I refused to call myself a feminist. I was naive and misinformed.

I definitely went through the “BUT I LOVE MEN, how could I be a feminist if I love men?” phase.

Looking back on this phase, I want to hit my 19-year-old self on the head. To be fair, during this time in my life I had no idea what the definition of a feminist was, but had I known what feminism actually meant, I would have realized that I could love men AND think that I’m equal to them. You can do both, you guys! You don’t have hate men to be a feminist!

Unfortunately, my teen-brain thought that boys wouldn’t like me if I was a feminist. I thought it was tré Tomboy-chic to be like, “Uggggh, feminism. But I LOOVVEEE boys” in the same way that models sometimes say “Omg I love pizza!” My bizarre logic was that dragging myself down would make me more loveable. Who knows. And in case you’re wondering if my anti-feminist boy crazy logic got me any dates…it did not.

I also would say uniformed and stupid shit like, “Men are better at some things than us.”

😵😵😵😵😵😵😵😵😵

Yes, you’re allowed to make that face at me. Like, I said, I should have smacked myself.  Truth is, men are probably better at some things and women are better at other things. But for me to be going around slanging this blanket statement half-truth like it’s fact, is just like, making me eye-roll a thousand eye-rolls AT MYSELF. Also, as much as I would like to prescribe to the gentler ideology of Choice Feminism which states that to be a feminist, all women must respect all other women’s choices, my teenaged choice to believe that “men are better” is a problematic one, and I should Delorean myself and femmsplain to college-Madi how she should make better choices.

Then there was the confused/apathetic/Kim Kardashian brand of non-feminism I naively embraced for a while.

To quote Kim Kardashian when asked if she was a feminist, she said “I don’t think that I am. I don’t like labels. I just think I do what makes me happy. I’m not about the labels. Just be you, be confident in you. And if you’re not…be you. No hate.”

Not liking labels as a political stance? Is that what’s happening here? I remember someone asking if I was a feminist and I gave that exact same kind of vague “I don’t believe in labels” mumbo jumbo. Now, Kim K could very well NOT believe in labels, but I personally do not take a politicized stand for or against labels. If you ask me what my stance is on labels, I’d be undecided! So for me personally to pull the “I don’t like labels” card when pushed to assert my feminism was on my part, completely lazy.

Think about how ridiculous the “I don’t do labels” argument against feminism is for a second.

Friend: “Are you a person who believes that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities?”

Me: “Why yes, I am!”

Friend: “Oh, so you’re a feminist then.”

Me: “No, no, no! Please take your labels ELSEWHERE, you label pusher!”

If someone’s “labeling” you as a feminist, it’s like the most soft-core label ever. Being labeled a racist, being labeled an asshole, those are all labels one might rally against. But being labeled a feminist? It’s like being brandished with a feather. So for me to pull the label card is ridiculous. But who knows about Kim Kardashian, she could be passionately and across-the-board anti-label, I have no idea.

Columbia

Why do so many women, my younger-self included, reject feminism?

I didn’t know why I rebelled against being a feminist so much.  And here’s the thing, I WAS a feminist. I just didn’t realize it. Everything I did, believed in and stood for was rooted in the fact that I was actually a feminist, I just refused to acknowledge it.

Kim Kardashian, Sarah Jessica Parker, Shailene Woodley, Kelly Clarkson, Kaley Cuoco…the list of celebrities who have publicly said “I’m not a feminist” is endless. In most of these cases, the women interviewed didn’t seem to understand what feminism was.

Not understanding what feminism IS, is exactly why I rallied against the word for so many years.

I literally didn’t know what the word meant. I thought it had something to do with women being better than men, so I was like, “I don’t believe we’re better than men, I can’t embrace that.”

But the thing that irks me to this day is, why didn’t I just google the damn definition! And why don’t the interviewers who ask celebrities “are you a feminist?” simply tell them what it means? I expended more energy trying to keep feminism out of my life, when I could have spent one minute googling “What is a feminist?” Then, I would have been like “OHHHH, I believe in this thing.”

Maybe it’s because we reject things we don’t understand?

So here I am, hoping that my 19-year-old self could have seen this earlier.

A feminist is a person who believes men and women are equal. Do you believe they are? Cool. You’re a feminist.

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