Column: Feminism is a human rights issue


The Maroon

Kylee Mcintyre All of the Tidbits

Kylee McIntyre

I’ve noticed that gender equality has recently become a visible topic on campus. That isn’t to say that gender equality hasn’t been visible before events such as Take Back the Night. But the student club, Student Advocates for Gender Equality, has really taken gender issues to the next level, making thoughts about gender public last semester with the opinions board in the Peace Quad and now with the “I am a feminist because” posters. I’m impressed with how such simple gestures still have the power to make such a statement. I’ve also heard a lot of disagreement about what the word “feminist” means, so I thought I’d talk about it here.

According to the sign SAGE posted in the Danna Center, feminism is a noun meaning “a person who believes that men and women are equal (though not necessarily the same) and should be entitled to equal rights, equal treatment and equal opportunity.”

What’s interesting about feminism is that the word has taken on so many different definitions over the years. First, it was about getting women more rights under the law. Then, it was about getting women more rights outside of the law — those nuances about treatment that laws don’t necessarily define (and as we’ve learned in history classes, this is the harder task). Now, what is feminism?

Obviously, SAGE has laid out the meaning for us (literally — I mean, it’s a poster). Right next to the sign in the Danna Center are a bunch of student and faculty messages about why they’re feminists any why they believe they fall into the category defined by the sign right next to them. I’ve been sitting next to this wall a lot this week, reading the different responses and watching other people read the responses.

I’ve heard a lot of responses, many of which center on the word “feminist,” what it means in other contexts and what it means to risk placing yourself under that label because of those contexts. In a lot of circles, “feminism” refers to bra-burning, men-hating vigilantes. In other circles, “feminism” might only stand for the rights of straight, white American women.

I understand this concern — we should consider the word in all of its contexts. The term “feminism” has changed over the years and has meant several different things. However, I find it curious to be debating this particular issue when the word’s meaning is posted six feet away.

Under that definition’s context, the display in the Danna Center is a demonstration of human rights. It’s a plea for equality. To lose that message in this case is (literally) short-sighted.

Kylee McIntyre can be reached at [email protected]