What the Word ‘Feminist’ Means to Me

As a 20-year-old female living in the year 2014, I’ve spent a fair share of time contemplating feminism. Truthfully, people seem to be divided on the issue, and I can’t blame them. A terrible stereotype has developed around the world, and I wish I could say I was immune to it. Growing up, when I thought of feminists, I thought of extreme, man-hating women who burned their bras and didn’t shave; and I don’t think that man-hating, aggressive feminist stereotype has ever gone away. This has been said a lot, but not enough, so I’m going to say it again: The definition of a feminist, in its most basic form, is a person who believes men and women are equal.


It is not the idea that men are lesser. It is not the idea that you have to hate men in order to be a feminist. And it is not the idea that you have to dress like a man, speak like a man, or share the same interests as a man to be equal to one. So yes, if you are a person who believes men and women are equal and should be treated as such, then congratulations, you are a feminist! And that’s OK, because it’s a great thing to be.

If you polled ten people at random and asked them if they believed men and women were equal and should have equal rights, I would hope that the vast majority would wholeheartedly agree. However, if you polled ten people (even the same ten as before) and asked them if they considered themselves a feminist, their answers would be very different. Maybe a few people would speak up and proudly proclaim they were, but many would likely be hesitant. They might squirm uncomfortably and say something along the lines of, “No, because I like men.” Maybe even a few would answer with some form of, “Gross. Absolutely not.” The truth is, a lot of people actually are feminists, and they just don’t know it!

But there is hope. Thanks to celebrities like Beyoncé and Zooey Deschanel, as well as the power of social media, feminism is getting talked about a lot lately, and it’s awesome. A discussion has really taken off about what feminism means in 2014, and that’s the first step to positive change.

So besides the fact that men and women are equal, what does feminism mean to me?

For me, feminism is freedom. It means that, just because I am female, doesn’t mean I can’t be exactly who I want to be. It means I can have a genuine interest in science, football, and video games. It also means I can like dresses, glitter, and romantic comedies. It could mean I like, science, glitter, football, dresses, AND romantic comedies. You get the point.

Feminism means I am not limited. It means I can dress however I want, speak the way I want, and take an interest in whatever I want, and nothing I choose lessens my intelligence, strength, or value as a human being. Feminism is freedom, and I proudly embrace it.

So, what does feminism mean to you?

Anna Lea Lyon is a 20-year-old Nashville resident attempting to navigate through life and love one anxiety attack at a time. She affectionately describes herself as a cat lover, Bill Cosby enthusiast, and eternal college student.

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