Why starting a conversation about feminism is one of the most important things you can do

I’ve never been afraid of the F-word.  In fact, feminism has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up with a mother who blasted her “Feminist Angst” playlist in the car and toted memorabilia that proudly proclaimed, “We aren’t gossiping. We are plotting our evil, left-wing, feminist agenda.”

I believe in equal opportunities for men and women. I believe in equal pay for equal work. Of course I believe in feminism.

It is always shocking to me when I emerge from my sheltered bubble only to discover that not everyone shares this opinion. I have trouble understanding how my own peers – the children who watched Mulan with me and read about Eleanor Roosevelt in the same history text book – could possibly disagree with the feminist movement. Unfortunately, I know that many do.

In fact, one of my friends circulated a video entitled “Why I’m not a Feminist” just a few weeks ago. Although I found myself in definite disagreement with the ideas expressed in the video, I was unsure of how to proceed. I didn’t want to start an argument, especially not on Facebook.  I’m not a confrontational person, but I was uncomfortable with letting the misogynistic argument go uncontested.

After a few hours of consideration, I gathered up the courage to post a response in the form of Emma Watson’s speech addressing the UN about the HeForShe campaign. The contrasting videos sparked an interesting (and civil) debate among my friends about the merits of each side. By the end of the night, I could go to bed satisfied that my argument had been heard.

Ever since this experience, I have been thinking a lot about why standing up for feminism is so important. I’ve seen so many of my friends let misogynistic behavior slide because they want approval, and I’m guilty of doing the exact same thing. I almost didn’t comment on that Facebook post just to avoid potential criticism. I think that fear is probably something that silences a lot of people — women and men — who would love to speak up and educate those around them about feminism. 

But, I’ve realized that a belief in feminism isn’t always enough. Sometimes, we have to stand up to injustice – however small that action may be. In my case, it was a simple, but thoughtful Facebook post. I didn’t call out my not-yet-feminist friends about their beliefs in an overly-confrontational way. I didn’t pick or fight or respond defensively (even though my first instinct was to defend feminism and that’s ultimately what I did). My Facebook post did perhaps the best thing feminists can do for cause: It started a conversation.

Getting people talking about feminism is so important. Start the conversation. Don’t be afraid to question someone’s argument or write that comment. It might not seem like you’re making a difference, but every little effort helps to enact change.

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