My sophomore year I remember standing in my newsroom telling another staff member that “I am not a feminist, I’m more of an equalist. I feel like feminism is a movement to try to make men less equal than us.” The room went quiet and I could feel everyone’s heavy stares judging me. Confused as to why people were making me feel like my opinion was invalid, I quickly did some research on feminism and soon realized that in fact, my opinion was quite invalid. , two years to today, I can proudly call myself a feminist and here’s why.
Merriam-Webster defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Although this definition helped me understand the basis of feminism, the strong women in my life were who made me want to support this cause even more. There are going to be many people who care about you in the world, but nobody will ever support you like your mother. My mother who has worked for over 20 years to provide the best she can for my older brother and me, is the reason I am a feminist. She is a project manager at the world-renowned health care company, Abbott Laboratories. She is also the literal definition of “No Days Off.” My mom has never really had the luxury of seeing her kids come home after school or go to her kids sporting/after school events. Instead, she’s been working long hours in her office to support her family. I’ve given you just a couple reasons as to why my mom is amazing, but why does that make me a feminist? In 2015, full-time female workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. How is that fair? My mother who works equal or longer hours than a man who is doing the same work as her is probably getting paid 20% more than she is. If not my mother, there are millions of women who deal with the gender wage gap in America today.
It is not only because of a pay gap that I am a feminist. I am a feminist because victim blaming is seen as an acceptable way to excuse another person’s behavior. I am a feminist because women all around the world who get raped are asked questions such as “were you drunk”, or “what were you wearing” as if any of those are excuses to be raped. I am a feminist because Brock Turner — a former Stanford student and athlete — got his jail sentence of 6 months reduced to 3 after raping an unconscious girl outside a fraternity house in 2016. I’m a feminist because women around the world are taught to never leave their drink alone, instead of men being taught not to tamper with a drink. I’m a feminist because the odds of being attacked by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067 while the odds of a woman being raped are 1 in 5 in the U.S. The fear of being attacked by a shark is considered valid while the fear of being attacked by a man is deemed as misandry.
But, one of the most prominent reasons I am a feminist is because of my religion. I am a feminist because my religion,contrary to popular belief, promotes equality and empowerment of women.We are not taught to belittle our women, instead, we are taught to treat them with the highest level of respect and dignity. The Noble Quran (4:1, 7:189, 42:11) states that God gave both men and women the same soul, meaning one isn’t superior to the other. The media portrays my faith as one filled with hate and oppression, but if you’ve ever met a Muslim woman, you know that we are strong, successful and confident beings.
That being said, I’m so lucky to be an environment like Niles West where I’m surrounded by people who not only have similar beliefs as me but also make it a safe environment for people from all backgrounds coexist. My current Literature of Peace and Nonviolence teacher Dena Lichterman has been advocating for women’s rights since college.
“I really became an activist in college, I was surrounded by a strong group of women and we were very involved at our small liberal arts school. We felt the need to make our voices heard so I got involved in women’s studies classes as well as the National Abortion Rights Action League, helped plan women events around campus, and those things really lit a fire under me to become an activist,” said Lichterman.
Her work didn’t stop there. After college, Lichterman worked at a human rights organization, group home for girls, and a sexual assault agency. She tries to incorporate all her experiences and lessons she’s learned to not only her Literary of Peace and Nonviolence class but her junior honors english class and her senior english class. Along with strong women like Mrs.Lichterman, a group of students at West have started our first feminism club also known as “Fem Club.”
“As a previous debater, I found that instead of just talking about the issues of feminism I could become a true activist and do something with all of the knowledge I received debating. I just felt that I needed to do something about all the negative ways I was feeling with the way women, and other minority groups are treated in media, and in real life. I thought what better way to combat this than working to create an intersectional safe space that’s inclusive to all so we can all combat these issues together. Because at the end of the day we’re stronger together. Most of the issues we see are discussed within the club. While we do encourage those with opposing views to join us for discussions, a lot of the time it’s just us coming together to figure out things we want to change throughout the school. For instance we used one of the bake sales to pay for the hygiene kits and we are hoping that this year we will be able to get a speaker in for healthy relationships. around the same time as Valentine’s day to remind everyone of the importance of not only consent, but what a healthy relationship looks like and how to practice that.” said Co-President of Fem Club and senior Lejla Vojnikovic. Vojnikovic’s goal for Fem Club is to create equity amongst all genders, races and religions at Niles West.
Whether at school or at home I am constantly surrounded by people who yearn for the same goals. The staff and students at Niles West are the type of people who are are changing the world without even realizing it. I strongly advise anyone who doesn’t believe in feminism to do a little more research and reassess your stance on it Who knows, maybe you’ll change your mind quicker than I did.