Feminist: Adjective – of relating to or advocating for equal rights for women; advocating for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.
Noun – An advocate for such rights; a person who advocates for equal rights for women.
I, Sharyn Carroll, call myself a feminist. Not an equalist or humanist. There is a lot of nostalgic admiration contained in this word for me although at times the word is hurled at me as an insult. I hear gen-z asking if it is not time to change it to something that speaks to all gender variations. This may be a question to consider but first it is important to look at its relevance.
The use of the term feminism speaks to the systematic injustices that have been historically put into place, to make women lesser than, or unequal, globally. Being a feminist does not mean that I only stand on the side of equal pay for equal work, or lobby against domestic violence in the place that I live, it means speaking up for the right of all woman to breast feed whenever their child is hungry; I lend my voice to young woman and girls who are forced into marriages with men old enough to be their fathers; I advocate for all girls to get educated; I speak out for girls and young boys who are forced into sexual slavery; and I express my concern that everyone understands what consent means.
To call myself a feminist means that I understand that we are all in this together — women and men. To live in a world where women are liberated means that men are also free. Free to live in a world where self-expression is not confined to gender roles. Free from having the weight of the world put on their shoulders, because they have to “man-up” and handle it all. It means transgendered persons are just that, people. I would rather live in a world where acceptance of any human trait is seen as just that. A recent report by United Nations states that in the twenty years since it set out to achieve gender equality not one country has been able to achieve this.
Calling myself a feminist means I pay homage to those who have come before me and speaks to a history of advocacy for a struggle that is unique to women world-wide. It also means that I understand the next generation will probably do things differently. Holding onto this word may make me nostalgic or even old fashioned, but when I use it I don’t have to really explain where I am coming from. I embodied this word long before I knew what it meant and will continue to do so for the rest of my existence because it is who I am.
By Sharyn Carroll, R + R Facilitator
SWOVA Empowering Youth for a Better Tomorrow